- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2016

Jim Norton wants aspiring comedians to know they should not try to be anyone other than themselves. Don’t purposely try to push buttons, he says, unless that is your thing.

“Don’t try to offend people and don’t try to be nonoffensive. Just be funny and original,” the New Jersey native told The Washington Times. “Whatever makes you who you are, just to be true to that. If you’re a dirty guy, then be dirty on stage. If you’re clean, be that guy. Don’t try to be who you’re not.”

Furthermore, the 46-year-old funnyman, who will entertain District audiences at the Lincoln Theatre Friday evening on his “Mouthful of Shame” tour, says that you can even get laughs from a hostile audience — if you go about it the right way.

“The crowd doesn’t need to agree with you to enjoy you,” he said, his East Jersey timbres evident in every utterance.

Mr. Norton has been pushing buttons from his New York home base for years, refining his act and his delivery in the proving grounds of the Gotham clubs. He will soon be taping his one-hour “Mouthful of Shame” show for presentation on cable next year.

“I realized how stupid it would be to do it right before the election,” Mr. Norton said of the decision to push back the taping until after a new president is chosen next month. “I think for any comic you can’t not address it. It’s just too big of an event.”

Of both major party candidates, Mr. Norton is an equal-opportunity pot-shotter.

“It’s fun to make fun of Trump, even though I like Trump,” Mr. Norton said of the Republican contender. “You still have to pick out the things he says that are kind of crazy and joke about them. And it was fun to make fun of Hillary and goof on Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. It really was a dream team of people to make fun of this year.”

Mr. Norton’s comedy heroes include George Carlin and Richard Pryor. He once shared the stage with Carlin on Colin Quinn’s “Tough Crowd” panel show.

“We talked a little bit, but I never got to sit down with him for any length of time,” Mr. Norton said, “which I would have loved to have done.”

Mr. Norton has also been a frequent guest on “Opie and Anthony,” the raunchy talk show on Sirius XM.

“It was a very fun place to be because you’re able to say whatever you want,” Mr. Norton said of the show, from which co-host Anthony Cumia was fired in 2014. (Mr. Norton has often stepped in to co-host since.) “I was able to say whatever I wanted without fear that I was going to upset them, which was so nice.”

Like many comedians, Mr. Norton, who says no subject is off limits to jokes if approached correctly, decries the often politically correct atmosphere that pervades on college campuses, what with “trigger warnings” and jokes deemed too offensive for young minds to handle.

For that reason Mr. Norton no longer plays colleges unless specifically requested.

“I’m embarrassed for their childlike need to be held like little babies in arms, to be needed to be protected from hearing something you don’t like,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re wrong to dislike certain things, but I don’t have respect for anyone that needs to be protected from hearing something they don’t like.”

Mr. Norton is known to appear on the Comedy Central roasts when requested by friends like Gene Simmons and Bob Saget, and has often appeared on comedienne Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central show. Miss Schumer all but traffics in offense, which may be what has drawn Mr. Norton and so many other comics to her sketch show.

“Amy used to open for me on the road; she’s been a friend for many, many years,” Mr. Norton said of his colleague. “It’s nice to be around people that I’m comfortable with, and I know that Amy likes me or she wouldn’t have me on.

“When you know you’re going to get something funny to say, it’s fun to do. There’s nothing worse than really lousy dialogue.”

One of Mr. Norton’s noncomedian heroes is rocker Ozzy Osbourne. The two have become friends, and Mr. Osbourne once “introduced” Mr. Norton to an audience in a taped segment — from his toilet.

“It was probably the greatest moment of my life,” Mr. Norton said of the rather nontraditional introduction by the Prince of Darkness. “I’ve actually gotten to ride to gigs with Ozzy. He’s a buddy of mine.”

After taping his one-hour special, Mr. Norton will close out the year with a New Year’s Eve gig and then begin working on new material in 2017 at the clubs around New York. His other goals for 2017 include getting into “a healthy relationship” and possibly a television show.

“I might go to the monuments or walk by the White House … which is kind of hard to do when you’re right there,” Mr. Norton said of his downtime while in the nation’s capital, but added he will likely not do much socializing otherwise during his visit. “I’ve gotten very antisocial the more I’ve done stand-up,” he said.

Jim Norton performs Friday at the Lincoln Theatre, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 by going to Ticketfly.com.

 

 

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