Jim Norton: American Degenerate

American Degenerate by Jim Norton

Recently I have seen a new side to comedian Jim Norton. This year Norton showed a more charming intellectual side when he debated with Lindy West over the topic of rape jokes on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. He presented a strong logical mind and gave well-constructed counter arguments. Aside from joking that he and West should have ended the debate by making out, Norton’s side of the argument came off stronger at the end.

That matured charm continues in American Degenerate, his second comedy special from Epix, mostly in the form of a smile. Specifically, I mean the “I’m just joking” smile post-punchline. It consistently reminds the audience that he’s joking and reassures them to laugh along. In the past, Norton’s graphically crude jokes have ended with such conviction, at times it was hard to laugh. I immediately pondered about how true his jokes or perversions were. The charm shown here makes a substantial difference in his grotesque-oriented humor. Looking thinner and healthier, he delivers his jokes in a laid-back fashion and we are now able to laugh at both his perversions AND his mind.

And for that, this new hour act gets better as it goes along. Norton holds nothing back. He talks about the John Travolta masseuse lawsuit, the Colorado shootings and gun control. But the highlights for me were the self-revealing bits, like the bit about an annoying nudist at his local gym and a self-deprecating chunk where Norton talks about having sleep apnea (a condition I never heard of before) where the patient needs to wear a breathing mask to sleep. Norton even talks about how he hates bloggers, specifically how audiences like to blog and nitpick what offends them. That comedians shouldn’t have to apologize for what they say, reiterating the point he made on Totally Biased.

As an aspiring standup comedian, I agree with that statement. Comedians shouldn’t have to apologize and it’s silly how audiences nitpick what offends them. This is a mindset that audiences don’t realize themselves, so it’s good that that thought is being communicated out to the stratosphere. And on the topic of freedom, perhaps the most enjoyable part about this special is watching Norton reveling in his freedom of speech and openly talking about his thoughts, political views and sexuality, meanwhile laughing at himself in the process. He does all this unapologetically. And for that, it’s aptly titled American Degenerate.

From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

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From One Second to the Next by Werner Herzog

The moment I read about this new documentary short from Werner Herzog, I thought, “A public service announcement video to warn people to never text while driving? Really?” It seems like a small hair ball of a problem that should already be common sense. Having watched the short, I realized that’s precisely the problem, that texting while driving seems like a such a minor hiccup. It is not.

The half-hour short covers the story of four accidents that have caused by texting while driving. One case has a child that is paralyzed for life and is currently on life support, caused by an accident from a teenage girl who was distracted from texting. There were no skid marks. She never saw him. Another case involves a man who killed two Amish children. The driver is now perpetually left to questioning himself what was so important about his text that couldn’t wait. The other two cases was a family dealing with the monstrous medical bills from her mother’s accident and a family losing her father. What really struck me was the last man who caused the accident, who wasn’t able to recall the text message he sent after the accident happened. He couldn’t remember why it was important.

Herzog brings his brand of deep introspectiveness to the short, adding the much-needed seriousness this topic deserves. As the title suggests, life is connected by each second. It’s in-between each seconds we must throw caution, because everything can change within a second. The most disturbing part for me was, my initial reaction was exactly the type of behavior this short was trying to warn against. It is not a hairball. It is not something to handle. Reading a text is not better than sending a text. There are human lives at stake. Do not text and drive. You just do not do it.

Some statistics I found on texting while driving:

  • Texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year.
  • The minimal amount of time needed for a text is 5 seconds. If you are traveling at 88.5 km/hour (55 miles/hour), that would cover an entire football field without any attention paid to the road.
  • As of 2011, at least 23% auto collisions have involved cell phones. That amounts to 1.3 million car crashes.
  • 1 out of 5 drivers of all ages confess to surfing on the web while driving.
  • Text messaging is the longest eye-off-the-road time out of all the distracted driving  activities. An accident is 23 times more likely to happen if you are texting.

The documentary can be viewed here. The slogan to the AT&T campaign is “It can wait.”

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