The Weekly interview: comedian Jim Norton

Jim Norton performs at Hard Rock’s Vinyl

You’ve unapologetically put everything about yourself out there—some of which we can’t print in our magazine. Why do you think our country is still so uptight about sexuality?

The one curse in America is that we deny who we really are and what we like. I mean, we’ve been doing it for centuries. We just don’t like to admit our own ugliness. That’s why we penalize people for language that we use at home, or when someone gets in trouble, we don’t stick up for them; we let them get in trouble. Our favorite thing to do is to pretend that we are not who we really are. People don’t like to admit that we’re all perverts on some level. Or that we all enjoy pornography on some level. You know what I mean? We’d rather watch other people get in trouble for it. It’s an embarrassing quality.

You truly embrace the “pervert” persona. How do you deal with the temptations of Las Vegas when you come here to perform?

I pay for sex (laughs). I fall victim to it every time. You know, I just try to tell the truth about my life. I mean, the stuff I talk about is true. I’ve done it. So in Vegas it’s hard to resist, because there are just so many choices. So it’s really hard to not do it in Las Vegas.

On that note, got any good Vegas stories?

Well, I don’t gamble, so basically all I do is the other stuff. Anything you can do that’s self-destructive in Vegas, whatever that is, I do it. It’s just not gambling. I spend as much money as a gambler, but I don’t gamble.

But nothing you want to go into detail about?

I mean, I don’t know if you can print it. Believe me, I don’t mind. I spend a lot of money on massages, and I try to get more than I’m supposed to. I just don’t know how specific you can be.

What’s more satisfying—working solo in stand-up or bouncing ideas off other people, like on Opie & Anthony or The Tonight Show?

It’s hard to say. Opie & Anthony is such a fun thing, because there’s so much room to move around and so much fun to be had. I love doing the radio, and it’s different every day. But stand-up is just you and the immediate reaction of the audience. So I love both. At one moment I may prefer radio, and the other moment I may prefer stand-up.

You’ve worked in pretty much every medium—film, TV, radio, writing two best-selling books. Anything you haven’t done yet that you’d like to do?

I’d like to get my own TV show on, whether it’s a talk show or a comedy, that I write.

Do you prefer scripted drama or the talk show aspect of being able to go in any direction you want?

I think I’d prefer the talk show, but if I like the script, I’d love to do the comedy. Like Louie, I’ll get the scripts from Louie, and I’ll laugh out loud. I’m like, “I’m so glad that I get to read this.”

You are unabashed in your criticism of the media. What’s the most recent thing we did that really pissed you off?

When the Newtown anniversary comes up, they are still showing pictures of this scumbag shooter. It’s not news to have his face there. You only really need to look at the guy’s face and name if they’re still hunting for him. When they were looking for that cop in LA, it was news because it was helping the public. But they cannot get enough of showing these scumbags, and they make them into antiheroes, and they do it time and time again, and they never ever have to apologize for it.

You ever notice when a reporter is being held hostage, they don’t talk about it because they want the reporter to come back safely. When it comes to protecting one of their own, they have the ability to all agree on something and not do it. But I guess when it comes to not encouraging people to be shooters, they’d rather blame violent video games and comedians and movies than the fact of what they’re doing, which is giving the killers exactly what they want, which is glorification and infamy.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s reporters that go overseas and get shot at. The media is a very necessary and a great thing about our country. What I don’t like is the perversion of it, and the days of Walter Cronkite are dead. And they just seem like they’re trying to feed the public whatever we want, just to keep us watching. And there’s a certain integrity that they’ve lost, and it’s kind of sad to me.

Does it bother you that you’re having to talk to a journalist right now?

Oh, not at all! I love talking to journalists and doing all that stuff, and I love the service the media provides us. My issues with them are the way they handle political correctness and race, which I think they’re completely fraudulent and dishonest with, and the way they cover mass shootings really bothers me, because they’re doing a really damaging thing. But not at all! I talk to people in the press all the time. I enjoy it.

You’ve noted that you appreciate the freedom you have on satellite radio, not just for the ability to use profanity, but that you no longer have to fear special-interest groups convincing advertisers to pull out. Any one of those groups have a particularly special place in your heart?

Asian and black groups get very angry very fast. The Catholics—hey, I mean, we got in big trouble with the Catholics, but they’re a little easier to navigate these days. They’re not as scary as they once were. It’s anything with race is very scary for people. So we talk about it all the time, just because you’re not supposed to. Like Megyn Kelly said that stupid thing about Santa Claus being white, and people are actually bothered by it. That’s the culture we live in—we’re so afraid to say the words. Any type of racial or ethnically oriented group who goes after people is really irritating for me.

Your book, I Hate Your Guts, makes it very clear you don’t suffer fools. If you could banish one person to a desert island for the rest of their life, who would it be?

Al Sharpton! Al Sharpton in a second! I just find him to be so irritating, and I find it incredible that he has said the things he has said—like his role in the Tawana Brawley fiasco [in which a woman falsely accused several men of rape in 1988 and Sharpton defended her, a position he maintains to this day]—and all that nonsense, and he still has a show on MSNBC. It’s amazing to me how people just won’t call this guy out on being the creep that he is. So Al Sharpton I would gladly banish to an island by himself.

When you became a comedian, did you immediately make the decision to be candid about your life, or did that come later?

It happened in the first couple of years. Because it’s stuff that would make other comedians laugh. And I kind of liked making the other comedians laugh. So I think that was what made me funny to other comics, and then I felt that was the stuff that was going to be unique to me, anyway, and no one could steal it because it was mine.

Is making another comedian laugh a badge of honor?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s like when a vampire bites another vampire. But you’ve got to be careful not to play to the back of the room, because there’s a lot of comedians who will lose the audience just to make the comics laugh, and that’s not going to help your career. A guy like Colin Quinn does it really well, and a guy like Dave Attell does it really well. They’re brilliant comedians and they makes the audience laugh too and other comedians. It is the hardest thing to do, is make comedians really laugh and respect you. They’re very tough audiences.

Jim Norton December 27 & 29, 8:30 p.m. Vinyl, $40-$85.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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