Down and Dirty with Jim Norton
HBO // Unrated // $19.98 // April 7, 2009
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted April 16, 2009
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In 10 Words or Less
Lil' Jimmy and his (mostly) funny friends

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-Up
Likes: Opie & Anthony, Jimmy Norton, Bill Burr, Patrice O'Neal
Dislikes: Mean comedy
Hates: Andrew Dice Clay

The Show
Jim Norton is a divisive comic, as he is incredibly filthy, drawing no lines between his personal life and on-stage persona. His act has no boundaries, rather it joyfully wallows in sex, perversion, a lack of political correctness and general offensiveness. While that may turn a lot of people off, that honesty and twisted worldview is part of why he's earned such a following (especially among listeners of the Opie & Anthony radio program, where he's become such a fixture he deserves to be mentioned on an even level with the two hosts.

The entertainment industry has begun to notice Norton, with appearances on Jay Leno's late-night series and recently a hosting gig on his own short-run stand-up series, "Down and Dirty." In this role, Norton opens with a short set that covers his usual topics, like things that annoy him, prostitution or having sex with fat girls; banters with Lemmy from Motorhead, and introduces the comics with quick segues. Why Lemmy is on the show is something of a mystery, as he doesn't seem to contribute much outside of the show's theme song, as he sits in a balcony with some sound equipment, waiting for someone to reference him (which Norton, and every other comic, does.) Norton seems perfect for the part, both being quite funny and good at emceeing.

The show features a handful of up-and-coming comics who fit with Norton's style, in some of the shortest sets ever. With some of these comics, it feels like they are introduced, come out to applause, grab the mic and say "Thanks for coming. Good night!" It's one of those mixed blessings, as you just want more from the really funny comics, and are thankful to see the lesser lights get off the stage, but three minutes of stand-up is hardly an appetizer. There's a fine mix of acts in these four episodes, and though there's a shared sense of humor among them, none of them are Norton clones. There's almost like a caste system, as you have a few unknowns, a couple of rising stars and some well-established second-stringers. Among the highlight acts are O & A regulars Jim Florentine and Jim Jeffries, two outstandingly candid stand-ups, and newcomers Anthony Jeselnik and Kevin Shea. Jeffries has one of the most charismatic, natural deliveries I've seen for such an energetic comic, while Jeselnik is incredibly dark, which goes against his Dane Cook looks.

Here's a quick rundown of the comics:

  • Whitney Cummings
  • Louis Katz
  • Geoff Keith
  • Russ Meneve
  • Jim Florentine
  • Jim Jeffries
  • Sean Rouse
  • Joe DeRosa
  • Anthony Jeselnik
  • Kevin Shea
  • Ari Shaffir

Each episode also features a headliner, or at least a supposed headliner, all with a connection to Norton and the O & A show. Bill Burr and Patrice O'neal (no Vos?,) two of the best regulars from the radio show, kill here, performing bits from their strengths, while Artie Lange, from the rival Howard Stern show, was far funnier than I've ever seen him before. The fourth "star" is a falling one, shock comic Andrew Dice Clay, who has the stage presence of a retired boxer, jabbing weakly with the same jokes he was hitting hard with in his heyday. It's sad and pathetic to see him here, like the old high-school football star who still wears his varsity jacket decades after his biggest successes. He's simply not funny anymore.

The one-disc release is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a static anamorphic widescreen menu offering options to play all the shows or select individual episodes. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though there is closed captioning.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on the show is good, with appropriate color, but the image is a tad soft, lacking in fine detail, and sports some noticeable . There are no problems with dirt or damage, and no obvious issues with compression artifacts.

HBO continues to hold back on their stand-up DVDs, offering only an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track.There's nothing wrong with the tracks, as the voices are nice and strong, clearly separated from the reaction of the audience, in a center-balanced mix.

The Extras
The biggest joke on this DVD? The lack of any extras.

The Bottom Line
Unlike many comedy showcases on TV today, "Down and Dirty" is pretty solid, with few weak links among the comedians shown. In fact, the main complaint is how little you hear from the comics (along with Lemmy's unnecessary presence.) The DVD presentation is solid, but not great, and there are no extras to supplement the limited content. Though the comedy is good, it's hard to justify anything more than a rental for even the most hardcore O & A fan.

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