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The Jester Interview: Jim Norton

Jim Norton has defined himself as the premier purveyor of a certain style of stand-up comedy, mixing twisted sexually-oriented subject matter with a sense of absurdity, all delivered with pinpoint timing. In his first book, “Happy Endings,” (see 9/4/07 review), he turned this style on his own autobiography, and with his newly published second book, “I Hate Your Guts,” he applies his point of view to pop culture and public personalities. Also, as host of a four-episode stand-up showcase series on HBO last month, “Down & Dirty With Jim Norton,” he gave exposure to several up and coming stand-ups (see Whitney Cummings interview) with a style complimentary to his own, in combination with longer sets by accomplished colleagues Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal and Andrew “Dice” Clay. Jester spoke with Norton about how he put his new book together and the response he gets from his fans.

Jester: Was ‘I Hate Your Guts’ easier or harder to write than ‘Happy Endings’?
Jim Norton: Harder, because I didn’t have as long to do it. It was a specific thing, where I was just writing about people. The other one was just written over the span of a year and a half. This one was in a few months.  

J: How did you get the idea to do this one, and put your axes to grind in this book?
JN: They wanted something on pop culture and I didn’t want to do some cutesy thing about Britney, so I liked the idea of doing this and that was pretty much it. I wanted to write about people who really irritated the shit out of me the last couple years.  

J: So you didn’t want to audition for ‘Best Week Ever‘?
JN: No – I’ve done that show, not that it’s a bad show, but the tone of it is probably not for me. They like things a little nicer.  

J: Would you say this has gotten it all out of your system or is this just the tip of the iceberg?
JN: For now, but I’m sure more will creep in, and I’m sure there’s some I didn’t get to like the Parents Television Council – there are some I didn’t get to who I really despise who I’m sure will come up.  

J: What are you most obsessed with now or today?
JN: Good question – It’s still political correctness. It is still people’s need to make known whether or not they’re offended by humor. It is still people’s reaction to humor and how phony and despicable it is.  

J: Were some parts of this things you didn’t have room for in the first book like stories about avoiding getting beat up in school?
JN: No – it’s just things I didn’t really think of – the things about high school and stuff were just things I was angry at. These were coming from an angry place. There’s a lot of stories. There’s a lot of stories I didn’t tell, but these were stories of people I really wanted to smash in the fucking teeth.

J: Did you have to choose from material that you write as to whether to put it in the book or to perform it?
JN: Usually I’ll write something and if I think it’s funny enough to do on stage in a sense – writing something, you can see the whole thing laid out. ‘Oh yeah, I could do that on stage.’ So it’s always written first.  

J: Were there things in this that looked better written out and you didn’t think they would fly on stage?
JN: Some did. Most have actually worked. The ones I’ve tried on stage have worked, which is nice.  

J: Do you enjoy doing book tours?
JN: Yeah, I do actually. It’s fun meeting fans and shit like that and sign … I do enjoy it actually.  

J: When you’re doing the upcoming book tour, do you give any remarks?
JN: Yeah, I’ll go up and talk for a second. Yeah, always, absolutely.





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