Comedian Jim Norton on How He Got Robert De Niro to Spank Him
Jim Norton doesn't care what you think about his sex life.
In Mouthful of Shame, his fifth standup special released on Netflix this spring, the New York-based stand-up comic opened up, typically unapologetically, about his mom's underpants, Charlie Sheen, and his sexual experiences with transgender women. When he's not telling jokes on stage, Norton hosts the The Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and UFC’s Unfiltered Podcast with Jim Norton & Matt Serra. Norton has also appeared on TV shows such as Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, and Crashing.
We caught up with Norton ahead of his one-night stop at the Aladdin Theater on September 23—the second in his brand-new Kneeling Room Only tour.
You're known for being extremely transparent about your sex life. Have you always been that way or is it something you've worked up to?
A little bit of both. You get better at talking about it. And you get better at making it funny if you’re being honest. My job is not to preach to the audience, or to tell the audience how they should feel, or to change “hearts and minds.” My job is to give you my opinion, my life, and be funny. I don’t care if they agree with it or their sexuality is what mine is. It’s not relevant. Most importantly, I want them to think it’s funny.
You sometimes use the words “pervert” and “degenerate” to describe yourself. But a lot of it might be called sex positive...
Mouthful of Shame—the point was I was ashamed of what comes out of it and what goes into it. That was pretty much the thinking behind that title. But all of it is about self-perception. All these things are how I feel about myself. I’m not saying they’re right or wrong but they’re honest. We all have weird, twisted moments of self-worth.
Sex positivity, I talk about it. But no one ever looks at me as sex positive. All these “progressive” people never see me as sex positive. I guess they don’t like it that I don’t toe the ideological line on other issues. I don’t know why. Or I’ll defend people who say things they hate. But I try to be sex positive. I don’t believe in shaming people for what they like sexually, as long as you’re not a rapist or a pedophile.
Where do you get the most criticism?
It’s all from the left. It’s all from the left. And it drives me crazy because liberals are supposed to be the ones that fought for the freedom of unpopular opinion. And it drives me nuts because I want to be a liberal. I agree, socially, with almost everything the left stands for. But with the language policing, they are so disappointing. I made fun of Caitlin [Jenner], and little babies can’t differentiate between just making fun of a person and being transphobic. Me, transphobic? What, is your Google broke? To call me as a person transphobic is embarrassingly ill-informed.
Are there things you don’t joke about? Say, things in your private life that are just for Jim Norton?
Certain hand-holding things. Like this girl I’m dating now, I hold her hand. I enjoy being very lovey with her. That stuff is harder to make funny. And I never say anything about other people if you can connect who the person is, because I respect their privacy very much. But there’s nothing else, man. Because I’m not doing anything I’m ashamed of, other than my own self-hatred shame. I really like the girl I’m seeing now.
Can we expect anything totally different in your new material?
It’s an hour of brand-new material. It’s me—some of it’s really dirty, some of it’s not. I talk a little bit about Trump, but I don’t go crazy on Trump. I talk about traveling. My thing is always what’s going on in pop culture, what’s going on in my sex life, and what’s going on in my private life. It’s always going to be that mix; I don’t deviate that much.
Any crazy Portland stories?
I remember the first time I was there, a whole table of people found me offensive and walked out loudly. But I’ve really mellowed out on the road, sexually. And now I’m being faithful, so I’ll just come and do my show, go back to the room, eat almonds, and jerk off thinking about the girl I’m in love with [laughs].
Are you worried about people walking out?
Anywhere you go, you’re going to have a little bit of the local ideology creep in. But at this point in my career, anybody who comes to see me kind of knows who I am. Especially if they’re coming to a theater. They know who you are and what they’re in for.
I’m not worried about people heckling me, or people getting offended and marching out. I’m very lucky. My career is not contingent on not offending people, you know?
In the intro to Mouthful of Shame, Robert De Niro spanks you bare-ass. How did you get him to do that?
It’s funny. I had helped him with the movie The Comedian a little bit, only for like two days. But he took a liking to me for some reason. So, I had written out this scene and I emailed his people, and they’re like, “Bob would love to do this with you!” But I kept the spanking part out of it. I put that he was going to slap me, but I left the spanking part out. We shot it in his office, and I said, “Hey Bob, I put this spanking thing in there but I brought a hairbrush so you don’t have to touch my bare ass.” And he goes, “That’s OK, no problem.” And the first take we did, I was actually over his lap. I’m laying over his lap with my bare leg. And I made him laugh, I said, “Don’t worry, I won’t cum on your calf.” He enjoyed that. So it relaxed us.
So, he didn’t even want to use the hairbrush?
No! He was bare-handed! He really is a method actor.
Jim Norton: Kneeling Room Only
7 p.m. Sat, Sept 23, Aladdin Theater, $35–90