, Why SiriusXM Needs To Lock Down ‘Jim And Sam’ With A Long-Term Deal, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Why SiriusXM Needs To Lock Down ‘Jim And Sam’ With A Long-Term Deal

, Why SiriusXM Needs To Lock Down ‘Jim And Sam’ With A Long-Term Deal, The Nzuchi News Forbes

“This can’t be happening; this only happens in movies. Nobody actually oversleeps on the first day of the most important thing in their career,” a young, panicking Travis Tefft told himself in 2005 after waking up to realize he was late for the first day of his internship with the Opie and Anthony show, then a radio juggernaut in its prime.

Tefft — whose DMs are open on Twitter — had accidentally set his alarm for 3 p.m. instead of 3 a.m. By the time he made it to the studio for Day 1, the show was over.

“Look at this young go-getter,” former Opie and Anthony host Gregg “Opie” Hughes, co-host opposite Anthony Cumia, muttered sarcastically as Travis received his on-air comeuppance the following day. “Sure is, shows up at the crack of 10:15,” comedian Jim Norton fired in.

Fast forward 16 years, Travis is the Senior Producer of Jim and Sam on SiriusXM’s Faction Talk (channel 103) and working closely with Norton and co-host Sam Roberts.

Today, Tefft is the glue that holds Jim and Sam together behind the scenes and a fan favorite on-air contributor.

“Travis is the most reliable person you could ever imagine, so the idea that the one day he screwed up was his first day is hilarious,” Roberts said. “That’s the thing about Travis, Travis is the type that will make a mistake then won’t make it again.”

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Jim has had his name on the marquee, as has his partner Sam — a former O&A producer and intern — for the past five years.

The show has seamlessly carried on the O&A tradition of broadcasting a structureless, candid hangout among funny friends — with the occasional high-profile celebrity thrown in the mix. The Opie and Anthony formula is what podcast mogul Joe Rogan credits to inspiring his show’s launch, which yielded the podcast industry.

“One of the things I love about them is I really enjoy shows where you feel like you’re hearing two guys talk, in Jim and Sam, who are friends and who I think are funny and it always feels like an actual conversation I’m just eavesdropping on,” said comedian and American Ninja Warrior host Matt Iseman, a Jim and Sam superfan and regular guest.

In unpacking the past 15 months, praise is in order for how Jim and Sam not only successfully navigated the show around a pandemic, but that the program was brimming with compelling content and a strong laughter element as they did so. The hosts continued to entertain the masses and provide a much-needed escape for listeners in the past year and change without a hitch via Zoom.

Related: SiriusXM’s Jim And Sam Talk Negotiations And Their Perfect Storm Of Hilarity (2018)

When Forbes last reported on Jim and Sam’s fate — Sep. of 2018 — the duo was in negotiations with SiriusXM after being together for two years. The satellite radio company then gave the pair a three-year deal. Now, nearing their fifth anniversary, Norton and Roberts are again gearing up to meet the big bosses at the negotiating table with their contracts up in October. 

After the show further established its identity, landed more big guests, and kept the beaucoup laughs and engrossing discussions coming since their last contract, Jim and Sam will no doubt have angels on their side as their future is decided.

“Yeah, I think Jim and I both want to continue doing the show,” Roberts revealed to Forbes via Zoom. “I think we both feel like we’ve only added value to the show as time has gone on. I feel like the show is far more of a show than it was even three years ago, which is just really encouraging, really makes me feel like I want to continue on this road we’re on.”

Norton may already be implementing a slightly different negotiating tactic.

“My initial negotiation point was that we wanted Howard (Stern)’s old studio and twice as much money. Sirius was less than enthused,” joked Norton, who plans on hitting the road in August with his stand up after a pandemic hiatus. “We haven’t even really started talking to them yet.”

“We would love to come back because it’s a really fun gig. And I’m always so paranoid that they don’t want us, but I think we’re going to come back because apparently the show is doing very well and they’re putting all this stuff on the app, which I think is a great show of faith from the company.”

The decision will be SiriusXM’s, but locking down Jim and Sam to a lucrative long-term contract would undoubtedly be in their best interest. Why buy one banana at the bodega when you can have all of them? For J&S fans, anything less than all the bananas just wouldn’t taste fresh.

The show hasn’t solely become a bigger and bigger hit with SiriusXM subscribers, but with many of the celebrities that have been on as well.

“It’s a safe space for a comedian because it’s grown up; nobody takes anything personally and it’s almost like you don’t care about the outside world, being taken out of context because for some reason it rarely (happens),” comedy icon Ricky Gervais, a regular J&S guest and listener, told Forbes of the program over the phone.

“I really enjoy it, you can get into stuff and talk freely and fearlessly as you should be able to everywhere. But that seems like a particularly nice environment for a comedy discussion and more.”

Gervais, who’s hosted the Golden Globes five times (2010, 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2020) has occasionally gotten a different reception on social media when his humor was on display in front of the Hollywood elite and a universal audience.

“They get offended by you trying to make fun of something they believe in or do, then they try to say that they’ve been physically hurt. And what they mean is, ‘Shut up.’ They mean, ‘Shut up’ because you’re making fun of the thing,” Ricky said.

Gervais seems to have gotten the last laugh after it was announced this week that he’ll have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other Jim and Sam guests over the past couple years have included Judd Apatow, Joe Rogan, The Undertaker, Bill Burr and Bill Hader.

After a large sample size, it’s clear Jim and Sam undercuts the competition by knowing comedy and interviews as well as they know bars, the last of which landed them on the Paramount Network’s Bar Rescue in August of 2019.

Their smashing on-air elevation over the past three years hasn’t come without controversy.

The show’s optics proved problematic when the decision was made not to include Jim and Sam Irish heritage correspondent Kevin Brennan in its annual St. Patrick’s Day special this past March.

Add in unnecessary rebranding attempts with the hosts kicking the tires on new names for the program including: “The Jim and Sam Spectacular”, “The Jim and Sam Extravaganza”, “The Jim and Sam Smoke Club”, “The Jim and Sam Secret Show”, and “Humble Jim and Sam”.

Also, technical logistics diminished appearances of captivating secondary characters like SiriusXM DJ Dennis “The 70s Menace” Falcone — who touts all-natural jet-black hair — not to mention Daniel “Bobo” Kurlan, Sandy Kane, and comic Mike Bocchetti.

To be fair, the Zoom challenged peculiar personalities could seem as out of place on a computer as a fan watching a rock concert from the middle of the stage.

Fear not, they’re expected to be back in the mix in studio as Jim and Sam targets a September return to its home base at SiriusXM.

Perhaps most disappointing of all in recent history was when Sam shaved his head last month and the broadcaster revealed a normal shaped dome to the surprise of many. It hurt even more that it paired well with his auburn beard to create a stylish new look for Roberts, who’s climbed the ranks among WWE commentators and also regularly broadcasts on his YouTube page.

Sam originally wanted to shave his head off air, but Faction Talk channel head Jim McClure asked that the makeover be audible for fans. 

“What made it for me was Travis, Jim, and (“Troy Quan”); the three of them (were) just dejected. When the guys were like, ‘It actually looks good,’… There’s this one moment where Troy’s going, ‘Oh, oh… But he’s going shorter, he’s going shorter!’ … But it didn’t look bad.

“I’m listening to Travis, Troy and Jim go, ‘You look good, Sam. This was a waste of time.’ That dejection I felt made it for me. I actually thought it turned out to be funny.”

Sam, who rose up the Opie and Anthony and SiriusXM ranks by stirring the pot, is as comfortable as can be opposite Norton. While he often steers the show into Jim’s wheelhouse for big laughs and memorable conversations, Roberts has also succeeded more and more over the program’s tenure in bringing the funny himself.

“I think he’s really funny and he’s smart and he’s analytical and he’s like a comedian,” Gervais said of Roberts. “He just runs the desk sometimes and sometimes observes; he doesn’t have the awful horror stories that the rest of them have. I think he’s lived a cleaner life.”

Above all, as a listener and as a guest, Ricky values Sam’s driver-seat reliability. 

“It seems like a dis to say he’s a safe pair of hands, he’s much more than that and he is funny in his own right and he comes up with some great stuff, but he is a safe pair of hands,” Gervais added. “He’s great to work with and work off.

, Why SiriusXM Needs To Lock Down ‘Jim And Sam’ With A Long-Term Deal, The Nzuchi News Forbes

“Those sorts of people are always underrated because people don’t realize how much they do. You need one of those guys, otherwise it’s chaos, it’s f****** chaos.”

With Jim, the great news is he hasn’t changed. The difference is Sam, somewhere along the way, perfected teeing him up for the big reaction to that day’s trending news items, cancel culture target or latest dreamy actor to grace the screen in portrayal of serial killer Ted Bundy.

Related: Why We Need The Unrivaled Honesty Of Comic Jim Norton

“Jim’s natural reactions and Sam’s ability to drive the conversation and know what is going to get a reaction from Jim, and when we get that reaction that we know we’re going to get — whether it’s anger or laughter — that’s where Jim excels,” Tefft said. “Jim is the best version of himself when he’s just reacting to stories or videos naturally.”

What makes Norton’s reactions so impactful for J&S is their authenticity. Jim regularly requests pre-show chatter be saved for the air so talking points solicit raw reactions and emotions for the audience. 

“He disarms everyone because he spills his guts in both real life and in comedy without prejudice,” Gervais said of Norton. “He doesn’t do it for any reason other than he sees the funny side of it.

“He’s the antithesis of hypocrisy. … I’ve never seen anyone so fair, even though he takes a comedic edge and he gets angry about stuff, he listens and he analyzes. … He goes for what’s funny, he slices through and goes for what’s funny.

“He’s not scared of any subjects. … I don’t know anyone who’s more honest, I don’t know anyone who wears their heart on their sleeve (as much) and he does it all in the name of comedy.” 

Norton’s comedy and interviewing mastery has impressed his childhood hero Ozzy Osbourne. 

“He’s been a really good friend over the years; he’s a good guy,” Osbourne, who appeared on Jim and Sam with his wife Sharon last summer, told Forbes over the phone. 

“He’s very quick; he’s got a very quick brain,” Ozzy added. “He reminds me of a younger version of Don Rickles. He’s very much like him.” Coincidentally, Norton portrayed Rickles in 2019’s The Irishman.

Osbourne also likened Norton’s ability to make people “belly laugh” in a social setting to Sam Kinison’s. 

“He’s so easy to be around. He’s never been a bad guy, he’s never been in a mood, he’s never upset me. He’s a good guy, I like having him around. I love seeing him,” Ozzy said of Jim, his fan turned friend.

Other Norton chums, comics Rich Vos and Robert Kelly, have regularly added to the show’s savage hilarity over the past half decade. In recent years, Gervais became so intrigued by the aforementioned comics that he began requesting they’re on when he is.

Ricky knows that when the studio is packed with comics of their ilk the room becomes a lion’s den with comedic murder assassins. 

“I just wanted to hang out with comedians. It was a funny dynamic, and then they’d tease Vos or they’d tease Bob Kelly about my achievements. It was just ribbing,” Gervais said. “There’s no hierarchy in that room. Any one of them can take anyone else down when they want.

“It’s like no one’s above it, no one is always the winner. So you mustn’t get above your station or believe your own hype because at the end of the day, it’s who’s the funniest in this one minute… Now who’s the funniest? Now who’s the funniest? Did someone get out alive? Let’s gang up on him. It’s like the law of the jungle in a really nice comedic way.”

Related: How Comedian Mark Normand Thrived During The Pandemic

In addition to highly-decorated veteran comics like Vos, Kelly and Colin Quinn, J&S continues to introduce their audience to a newer generation of comics, including Mark Normand, Joe List, Sam Morril and Kerryn Feehan.

Freshly-birthed Norton character Doug Bell often fibs about being friends with the show’s stand up guests. He also regularly brings up legendary show business stories, often set in New York’s famed Comedy Cellar comedy club, that include Kelly (“Kells Bells”) and Quinn (“Quinny”).

Related: Colin Quinn Taking Stand Up To Another Level With One-Man Shows

“To me, there’s something really funny about a comedian, we know a bunch of these guys, where they drop out and they come back and they’re timing is s*****. Guys that talk into the microphone,” said Jim, who can also be heard on the The Chip Chipperson Podacast and the UFC Unfiltered podcast, of the inspiration for Doug. “Their timing for jokes is awful and they just don’t know where the funny part is anymore. …

“There’s a little bit of that in all of us. It’s the guy who doesn’t know that everyone who’s listening to him is kind of side-eyeing each other going, ‘What the f*** is this guy talking about?’”

“What I love is the way Doug Bell can consistently be unfunny… You think you’re going to stumble onto being funny, but Doug Bell proves he is the wet blanket on laughter. He is the black hole where jokes go to die and that’s funny,” said Iseman, who also hosts the trivia game show Factorious.

Bell is as polarizing as Norton’s flagship alter ego Chip Chipperson, and to some audience members, much more unbearable.

“On one end, you have this whole army of people that are obsessed with everything Doug Bell related … and on the other end, I do get messages that are literally people saying, ‘I stopped listening to the show and unsubscribed because of Doug Bell.’ I don’t know what to tell you, I would never, never sit there and say, ‘Hey Jim, this Doug Bell thing is becoming an issue.’

“Like come on, what? Doug Bell is great. … I think he’s a breath of fresh air and I think that there’s something with Doug that he’s becoming such a liar that it’s becoming hard to root for him.”

Aside from Mr. Bell, there have been additional personnel changes with the show since Forbes’ previous J&S piece. Gone are producers Anthony “S*** Loaf” Cifelli and “Handsome Rob” Scirocco. The mysterious “Hot Dog” (Chayanne Marte) still occasionally makes polarizing on-air appearances on the show similar to Bell, but mainly serves as a jack of all the trades for Roberts’ Not Sam media empire.

It’s worth noting “Hot Dog” reportedly packs a punch with his work ethic behind the scenes.

“‘Hot Dog’ is very good at tasks and when Sam needs something done, ‘Hot Dog’ does it,” Tefft said. “He’s a great foil on the air, but his video editing and his photoshopping skills and everything that Sam pays him to do, he’s really good at it. That doesn’t mean that he’s any less stupid than you hear him be. He is that stupid, but he’s very good. He’s a savant.”

“Troy Quan” (Troy Hinson) remains an integral part of the show after his music group Black Caviar earned an RIAA certified gold record with their song “What’s up Danger?” (featuring Blackway) off of 2018’s Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack.

Despite everything he puts into production for Jim and Sam, as well as the Faction Talk channel, Hinson’s best work often comes when he ponders the universe’s best kept secret. He’s also mellowed out a bit since working from Florida during the pandemic; although, while in the “Sunshine State” Troy sat on an uncomfortable personal issue that eventually resolved itself.

“‘Florida Troy’ is the best version of Troy we’ve ever had,” Tefft said.

Talent booker Roland Campos has been grabbing quality guests for J&S while staying with his parents in Arizona.

“I feel like I’m hearing from him more,” Roberts said of Campos. “Roland is definitely making himself known and it’s very Roland of him to make sure he’s making himself known.”

The newcomer to the show, producer Mike Montone, helped craft some of Jim and Sam’s most memorable moments since joining two years ago. From portraying Sam’s “Uncle Dave” to parodying his father John Montone — a New York radio legend with 1010WINS — in Mike’s unrivaled man-on-the-street interviews, the former Marine successfully secured himself a valuable gig with the show.

“Mike is a brutal, funny guy,” Norton said. “Mike’s a killer in the sense that I would hate to be on his bad side because he’s very, very biting and ruthless in his writing.

“He’s really funny. So I really enjoy going back and forth with Mike Montone. I think he’s great and he’s a tremendous addition to the show. The fact that his dad is such a legend (and it) doesn’t affect anything he does comedically… He never thinks, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t say that because my dad is a legend.’”

“Mike is the last piece of the puzzle,” according to Travis, his boss.

Now that the Jim and Sam crew is complete, it’s time for SiriusXM to manifest their appreciation for the far from cheugy entertainment titans and slam the money on the table like an aggressive tip at a sandwich shop.

Until then, J&S fans better stock up on red solo cups and their favorite beverage while they wait out the news.

Every Friday at 7 p.m. ET on Faction Talk, a “Jim and Sam from the Beginning” best of special will run leading up to the show’s five-year anniversary in October.

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