We're counting down the days until the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival charges in and takes over Austin theaters and comedy clubs with gut-busting onstage talent. Our last preview featured Anthony Jeselnik, a comedian well versed in the art of dark, offensive comedy, and today we spotlight another act that's never shied away from pushing audiences' buttons.
Working in stand-up since his early-20s, Jim Norton now has four comedy albums under his belt, including the most recent release, No Baby For You!, and he’s found success as a two-time New York Times best-selling author for two humorous books, Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch and I Hate Your Guts.
Accolades aside, Norton may still best be known as the third personality and accomplice on The Opie & Anthony Show, which airs on Sirius/XM Radio. In advance of his April 27 Paramount Theatre appearance, Norton took some time with CultureMap to discuss his work, ambitions, and holding the mainstream media accountable.
CultureMap: So have you worked a set in Austin before? Do you have a good impression of the city?
Jim Norton: Yeah, I did Austin once and it was great — I did a full week there. So I’m looking forward to getting back. It’s been like a year and a half. I did the Cap City Comedy Club… Joe Rogan was in town, so he stopped by the show and we got to eat after. It’s a really, really fun city. It has a great reputation among comedians.
CM: You’ve kept plenty busy since then. What’s your latest upcoming stand-up special, and what’s it going to cover this time around?
JN: It’s called American Degenerate and I talk again like I do with everything — I talk about what’s happening in pop culture, as well as my own life. I address the school shootings. I address [John] Travolta getting sued for hitting on guys during massages, and I address my own massage perversions. And, you know, I cover my own life and what’s happening in the country. I try to keep it even.
I cover my own life and what’s happening in the country. I try to keep it even. - Jim Norton
CM: Outside of this upcoming special, what else are you working on now or what would you wish to work on coming up?
JN: It was all gearing up to this special, so now that that’s shot (it’s going to be on Epix and then Netflix) I just want to finish getting this special edited.
I would like to do a talk show. I do radio but I would actually like to do a talk show on some channel or online or something like that. I do an advice show, which I do once a week, but I actually want to do a talk show that’s filmed in front of a live audience.
CM: It seems that podcasting has become the next big thing for comedians to reach a wider audience. Have you ever considered your own to transition to a solo talk show?
JN: No, because we have a bigger audience than most podcasts, so contractually I have to do this. I’m not allowed to just go and do a podcast. TV I can do, but not a podcast. Because I’m doing satellite radio [for Opie & Anthony], they don’t want me doing a podcast, too, and competing against myself.
CM: What about writing again? Are there any other possible books on the horizon?
I would love to write a third book, but with the availability of pornography on the Internet it’s so hard to do anything constructive on my computer. - Norton
JN: I would love to write a third book, but with the availability of pornography on the Internet it’s so hard to do anything constructive on my computer.
CM: It can get very distracting, but if you found the time what subjects would you tackle?
JN: My life, and how I destroy relationships. I think that’s what I would like to focus on: How I ruin every relationship I’ve ever been in.
CM: A lot of your material is focused on your personal life and being very open about it. What’s it been like to delve into your personal life and air all of your laundry for everyone to see?
JN: To me, it’s the most honest thing you can do, because it’s you. And it’s also mine — no one else is going to talk about me. And it helps exorcize the demons. When you talk about them it helps get it out. I think it’s very healthy, mentally, to do.
CM: Another subject you tackle often, not just in stand-up but daily on Facebook and Twitter, is current events and taking the media to task on how it covers certain events. What is it that irks you in particular?
JN: What I hate about the media is they’ve become a group of people who create stories and then report on what they’ve created. They take a non-story, blow it up into something big, and then they stand back in awe of how big it is and talk about it.
And I hate the fact that they’re very, very politically correct. Ideologically, they are almost all the same. And they’re just not reporting the news in an unbiased fashion. And they’re never forced to apologize whereas comedians are forced to apologize. So I have a real lack of respect for most of the press.
Not all of them. Not the guys that are going to Syria and Afghanistan and various brave people. I’m talking about the vulture mentality that sets up the camera outside the school in Newtown, Connecticut because they want to get a better shot. That’s the mentality I’m talking about.
To catch Jim Norton at the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, single tickets and badges are available for his show on Saturday, April 27 at the Paramount. Badgeholders will also have access to Marc Maron's live WTF Podcast recording featuring Jim Norton as one of several guests.