Can you separate the Jim Norton you hear on Opie & Anthony’s radio show from the Jim Norton you see on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show from the Jim Norton you may have read about in either of his best-selling books of essays? Of course.
In “Despicable,” Norton’s first CD in years and first release since his 2007 HBO special, “Monster Rain,” you’ll hear that the comedian is just like the guy he describes in his memoirs. Norton reveals himself to be the despicable one in his scenarios, realizing that having a relationship with a woman is more likely to mean he’s paying for it, or that she is really a he, than he’s likely to find a girlfriend, a woman who loves him. Even gay men at his gym don’t much care for him. “I’ve had guys get on equipment I’m still using.”
When he focuses his material outward, it’s observational and sometimes topical — he hates himself for watching a local San Francisco celebrity who’s paid to scare people, but enjoys with freakish delight a documentary about a short, fat Floridian woman. “How’d you think this story ended? With a celery stick and a good-natured anecdote? Fuck her!” Not so topical is the longest of Norton’s 27 tracks, a deconstruction of the documentary, March of the Penguins, which Norton has renamed “Penguins Are Assholes.”
Norton is often crude but not necessarily rude, whether he’s discussing homosexuality, race, babies, porn — and his positions reveal himself actually to be more “blue-collar” than the Southern-based quartet of stand-ups who adopted that brand.
For comedy fans, Norton also offers a brief lesson to audiences about “Bombing Etiquette,” pointing out that it’s much more difficult for “civilians” to bomb with their attempted humor in real-life situations than it is for a comedian, because stand-ups always have more jokes as ammunition to go to. “It doesn’t scare us as comics, it’s part of our job,” Norton says. “I go to the next joke…I can’t feed you all mescalin and then retell it while tickling you.”
For an example of real-life awkwardness, listen to “Women Tell Shitty Stories”:
His own acknowledged drug and alcohol addictions come in handy when he turns his focus to televised poker games, wherein he submits it’d be more enjoyable to watch gambling addicts play poker than rich men playing with house money.
Success for Norton has brought with it opportunities. So Norton has hosted the porn (AVN) awards, met Larry Flynt, Gene Simmons, Laura Bush and Ron Jeremy (not all at the porn awards). “You just have to be able to put down your dignity for a couple of minutes” to have your photo taken with famous people, he notes. And then there was the time Norton had a threesome with a woman and Ron Jeremy in 2004. NSFW. Obviously.
The rest of the performance continues in a sexual vein, so to speak. “I gave myself pink-eye.” You’ll have to find out for yourself how that happened.
What’s funnier: Norton’s storytelling, or the fact that for every profanity, there’s a “silly goose” reference to counterbalance the story? The answer is all up to you.