Jim Norton is back with another special, American Degenerate.  Just like his last stand-up comedy album, Please Be Offended, this  also premiered on the Epix streaming video service, and is available in CD and MP3 format.

Norton is a master of “cringe style” comedy, and American Degenerate is his 7th special (six audio albums and one DVD-only special).  At this point, I wonder if there is any stand-up comedy fan alive who is a fan of cringe style comedy that is not already a huge fan of Norton.  I doubt it.

Not surprisingly, this comedy download is hilarious.  From start to finish.  Norton touches upon all the usual subjects like sex, race and religion, but this time around also touches upon things like school shootings and sleep apnea.  From a content perspective, this album is fantastic.  Due to the amount of time that has elapsed since the special aired on Epix, there are a few bits that are already a bit dates, like his bits about Casey Anthony and John Travolta.  But, while dated, they are still funny.

From a production perspective, this album has some issues.  Oddly, there is no introduction.  The album opens with Norton immediately launching into his first bit.  There are also some harsh edits and transitions between some of the tracks.   Finally, the album closes just as abruptly as it opens.  Norton finishes a bit, and the album just ends.  When the special aired on Epix, the special closed the way all stand-up specials close, with Norton thanking the audience and walking off stage, and the applause slowly fades out.  There is none of that here.  Just end of bit, and silence.  The album then caps off with roughly 13 minutes of “bonus material” that was cut from the special.

The one bit that I want to focus on for this review is Track 13, in which Norton focuses on bloggers and rape jokes.  On comic Myq Kaplan’s latest album, Small, Dork & Handsome, Kaplan questions why stand-up comedy is the only art form that has to be good just to be considered part of the art form.  In other words, when a comic’s set is not good, it is common to hear people say “was that even comedy?”  By contrast, after a bad movie, nobody would ever say “was that even a movie?”

Another issue that plagues the stand-up world is the notion that comics should be censored, and Norton handles this issue perfectly.  Norton mentions the recent “controversial” remarks made by comics Tracy Morgan and Daniel Tosh, and the fact that they were forced to apologize just because some listeners were offended.  Jim Norton points out the lunacy of this phenomenon.  I am quite certain that many paintings are offensive to some.  Should they be taken off the walls of museums, and the painters forced to apologize?  I am equally certain many books contain content offensive to some.  Should they be taken off the bookshelves, and the authors forced to apologize?  Obviously neither would ever happen, so why should a comic be forced to apologize?

As Norton points out, the listener has the right to be offended, and the listener has the right to leave the performance, but the listener does not have the right to demand an apology or, worse yet, demand that the comic be fired, lose endorsements, etc.  Late comic Patrice O’Neal was well-known and respected for his tireless defense of stand-up as an art form, and the need for comics to be free to say whatever they want on stage.  His passing is an enormous loss to the stand-up community, but Norton appears to have picked up that torch, and seems to be running with it quite well.

Despite the problems with production value, Jim Norton American Degenerate is a great comedy album, and one you should definitely add to your collection.

American Degenerate
Jim Norton
Comedy CD or MP3 album
Eat A Bullet + BSeenMedia 2014

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