I'll admit my bias from the beginning. Jim Norton is my favorite comedian working today. First of all, we are the exact same height. Second, he expresses himself in violent words with an ocean of emotion and he does it without pissing off more than a couple people in the audience after two hours of verbal blitzkrieg. That man deserves respect and that is just what he got from Columbus last night at the early show in the Funny Bone.
I saw Jim play up in a Cleveland a couple years ago when he was recording his special for Epix. My wife and I got magical third row center seats, probably because we were amongst the best looking fans of Jim's in Cleveland is my guess (my wife is gorgeous but I say this with the modesty of the best looking orangoutang in the zoo cage). Of course he was on fire that night in Cleveland but there was a very sharp edge to his delivery. He was pissed at something in the world that night and it set his comedy on white hot fire. His mouth was a loaded weapon on that stage and we all loved getting shot with it for 90 minutes in our seats.
Last night though, Jim was in different form, a better form if I'm being honest. Last night I realized that Jim Norton combines the best things from all my favorite comedians--the self-righteous rage directed inwardly and then outwardly in an explosion that Bill Hicks gave us with the philosopher's patience of George Carlin to sew a joke into a journey of experience that lasts a few minutes but stays with us forever. And Jim has the audacity of Richard Pryor to debase himself and his sexual partners on stage in front of everyone in a way that reaches so far beyond topical comedy that it becomes the last laugh of life shouting in the face of death as it draws last breath. And that was Jim last night--a colder blue fire than the white blaze in Cleveland but one that burned deeper, I would argue.
At one point in the show Jim said something that I will likely look back on as having changed my entire perception of technology and its use and risk. See I sell technology for a living. I love technology and I believe to the core of my being that the only way that humanity will survive itself over the next three decades is through the proper use of technology to automate as much as we possibly can of the production of scarce resources to produce the current quality of living that the 1% enjoy but extend it to the entire human species. I believe that if we were able to achieve this goal, our species behavior in our ecosystem and with each other would change dramatically towards the more productive end of the measure. I see a day when space miners are drilling into asteroids and building cities on the moons of our resident solar gas giant and its minions, and we have left all our Earth bullshit behind us with fond memories.
I work every day with millions of other people who each, in their small way, are helping to create a human civilization without want for the basic living elements of nutritious food, clean water and stable shelter. I also believe that establishing and maintaining digital social connections in all facets of our lives will be the primary behavioral change that will allow us to rise from being animals in the zoos of our cities to being creative, logical and passionate human beings who support each other instead of killing one another. But that world is a long way off and it's going to take generations of work to get there. So for now, we have comedy. And last night, those of us at Easton Funny Bone in Columbus, Ohio had Jim Norton.
So Jim was talking about his friend Anthony Cumia who was recently fired from the amazing radio show Opie and Anthony after he was attacked in Times Square by a large black woman for taking photos of her in the square in the early hours of the morning for a photography project he was working on. The woman assaulted him and even though he was carrying a loaded and legal firearm, he did not pull his weapon or raise his hands to the woman. What he did do was send some very angry and admittedly insensitive tweets that crossed the line into racial stereotypes wrapped in angry language. And any one of us in his shoes would likely have made much poorer choices involving the gun and a lot of blood. So good on Anthony for taking the non-violent way but his words earned him a pink slip. And Jim told us that story and later routed back to Anthony Weiner and his dick pics--just an awesome set that I don't want to spoil for you but ultimately Jim revealed to us what's really been on his mind lately and he did it with the skill of Jerry Seinfeld mashed with Roger Ebert writing a piece for The Chicago Sun-Times.
Jim said, "Our generation is the first generation that is using this technology which is amazing but can also destroy our entire lives from one stupid decision." And then he betrayed his heart to us when he said, "We just need to be a little more fucking patient with each other." If Jim is known for anything beyond his stories about strap ons and transvestites, I hope it is for this plea for techno-tolerance. It was an important message to hear but even better than that--it was wrapped in a dick joke.