I first became aware of comedian Jim Norton when I saw him on the Fox News show, Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. Norton is a frequent guest on the talk show (he’s usually on Mondays). If I can’t catch every episode I make an effort to watch Norton’s appearances. He’s got a straightforward and often dirty, “cringe” sense of humor. I like that. He has authored two books, Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch and I Hate Your Guts. Each book is entertaining and made me laugh out loud several times. I am not alone in this – Happy Endings hit # 4 on the New York Times Bestseller List (nonfiction). He’s released two comedy CDs, Yellow Discipline and Trinkets I Made from Gorilla Hands, done two HBO comedy specials and you can hear him on the radio show Opie and Anthony. Norton is a very busy man these days. I talked to him in April ahead of his upcoming Seattle appearance – I wanted to know more about the unusual KISS daydream he had as a child, more about his childhood, and I also had to ask him about Ann Coulter, who turns out to be a friend of his.
I read that you were working on ideas for children’s books.
It was probably a joke. I would always think of these horrible things to do for children’s books. I thought it would be great to do a pop-up book about testicular cancer and market it for kids. It was always some horrendous idea that would never be good for kids. I have no real serious ideas for children’s books.
It would be an interesting educational tool.
It would be, with the worst goiters in pop-ups. That would really creep kids out. Kids are treated too softly, I think every once in awhile they need to be horrified by what they read.
You collect photos of yourself with celebrities. Whom do you still need a photo with?
De Niro. I need De Niro and I need Pacino. I’ve met De Niro a couple of times but I’ve just never taken a photo. He’s an elusive guy, but I will get him eventually. I sound like a psychopath saying that, but I will get him.
You’ve worked with Ann Coulter on Red Eye a few times.
Yeah she’s a friend of mine.
I like Ann Coulter. [Readers: Before you attack me, let me say this. I like debates. I am a free speech enthusiast. The fact I am even saying this proves Norton’s point below.]
I do too. She’s become this very easy target. Ann says controversial things. She says things that are going to upset people so I think she knows she’s going to get a certain amount of crap. She’s way more conservative than I am, but what I love about her is that she says whatever she wants and does it unapologetically. That to me is what makes the country great, is that people can have very mild opinions or very extreme opinions and they’re all valid and they’re all allowable. It’s amazing how many people want to squash her free speech to say that stuff. She’s a good example of how people have very selective free speech ideologies . . . look at what just happened to her in Canada. It really is amazing how people find reasons why she’s terrible and shouldn’t be allowed to express her opinion. There’s something about an attractive woman with that point of view which brings out a very odd rage in people. There’s plenty of arch-conservative men. Plenty of men are religious conservatives, they’re anti-abortion, but the vitriolic response that she elicits from people – it absolutely has something to do with the fact that she’s a blond woman with a set of opinions that people don’t think that someone who looks like her should have. It never ceases to amaze me how angry people get at her when there are plenty of people that say a lot worse things than what she says.
You never hear people standing up for her right to say what she wants to say. If she’s shouted down at a speech it’s somehow justifiable.
And they wouldn’t do that to somebody else.
No. Look at who’s allowed to speak at colleges. They have plenty of controversial speakers. The President of Iran spoke, and he wasn’t shouted down. Ahmadinejad was laughed at, but he wasn’t shouted down by students. People should love her. Even if you hate her and disagree with her, she’s a great example of free speech and how important it is.
This is probably a creepy question, but she has the most beautiful hair. Have you ever been able to touch her hair? It looks really soft.
I have not. Occasionally I’ll follow her with shears to clip some off when she’s not looking. I’m going to do that on Red Eye next time, I’m gonna cut a little piece off for myself. I’ve hugged her before but I’ve never touched her hair. Now I’m gonna stroke it like Lenny from Of Mice and Men.
Jim Norton with Ann Coulter – photo courtesy of Norton’s MySpace
You should! So, you were a judge on the Gong Show?
Only for a couple of episodes.
Would you do something like that again? Like a reality show?
If they asked me to? Look, I’m 41. I’m a whore. I’ll be the whacky neighbor, I’ll tap dance down the steps with Shirley Temple. Whatever they want me to do, I will do. I have no pride left.
There’s a lot of self-deprecation in your humor. What’s something you like about yourself?
I like the fact that I am funny. I love the fact that I’m honest onstage. Those are things that I genuinely like about myself – that I have the ability to take things that are horrible and make them funny. That is something I feel good about.
Do you remember what your first stand-up gig was like?
Yeah – it was so weird hearing my voice over the loud speakers. And not getting laughs where I thought I should get them. I pretty much bombed my first time and I was surprised that people weren’t laughing. I didn’t know how to handle that. I had never tried to be funny for strangers. It was weird hearing people not laugh. It was a little unsettling.
What were the Lords? I saw something about them on your Wikipedia page
When I was 12 years old my friends and I were going to form a gang called the Lords. We didn’t want to build the tree fort so we just went to the store to buy the letters to hang on the front door. It was four nerds. We would have gotten the shit beaten out of us had anybody confronted us.
[I find out that he is the older brother to his sister] Were you able to guide her?
I’m the healthy, older influence – not really. I’m the last example you want to follow. A pervert, a recovering drug addict – there’s a lot healthier people to follow.
In Happy Endings you mention that you used to have weird KISS dream.
Yeah, I was seven years old and I would dream that KISS would come to my apartment and they would beat me and hurt me. And they would throw me down the stairs violently and then when I stood down there and cried they would hug me and love me, and make me all better. I don’t know what it meant. We interviewed Paul Stanley on Opie and Anthony and Opie made me tell him that recurring daydream. It was humiliating. And then Paul hugged me. I’ve gotten hugs now from Gene, Paul and Ace. I’ve never got one from Peter. He’s the last member of KISS I need a hug from, like the complete creep that I am.
Where did your saying silly goose come from?
I don’t know why I love that one. The juxtaposition of that with something horrible is just great.
I would, because it kind of made my junk look really good. It’s a little too tight for me. It was just a little snug in the groin.
You could always cut a hole in it.
I actually would do that. I’m creepy enough to do that.
What’s the animal that you most identify with?
Probably a cat, because it licks its own ass and that’s exactly what I wish I could do.
Jim Norton appears at the Showbox Market on May 28th.