Jim Norton: American Degenerate
Famed Comedian, Sometimes Actor, Best Selling Author and 3rd Mic on the best show on Satellite radio “the Opie and Anthony show” is back with his second stand up special for EPIX, aptly titled “American Degenerate”. Jim Norton delivers another hour of material with a level of honesty only he can provide. Norton isn’t for everyone if you are easily offended or if you like your comedy delivered in a sanitized manner then you might as well skip this or better yet grab some purell and put on your big boy panties, then step into an unabashed hour of hilarity. Jimmy covers such topics as deep ass crack, a naked man in a gym locker room and massage parlor etiquette. What sets Norton apart from his contemporaries is his ability to take moments of his personal life that some people might find shame in and celebrate it. When you are able to freely discuss any topic without repercussions there is a realness that increases the punchline. Who else would share a picture of himself in a sleep apnea mask and then go on to mock and ridicule himself, superseding any form of self deprecation that you have seen before.
This is the strongest hour of material that Norton has brought to the screen. In a world that is growing ever more politically correct EPIX releasing “American Degenerate” is not just a win for Comedy fans it’s a win for America.
Chris Hill: First let me say that getting to speak with you is my Ozzie moment.
Jim Norton: Thanks brother, that is really nice.
CH: How did you get Michael K. Williams to take part in the intro?
JN: You know it’s funny, I was trying to figure out what to do since last year was the Ozzie intro which was so fucking special; I mean to get my idol to introduce me. It just came to me; you know Omar is my favorite character ever on television. I just called him, since I know him and asked him if he would do it. I said I will send him a script and he said “no man, If it’s you it’s all good”. He just trusted my judgment. Then he showed up at the hotel and did it perfectly. He improvised the head lick, smacking me on the ass. That fucking head lick got such an amazing reaction from the audience. He just did it.
CH: Who came up with drawing the titties on your back?
JN: That was me, that was all me.
CH: It was hilarious. I was glad that you were able to create an intro as good as the last one. I also liked how you had Bobby in the intro with the classic “not you” line.
JN: Yeah, that’s in the special. When I tweeted it out it made it to long so I only put up the Michael Williams part in the tweet. I wanted the intro to be something that means a lot to me. Ozzie means a lot to me, Michael means a lot to me. It was a personal thing, it’s my special and I wanted it to be personal.
CH: What made you decide to go with EPIX rather than a traditional outlet like HBO or Showtime? Or even releasing it on your own like Louie or Aziz?
JN: I didn’t even talk to anyone else. I love HBO , I have done stuff for them. EPIX was the first ones that I spoke to. My experience with them last year was so good. I went to them first, because for artists, EPIX is really artist friendly. I am not just saying that because I worked with them. They are really good with performers. They encourage you to do your own thing. It’s different than most network experiences I have had.
CH: Before you wanted to go into Boston for your last special but issues caused you to go to Cleveland. How were you able to get through that and make it to Boston? Didn’t it have something to do with smoke?
JN: The smoke thing, we wound up not using in Boston. That was the main issue though. The smoke before the show gives the light a certain quality. Boston wouldn’t allow it due to regulations. So I spoke to Louie (Louie C.K) since he shot in Boston before and I asked him “what did you do to smoke the room?”And he said “I never smoked a room in my entire life, that’s stupid I would never do that” I was like really and he said “Yeah, Fuck that it’s dumb” And Louie immediately changed my opinion on it. One of my favorite things about being a comic is that I have friends like that, that you can go to when you have questions and actually get real answers so that actually relaxed me about it. And I was able to do it in Boston.
CH: It looked great, how do you work out new material? Do you go to the cellar (The Comedy Cellar in NYC) with some topics? Do you write stuff down?
JN: I will jot down ideas and go onstage at the Cellar and work it out. I have to be inspired for it to happen. Something will happen like Paula Dean. Something will move you creatively and then all of a sudden you start creating stuff with it. There is no real method to it; I just wait till it hits me. I just go onstage and play around till something really good comes. This time it took a couple of months. After I shot the special it took me a couple of months to get some more ideas. That’s just the way it works you know.
CH: So once it’s released none of it can be used, including the Apnea?
JN: Yeah, it’s done I haven’t used that joke in 4 months.
CH: You have a huge collection of celebrity photos, who was your first and what made you so fanatical about it?
JN: Early in my career I never got pictures, I did get autographs. I met Sam Kinison once, and I met Pryor once. Sam I got to sign a napkin at Rascals, I still have it and I got Pryor to sign the back of my business card which I still have. I wish I got photos back then but unfortunately I didn’t. In 97 me and Florentine were at MTV to meet Ozzie and Ozzie was my first real celebrity picture. I wasn’t doing them and Jim said take the picture. I am looking at that photo right now and I got him to sign it a few years ago.
CH: You’re brutally honest in your standup. At what point in your career did you decide to pull from your life and bring that level of honesty or is that something you did from the get go
JN: My insecurities were always something I talked about. I always went with my insecurity and things that were painful. You just get more confident in time as a performer where you can say what you want to say and not worry about whether people agree with it. So I would say as years went on it happened. I was always fairly honest. That is just what worked for me early on.
CH: The bit about Massage Parlors that’s stuff that people secretly look up online, not what you expect someone to talk about onstage.
JN: I figure why not, what’s the worst that can happen, I bother somebody. I love being honest.
CH: Any topic off limits to you?
JN: No not at all, there are times I will avoid a certain joke not to be tasteless. I make taste decisions. But no topic as a whole is off limits ever.
CH: You are known on O&A for having some great characters. Ted Scheckler, Edgar, and The great Lyle “Chip” Chipperson where do these come from?
JN: Normally from my personal life. I would do it to annoy my girlfriends. Those have all come about by annoying girlfriends over the years. I then bring them to the radio show, most of them don’t stick but the ones that do I really run into the ground.
CH: Are you going to give chip his own social media stuff?
JN: I do chip on my own instagram and vine. Jim doesn’t use them at all I will probably just keep it there. But I would love to film some more Chip. I have some ideas for him. So you will being seeing more of young eager lyle in the months to come.
CH: With your advice show you’re the new Dr Drew except you help people. How does it feel to be helping people and hitting on some heavy issues?
JN: I think it works because I come from a place of imperfection. I don’t claim to be a doctor or a fucking know it all. If I don’t know something I say it. They know they get honesty from me opposed to being preached to. A lot of times people like honesty, they like to hear “I don’t know exactly but this is what I think”. That’s all your friends do, that’s what a therapist does. In most cases unless it’s medical schizophrenia they are guessing. They think they know what they are talking about. So why are they more qualified than me? I have life experiences. If I can give a real answer I will do the best that I can.
CH: You have a patented question you ask actors “What do you do with your hands” in your special aside from when you get water you’re not holding the mic. You’re very animated.
JN: Honestly, in the special before I held the mic. I go through phases where sometimes I hold it and sometimes I don’t. It’s also because I am good at Stand UP and I stink at Acting.
CH: You’re a regular on Leno. And NBC is replacing him again. How will that impact you, Fallon was on the show. Will you do stuff with him?
JN: Yeah, I have a good relationship with him, I have been on Fallon before. I love Jay and I love going to LA and doing the tonight show. I am lucky to have gotten as many spots with them as I have. I can’t be bummed about it. I am lucky to be on it as many times as I have. I think and this is a guess, the difference between this and last time is that NBC wants to get Jimmy at 11:30 because Kimmel is going to have a head start. I know Jay will leave eventually. I think they just want Jimmy in there to compete with Kimmel.
CH: Why do you think it is about your comedy style that Jay likes.
JN: I think Jay has a much edgier sense of humor than people think. He likes it harsher than people think he does. I would always have good success on the show and I would always have fun playing with the other guests. There is Jay and the Executive Producer Debbie Vickers who was a big supporter of mine and I think they liked that I could be dirty or offensive without violating TV standards they knew I wasn’t going to slip up.
CH: You’re not a fan of Alpha Males, yet you’re a big fan of the UFC
JN: I am not a fan of Alpha Male bullies. I don’t like guys who try to bully smaller guys. I never had a bully problem I was lucky. UFC fighters are not bullies; they are all nice they have nothing to prove. They know they can kick the shit out of me.
CH: You rooting for Chael over Shogun tomorrow?
JN: Oh absolutely Chael is a buddy of mine. I am absolutely rooting for him over Shogun.
CH: What first drew you into the sport?
JN: Well I am friends with Rogan (Joe Rogan Comedian and UFC Color Commentator), and he would come by with some fighters and then just going onto Youtube and watching Liddell (Chuck Liddell) knock people the fuck out. It was, how do you not like these guys.
CH: You have lost some weight and are in pretty good shape. I am taking that quite a bit of material was taken from working out. Your bit on the naked dude was hilarious.
JN: I just saw him the other day, naked again powdering his balls. That’s a true story it’s fun to mock him knowing he will never know.
CH: This is a strong hour of material.
JN: Thanks I am really glad to hear it. I love how it turned out.
CH: Anything you would have changed.
JN: I wish I did a 90 minute special I had to cut some of it out.
CH: What’s next for you?
JN: I don’t know what’s next. I would love to see how this one works out and then work on my next one.