AmericasComedy.Com got a chance to speak with comedian Jim Norton while he was perfoming in Los Angeles recently. The veteran comedian has had success across almost every form of media - he’s a regular on the Opie & Anthony Show, has made numerous television appearances including Tough Crowd, Lucky Louie, Louie and as host of the 2008 stand-up series Down and Dirty with Jim Norton. The comedian has also authored two best-selling books on top of many successful stand-up tours, albums and specials.
Jim’s next special, Please Be Offended, debuts on EPIX June 30 at 10 p.m. EPIX offers cross-platform broadcast on cable, Dish Network, online and across a number of set-top appliances and mobile devices like Xbox 360, Roku, iPhone/iPod/iPad and Android. We talked to Jim about how this is part of the recent movement of comedians releasing albums and specials outside “the system” (Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, etc.), as well as stand-up, books and and his many other endeavors.
AC: What made you decide it was time to do this special?
JN: It just felt like the right time. I’ve been so busy writing stuff and doing stuff for Leno, I’ve had so many distractions. It just felt like the right time to do it. It’s hard to say why exactly, actually I wish I hadn’t waited this long but I’m just happy I’m doing another one. I’m just happy that I had the chance to do it and I’m just happy that it’s done.
AC: Are you retiring the material from the special?
JN: Oh god yeah! I want it to be out there and I want people to like it. But I don’t know how people go out and do the same material for all those years, I just don’t know how they do it. I go crazy after a while. I just can’t wait to get rid of certain material. Sometimes you get sick and tired of hearing yourself say it. This way I can cut it loose and work on new shit.
AC: What made you decide to do this special on EPIX?
JN: They wanted to do a special and when I saw what they had to offer, I really wanted to do it with them. They’re not on every platform yet, but they’re on demand and of course, online. They have a strong online presence, which is great because that’s where everything is going.
AC: It seems like a lot of comedians are moving to online and other alternative platforms. What do you think is motivating that in comedy, especially?
JN: You know what it is, everybody is on their phones now and there’s no reason to go home and watch something when it’s on. I want people to be able to say, ‘Hey, I want to see Jim’s special right now’ and be able to watch the minute they want to watch it. People lose interest really fast these days.
AC: Do you think everything is going to move online?
JN: It’ll be a long time before the Internet wipes out TV. Let’s be honest, they still have some major events on TV. And if you look at music, the transition from vinyl to today – it had to go through 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs and eventually its digital downloads over X amount of years. So you can’t count TV out any time soon.
AC: Speaking of TV, Down & Dirty – I know that’s a couple of years old now, but it introduced me to some of my favorite comedians. Would you be interested in doing another stand-up series on TV?
JN: I would love to do something like that again, that was a lot of fun. You know, you get to just do a few minutes up front, then introduce some really great comics. [laughing] So, if any network wanted to do it, I’d be more than happy to.
AC: You’ve also written a couple of books, how does that compare to performing live?
JN: Well, when you’re writing a book, you can’t see the disappointment on their faces, which is really nice. You hope they like it, but you have to rely on their feedback later. Whereas with stand-up, you know you’re shitting the bed immediately on stage. So it’s great and it sucks. Sometimes I like to know if people like something or hate something right away and sometimes it’s like… eeech.
I like writing books, it’s great. I should write another one.
AC: So you’re at a place now where you’re considered a great comedian and really well-respected, are there still guys that make you say ‘wow!’?
JN: Oh, thank you.
I love a lot of comics. I like Colin Quinn, I think he’s brilliant. I love Attell. Bill Burr I think is a great comic. There’s a lot of really, really funny dudes out there and I admire a lot of them. I don’t watch a lot of comedy anymore, but I really do like a lot of them.
AC: Speaking of Attell, will you be doing another Anti-Social Tour?
JN: Actually, I’m doing another Anti-Social comedy tour right now. This time with Artie Lange, Dave Attell, and Nick Di Paolo and occasionally Doug Stanhope joins us. I love, love, love doing shows with these guys. It’s just great because none of us has the pressure of the entire show being on our shoulders.
AC: Plus, you guys all appeal to a similar type of audience, but it’s probably not 100% overlap, so people get to come because they know they like you and find out ‘Oh, hey, I like that guy, too!’
JN: Yeah, we all have kind of the same mentality of people and it’s nice to have all four of our draw come together.
AC: Okay I just have to ask this last thing, you’re based on the East Coast, but you’re out here on the West Coast right now. Do you find any difference between the two audiences?
JN: You’d think they were different, but they’re not. New York crowds are great, but they can also be over-sensitive babies and then L.A. crowds can let loose and let you do what you want. There might have been a time when that was true, but people are people.
About the Author: Amy Hawthorne is an LA-based stand-up and writer and the founder of ComedyGroupie.com. She is convinced that the food industry is being unduly influenced by Big Avocado.