Q and A: Jim Norton talks Louis C.K., his new act, and why he couldn't vote for Trump
"I love Louis. He's one of my favorite people. But the reality is, it's wrong," Norton says.
Comedian Jim Norton is bringing his politically incorrect act back to Philadelphia for a show at the Fillmore on Thursday, Nov. 30, as part of his "Kneeling Room Only" tour, but fans might want to expect a little less material on transgender prostitutes and Caitlyn Jenner. These days, Norton says is is leading a more subdued life.
"I'm not seeing prostitutes anymore. I've given that part of my life up," the veteran comic says. "I don't want to live that life. It feels weird to be living a 'quieter life.' I like it."
Instead, showgoers can expect Norton's raunchy takes on everything from the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey sexual-misconduct scandals to Donald Trump's presidency and how generally "creepy" men tend to be.
A Bayonne, N.J., native, Norton got started in stand-up in 1990, and soon became known for his dirty, irreverent takes on pop culture and sex. Since then, he's carved out a career as a radio host, working at first on Siriux XM's Opie with Jim Norton Show, which he has since left. Now, Norton can be heard daily on Sirius on The Jim and Sam Show alongside co-host Sam Roberts, as well as on the The Chip Chipperson Podcast as beloved loser Chip Chipperson.
We caught up with Norton about Louis C.K.'s admission of past sexual misconduct, his new act, and why politically correct culture isn't so bad for comedy after all. Check out the interview below:
Right now, some of the biggest news in the comedy world is Louis C.K.'s admission of past sexual misconduct. What did you make of his apology?
I'm glad he apologized. He was right to apologize. I love Louis. He's one of my favorite people. But the reality is, it's wrong. It's something that makes these women extremely uncomfortable because they're saying "no" to a guy who they not only admire, but can hurt them in the business. They don't want to be outcasts.
As someone who is open about his sexuality, can you offer any insight into why someone might behave that way?
It's weird. I'm a freak, and I've been open about being a freak. But my freakiness doesn't work that way. The thought of [masturbating] in front of someone who isn't into it … Like, I want to do it in front of someone who is dirtier than I am. I want to do it in private. I don't want it to be a co-worker.
That's the problem: At work, there is a power dynamic — unless he's hitting on a director. Like, if Louis is trying to [perform oral sex on] Martin Scorsese, that's fine, because Scorsese is a more powerful guy. Otherwise, it's unfair. I'm not trying to be politically correct in saying that. It's genuinely unfair to do to these women, to put them through it.
As a friend, however, it has to be tough to watch happen.
It's hard to watch, but the reality is that I have female openers that I work with. When you listen to these women going, "We get this [expletive] all the time," I feel bad for him because I love him, but I really feel bad for them.
I don't like to see a friend going through it, and I hope that this is all there is. I hope there are just a few instances where he acted completely stupidly and selfishly, and that there is nothing else. That's all you can hope for is that there's nothing else.
Like many big name comedians, you have said that you heard rumors before the New York Times story broke, but didn't discuss them publicly. Why?
I didn't talk about the allegations for a long time, and people thought I was avoiding it. The reality is that there was never a name attached to it. It was a rumor. I had heard that there were two girls. You didn't know. But when the allegations came out, I read them.
These women sounded like they were telling the truth. They didn't sound like they were lying. It didn't sound like a money grab. It sounded like people being very honest. I'd be a fool to not think there was something there, and I'm glad he admitted it. It's good for them, too. They must feel vindicated.
You worked with C.K. on projects like Lucky Louis on HBO and Louie on FX. Have you given thought to working with him in the future?
Honestly, I don't know. That's a great question. In all honesty, I haven't even thought about it. I guess it would depend on if anything else comes out, and how it's handled. You always have to ask yourself, "How is this thing handled? How do the women feel about it?" I don't see that opportunity arising for a long time. It would have to be under the right circumstances.
Absolutely, and it is very early on in terms of potential fallout.
I just hope there is no one else. As of now, I have heard nothing else. So I am hoping they got the women he did this to, and they came out and talked about it, and everything is out in the open.
It's definitely a shocking, sad situation, and it made me emotionally understand why the Bill Cosby ordeal went as far and long as it did. Why people would be willing to brush those accusations to the side.
You don't want to believe it. We don't want to believe that we've been so wrong about a person. We don't want to deny their work that we've enjoyed, and we don't want to go, "Oh, my god, I have been so wrong about this person."
Last time you were in the area, a couple big things in the act were Caitlyn Jenner and transgender prostitutes and stuff like that. What can folks expect this time around?
I'm not seeing prostitutes anymore. I've given that part of my life up. It's one of those things where you just get old, and you can't do it anymore. I don't want to live that life. It feels weird to be living a "quieter life." I like it.
But, of course, I'm talking about Harvey Weinstein, I'm talking about Kevin Spacey, and what's going on in the world with [President] Trump. It's just a brand-new hour, and it's fun. I talk a lot about women being creeped out by men, and how creepy we are. You know what I mean? It's interesting. A lot of times, I ask women in the audience, 'When was the last time a guy creeped you out?' They all have a story. As men, we don't usually see that, so it's been really fun to do.
Last year, you told me that you couldn't wait to vote for Trump. You're not typically a super political guy in your act —
A little bit. Not too, too much.
Did you feel the need to now have material about him?
I didn't have any need for it. It's organic and lends itself, and Trump says a lot of things that you have to goof on. I don't feel obligated to, but it would feel unnatural not to with everything that has been going on. I would feel stupid not talking about him in my act.
Did you actually end up voting for him?
Ultimately, I didn't vote for him, because his vice president is really, really religious and anti-gay and anti-trans. I just couldn't vote for that.
I know at the time, it was early on in the race, and supporting him seemed kind of fun comedically, but I wanted to check back in and see if you were serious.
I liked the middle finger to politics. That kind of felt good, but I couldn't do it. I voted for Gary Johnson, even though I didn't like him either. It was the only thing I could do to go "[expletive] you" to the two-party system.
As always, the new act sounds pretty raunchy. Do you run into much trouble with political correctness like some comedians? Is doing comedy really that different now?
The only difference is now, you might have to be prepared that you may need to explain why you told a joke, or what you meant by it. There have always been things to push back against. There have always been things that got comics in trouble. So that's not new, and I don't think it's much different than it ever was.
So it's not something you feel the need to rail against, a la Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock?
You know, P.C. is not always wrong. That's a hard thing to swallow because at times, if something is politically correct, you want to automatically write it off. Some of the things make sense. I don't think you're wrong in being politically correct if you don't want people yelling [derogatory insults about sexual orientation] at a guy who is crossing the street. I don't think that's a wrong thing in politically correct culture. But you try to balance your natural need to rebel against anything that's current and you try to go, 'What's right? What is correct?'
And also funny.
Um, yeah. But the job is never to isolate people. I don't go out of my way to offend people, but I don't go out of my way not to. You just try to be funny and truthful. My job is not to be right. I'm funny and I'm honest. I'm not always right.
Jim Norton, 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen St. Tickets: $49.50 to $78. 215-309-0150 or thefillmorephilly.com.