As a comedian, Jim Norton (@JimNorton on Twitter) has never shied away from a precarious topic. He continually tackles subjects that many would find, to say the least touchy. Rape, pedophilia, racism, they're all here. And thus, his new release is appropriately titled, Please Be Offended. Many audiences surely will be. But if you're a fan of Louis CK, then you should seek out this album immediately. Please Be Offended is the raunchiest and most shockingly hilarious hour of comedy in recent memory.
There are not too many comics who can get away with anything. I mean, literally anything. The list is short. The aforementioned Mr. CK would be on there, as well as established masters like Dave Attell and Norm MacDonald. Or even, more recent stars like Anthony Jeselnik. Norton is unquestionably a member of this club.
But to reduce it to a label as meaningless as "edgy" would be a mistake. His on-stage demeanor is offset by a very keen intelligence, allowing him to deliver refreshingly down-to-earth, logical arguments in even the most sensitive areas of pop culture. Sure, you might be 'offended' but, you'll also have to admit, the guy makes some very perceptive points.
Not to say that Norton does not write 'jokes'. More akin to George Carlin (in style), he creates filthy little essays, punctuated by moments of genuinely thoughtful insight. It's no wonder the man is also a New York Times bestselling author. There is undoubtedly method to his self-deprecating madness.
One of his finest moments of self-abasement comes when Norton encounters two African American (female) passengers on a flight. He has been assigned the seat in between them. I would never spoil a story as wonderfully cringe-inducing as this one but, I will say this: Truthfully, no good deed goes unpunished.
The thing that makes Jim Norton such a unique and unapologetic comedic voice is the exact same thing that might prevent him from achieving full on mainstream success. I used the word unapologetic and will be using it again. His unapologetic stance on free speech with regards to stand up comedy must be acknowledged. Please Be Offended, like all of Norton's work, has moments that are so amusingly barbaric, that even the most broad minded audience member could potentially blanch or turn off the album.
You have been warned. In fact, it quickly becomes evident that Norton chose that title with good reason. But I'm sure those of whom lie within Norton's key demographic would only be further enticed by such a warning. (I mean that as a compliment.)
Please Be Offended is a great example of a seasoned comic at the top of his game. It truly sounds effortless, a rarely mentioned feat that takes years of hard work and toiling to master. The only drawback? Many of the album's subjects: Jerry Sandusky, the Tiger Woods sex scandal, etc, feel slightly past their Best Before date. Track 3 is even called The Mosque at Ground Zero. Obviously, this is not Norton's fault. The album's release appears to have been delayed, leaving a few references feeling untimely.
This is a minor flaw in a otherwise immaculate release. And besides, if it's good enough for Ozzy Osbourne, it's good enough for me.
Jim Norton's Please Be Offended comes out on CD, DVD, and to download on August 20, 2013 from New Wave Dynamics.
Tony Hinds is a Canadian writer who studied film at the University of Winnipeg. In addition to ShowbizMonkeys.com, Tony has reviewed films for Step On Magazine and The Uniter. You can find Tony on Twitter.