Finally, late night TV has an edgy, foul-mouthed talk show host with an arsenal of dick jokes and a foxy transsexual sidekick—only the show is not on TV, it’s Vice’s latest Internet video offering, the Jim Norton Show.
While the latest crop of network late-show hosts dance around the FCC’s puritanical rules and master the art of made-for-TV sound bites, Norton offers long-form interviews with pop culture icons Mike Tyson and cocaine kingpin Rick Ross (not the rapper) in his first two episodes of the Vice show, complemented by an opening monologue, skits and appearances from the show’s “official girl,” transsexual porn star Bailey Jay.
The show is the latest evolution in Norton’s career, which includes three comedy specials, numerous TV appearances and more than 10 years on the Sirius radio Opie & Anthony Show (more on that later).
We spoke with Norton in a phone interview from New York about the new Vice show, the latest in tabloid news and why he thinks prostitution should be legal. He’ll be at Cobb’s Comedy Club for five shows, Aug. 7-9.
Oh, good. Not one person will see my show and Jay Z or my show and Kanye. We are completely not competing with each other, which is great news for me.
I would be really nervous if we had Kiss one night and Sabbath the next night. That would be really scary for me because it’s the same demo, but I don’t think Jay Z and me overlap a whole lot with our audience.
I saw that you tweeted “Rumors of Jay Z and Beyoncé splitting are even more upsetting than the conflict in Israel #SomeoneHadToSayIt.”
Yeah, it’s funny that the papers are talking about Jay Z and Beyoncé like it’s something we should give a shit about. It’s not news.
I don’t have anything against either one of them, but who cares if they are struggling in their marriage. There’s other stuff to talk about.
Do you think the in Internet has made that worse?
I think the 24-hour news cycle has made that worse. We forget that years ago Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, or whoever, did the nighttime news. Now we have 24 hours of news, so we’ve become more tabloid than we were before. The Internet speeds it up, but the thirst and desire for that comes from the 24-hour cable news cycle.
Has your opinion changed at all after Anthony Cumia of the Opie & Anthony Show was fired by Sirius after his controversial tweets?
They fact that they obsess over what Anthony said and not the fact that he didn’t strike the women or draw his gun—they didn’t change anything, they just confirmed what I already thought. The mainstream media has a narrative and it’s garbage, and I feel contempt for them.
And now you have your own late-night style interview show on Vice. What do you hope to bring to that platform?
I’ve done so many interviews with the Opie & Anthony Show that I’m comfortable doing a long-form interview, and it’s different than TV because its uncensored completely with language and subject matter. The sketches, I think, and monologues are funny and the interviews are funny.
We have a real conversation. It’s not a seven-minute plug for a movie or book that is perfectly sculpted and put together. You’re hearing a real conversation—with high moments and lulls. It’s real interaction, which is kind of refreshing, I think.
In another interview you said Richard Pryor made people laugh and changed they way they thought. Is that a goal that you share?
All you can do is present what you do and let them formulate an opinion on it. I don’t necessarily try to change the way anybody thinks because if you are out to do that I think you are going to deliver the material wrong.
I’m out to make people laugh. The arrogant part of me wants people to like what I say and go along with it, but I wouldn’t say I’m out to change the way people think. I just want to explain why I think the way I do.
When you are doing standup, you immediately know if you are successful or if you bombed by how people are reacting…
Oh yeah, you know instantly if you are doing well or if they want to hit you with a shovel. There’s really not a lot of ambiguity in standup reaction, they laugh or they are not laughing. They are heckling or they are not heckling.
How do you measure success with your Vice show now?
They measure it by hits. Apparently, the shows are doing extraordinarily well on the Vice site. And also feedback—even though Twitter can be annoying, it’s a microcosm of what people are thinking.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly good. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect show, but people will tell you if they think that you suck. The fact that it’s been so positive and so many people are enjoying the genuine talks, it’s exactly what I hoped for and we’re on the right track.
You have transsexual porn star Bailey Jay on the show as the the official show girl. How did you hook up with her?
She’s my announcer and kind of my co-host; I love her. We’ve been friends for awhile and there was actually a comedian named Bob Kelly who suggested that I have her on the show. She is the the perfect person for me—she’s really funny, she’s smart and guys love looking at her.
Yeah, you had me fooled the first time I watched the show.
Yeah, she tends to fool a lot of people. A lot of people are not prepared or do not know. She’s a great addition to the show.
Prostitution is kind of a reoccurring theme with you and you share a story in your Mike Tyson segment about a close encounter with one. Do you think prostitution should be legal or would that take out all of the fun for you?
It should be legal. I don’t like the illegal factor, and if it’s legal you’ll know the girls are the proper age, the government could tax it and it would be safer for the girls.
Bottom line: It’s nobody’s fucking business if you want to get a hooker. I have a lot more respect for someone getting a hooker than someone getting married for the wrong reasons. It should absolutely be legal.
You are in San Francisco this Thursday through Saturday. Any plans for your down time?
I honestly don’t know what I will do. I like to go out and eat in San Francisco. It’s obviously a great place to eat, so I’ll probably just go out to eat and see some friends.
I don’t do much out on the road. Of course, the occasional prostitute, but I’ve gotten very boring on the road. I just try not to get arrested, that’s basically my main goal.
Watch the first episode of the Jim Norton Show: