Jim Norton’s career is built on being offensive. Some of his funniest material, the rawest and most hilarious, is always sure to offend someone. But it’s probably not because the statement is wrong, it’s just because of what Norton calls “manufactured outrage.”
“People like to be offended because there’s a phony sense of empowerment when they’re offended,” Norton explained, “and sometimes people get offended for other people. In either case, when people are genuinely offended, honestly, who cares?”
Norton returned to the Somerville Theatre in Boston, MA for his third consecutive EPIX special, Contextually Inadequate, which airs tonight at 10PM EST. Norton takes on the twisted world of the 21st century and tackles every topic — from Bill Cosby to dicks pics and even the events surrounding the firing of his radio co-host Anthony Cumia.
Jim and I talked in the moments after finishing another episode of The Opie Radio show on Sirius XM. Naturally, the conversation turned to sucking dick, but not before we discussed the trend of people being offended and how, sadly, it’s only going to get worse.
It’s finally a nice day here in New York. I’ve noticed people tend to lose their minds on nice days. See anything odd today?
No man, I’m up before 5am to do radio and I’m in the studio until around noon. Today I just came right home. Today was quite uneventful. The show was great but nothing happened in the outside world.
Do you like it better that way? A quiet day after some of the insane stuff that happens on the Opie with Jim Show?
I don’t mind either way. I like seeing bizarre things. You really don’t see that kind of stuff anymore. As much as you think you would, in New York, it’s much more normal than outsiders think. I wasn’t living here during the really insane time in the city’s history. I moved here in 2002. I remember those days, from visiting, but I wasn’t living here. Giuliani cleaned everything up before I got here.
Just for one day, wouldn’t you like to go back to 1979 New York? Just to get the experience.
One day? I’d go back for a month! I want to go back to when there were hookers on 42nd street instead of Mickey Mouse.
They both feel just as dirty — the hookers and the costumed mouse.
True. But I cum harder to the mouse.
In the first minute of your new EPIX special, you go right after Bill Cosby. You’re Cosby material is spot on but your Cosby impression needs some work.
Nah, not a great impression.
Why do you think it took so long for people to turn on Cosby? These accusations and the cases were public knowledge for years, why did it all explode with one comment from Hannibal Burress?
Social media. When all these accusations first came into public knowledge, around 2004, there was no Twitter and social media wasn’t really what it is today. Now with Twitter and every other social media platform, news can be spread so much easier and faster. The fact that the case got settled, the details couldn’t come out and hit social media.
Does it help or hurt comedians that comments can blow out of proportion as quickly as they do?
I think it helps and hurts but mostly helps. I don’t think instant communication is bad at all, there just needs to be a learning curve. None of us know how to really “do it.” We’re really in the infancy of this whole social media experiment. We need to realize it’s going to take a while for everyone to adjust. I think we’ll get better at it.
Being an offensive comedian is how you made your name, and it’s how you make a living. You recently defended Trevor Noah in a piece for Time magazine saying that Noah’s joke wasn’t the problem, the problem is “manufactured outrage.” Why do you think the world is constantly on the lookout for something to offend them?
People like to be offended because there’s a phony sense of empowerment when they’re offended. And sometimes people get offended for other people. In either case, when people are genuinely offended, honestly, who cares?
Do you find that people are only offended when a joke hits close home? Everything is funny until a joke makes fun of an issue close to them.
That’s very true. When it hits close to home, people are absolutely offended.
Is there anything that could offend Jim Norton?
Sure. Of course. I’ve been offended by jokes before but the difference between me and others is I don’t want people to “get in trouble” for the jokes they make.
Was it easier to offend you when you just started out in the entertainment business? Maybe you didn’t have as thick a skin?
I don’t know. I feel like it would be easier to offend me now since there’s so much more personal information about me available. Years ago, I didn’t have strangers attacking me for things that happened in my private life. I mean, I voluntarily talk about these things, so I have to just accept it but I feel like it’s probably easier to offend me now.
Do you get more backlash from the things you say in your act or the things you say on the radio?
The radio. It’s much more immediate and the content changes daily.
You’re incredibly popular with college students and a younger audience, what’s one thing about college and college kids that you don’t fucking get at all?
They get offended and upset at things said in jest. That’s the most shocking thing about college kids today. The most censorship is coming from colleges and universities. This is from things I’ve seen at colleges, things I’ve heard from other comics, and from my own experiences. I’ve had colleges try to censor my stuff and tell me I can’t talk about certain subjects or make certain jokes. The hyper-sensitivity on college campuses is something I don’t fucking get at all.
So this trend of people being offended at jokes will only get worse?
I think we’re heading down that road anyway. Not just because of the colleges. People just live to be offended. The sentence “I’m offended” should end with a period and not a semicolon.
I was flipping around on TV the day and I happened upon your brief cameo in the first Spider-Man film.
Yes! My one line. Many people will say I stole the movie with my one line.
There are rumors that Marvel is planning yet another re-boot on the character. At this point, I’ve got to think you’re in the running to actually play Spider-Man, right?
I don’t want to be Spider-Man, I just want to reprise my role. I just want to be the surly truck driver in the next movie. That’s all I want. I just want one line in each film. I’ll even do the same line, since it was so popular and iconic.
If you could have one perverted super power, what would it be?
Whenever I looked at a woman in a certain way, she just dropped to her knees and craved dick.
Just any dick or your dick?
Good point. Let me amend that statement and make it only my dick.
Do you think that power could save the world?
Of course, because while I’m getting blown, I’d have no interest in using my amazing powers to go out an commit crimes.
That’s very noble of you.
I’m just a good guy like that.
Jim Norton’s new comedy special, Contextually Inadequate, premieres airs tonight, Friday, April 24th on EPIX.