It takes a special kind of man to ask Robert De Niro to spank his bare ass.
It takes Jim Norton to convince De Niro do it.
Norton’s new Netflix special, Mouthful of Shame (which debuted on March 14) opens with Norton asking comedy pals Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. if they would do him a favor and introduce him for the special. When both shoot him down in hilarious fashion, Norton goes to De Niro, who both berates and physically assaults Norton, including some open-handed swats on Norton’s pasty bare ass. “I had done a little bit of consulting on the re-shoot they had been doing on The Comedian and I spent a few hours with Bob – that’s what you do, you call him Bob – on a couple of different occasions, and I spent the day with him when we were re-shooting,” Norton said in a phone interview with The Interrobang. “We got along really well. He liked me. And I was fairly comfortable with him because it was an area I was comfortable discussing, which was comedy, so, felt like I was qualified to talk about it.”
“I emailed his assistant a one-page script. I left the spanking part out of it,” Norton said. “They wrote me back and it was the most amazing email I’ve ever gotten in my life. It said ‘Bob would love to do this with you.’”
I think he got tired of feeling my hard-on.
“Most of the take we did of the spanking, I was bent over his bare leg,” Norton said. “I think he got tired of feeling my hard-on. Bob’s suggestion was to do one take standing up, and he was right. Visually that was the funniest one.” As for his initial apprehension about delivering the more malicious lines, it didn’t take long for De Niro to get into the role. “The line I had written was ‘Say it again, you ugly worm.’ But then he improv’d and said ‘slug,’ which was so much meaner and more accurate,” Norton said. “It made me howl. That word has such a punch to it. Slug. He took something I wrote and made it so much better.”
Of course, there’s more to Mouthful of Shame than a memorable opening sequence. In his seventh comedy special (recorded over two performances in New York City), Norton is at his self-deprecating best, comfortable in his knockoff Yeezys and killing with his takes on sex, celebrity, and pop culture. There are no appearances by any of his signature characters like Chip Chipperson or Uncle Paul; it’s pure Jimmy in his own voice and his own skin.
Working with Netflix was honestly the best creative experience I’ve ever had
In addition to his routine, Norton engages in some crowd work, a potentially risky move when filming a special, but he uncovered some hysterical gems including a woman who walked in on her parents having sex when she was a child, a cringe-worthy topic Norton masterfully mines to its fullest. “I’ve talked to the crowd on this whole tour, but I didn’t know if it was going to work because you never know what answers you’re going to get,” Norton said. “But that turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the special because it was just happening live in-the-moment. People seem to love that I left that in. I’m really happy I did it that way. I can’t believe how well it came out.”
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Jim Norton show if the conversation didn’t delve deep into the often weird and murky abysses of sexuality. While Norton can be unabashedly crass in his language and subject matter, he still has a large female following who aren’t put off by his vulgarity. Norton has a theory on why he has so many female fans. “I think most of the women who understand my humor know that I love women,” he said. “I talk about wanting meaty pussies and all this crazy stuff, but I embrace these things that a lot of times they don’t like about themselves, or a lot of things that men or modern mainstream sexuality tells them aren’t sexy. Like, I like big, dark areolas that look like fucking Garfield eyes. I like a vagina that looks like fucking roast beef. I like the things that they may not think are sexy, and that makes them feel good about themselves because I like it so much.”
Norton can at times be his own worst critic, as anyone who has listened to him on The Opie and Anthony Show, The Opie Show, or Jim Norton and Sam Roberts could attest. But the notoriously hard-to-please Norton said he is extremely proud of the way Mouthful of Shame turned out. “I ’m very happy with it; the editing choices and everything,” he said. “The only thing I wish – I had a Trump bit that did well, but I tripped on the punchline. I said a word wrong and there was no way to fix it, and it looked shitty. There was no way to chop it up and make it a funny bit that said something. I also think that I can do this bit better. I mean, he’s going to be our President for the next four years. I can do it in the next special.”
In addition to his daily radio show, ongoing touring, and UFC Unfiltered podcast, Norton said he is gearing up for a European tour this year. He’s also looking to make 2017 the year little Jimmy Norton broke into TV. “My goal for a couple years now has been to get a show,” he said. “”I’m going to get one. I’ll be pitching a few things and hopefully something winds up on the air.”