When people complain about stand-up comics who seem to do little more than swear or talk about sex to get laughs (and, yes, those people do exist -- they either shop at Wal-Mart or gave birth to you), the comic they're talking about is Jim Norton. Known for building a career on being brutally offensive, Norton is a pioneer of a very specific style of East Coast nasty comedy. There's a whole lot of shock value on Norton's comedy, but unlike a comic such as, say, Andrew "Dice" Clay (in his heyday), Norton at least has punchlines and a sense of timing. Plus, you get the feeling that he isn't really playing a part on stage. This is who the man is.
On his latest album, Despicable, Norton shows that he's grown as a comic. Yes, there's plenty of raunchy and blue material about threesomes with (male) porn stars and his favorite parts of the female anatomy, but there's also some sharp observational humor and routines that humanize Norton more than in the past -- he's less angry, ranting ball of frustration than relatable guy. Even some of his edgier, dirtier stories (like the aforementioned threesome story) come from a place of genuine insecurity and self-effacing humor. Norton isn't the ocmic standing on stage telling us how stupid we all are -- or, if he is, he at least counts himself among us.
Ultimately, Despicable is a bit hit-and-miss. The funny stuff is very funny, but you do still have to slog through some amount of shock-value material that's there to please Norton's diehard fanbase -- the kind of jokes that exist just to poke holes in political correctness. I'm all in favor of that, only sometimes Norton's idea of tearing down PC walls consists mostly of being as crude and vulgar as possible. Thankfully, that kind of stuff is in the minority in the album, which mostly finds a way to incorporate the bluest material into something relatable. It's an album that's going to satisfy Norton fans while possibly transcending that audience and reaching out to a new audience. Not bad for a guy who swears this much.
- Album Release Date: March 8, 2011
- Label: BSeen Media