Jim Norton is shamelessly funny
Jim Norton maintains a schedule that includes a live weekday radio show, a weekly UFC podcast, frequent guest appearances on other high-profile podcasts, increasingly frequent film roles and club appearances between regular touring dates. It’s an at-times-unwieldy schedule Norton’s managed since he gained national notoriety as co-host of syndicated radio broadcast The Opie and Anthony Show in 2001, and one he’s still juggling as he tours this fall in the wake of his first Netflix special, Mouthful of Shame.
Still, even with his career in its current upward trajectory, he’s not ready to put on the brakes. “It’s hard,” said Norton in a phone interview after a Friday morning broadcast of his current Sirius FM gig, Jim Norton and Sam Roberts, for which he just had Gene Simmons as a guest. “It’s one of those things where I just keep moving because I’m afraid if I stop everything will just fall apart. I just keep myself moving. I have to keep doing something.”
Norton has kept moving since he realized he had a talent for stand-up as a 21-year old ex-class cut-up. He made up for a depressing childhood and low self-esteem by cracking jokes in school, finding particular inspiration in the material of George Carlin, Joan Rivers and Richard Pryor. By 1990, he had made his debut at an open-mic night and there was no looking back, or in any other direction. Norton pursued comedy with single-minded intensity.
That intensity paid off. Norton is considered a comedians’ comedian in some stand-up circles, and his peers include friends such as Colin Quinn, Nick Di Paolo and Louis C.K. (who cast him in his first recurring acting role on HBO’s Lucky Louie). He seems to draw his acerbic and brutally honest humor from an endless well, and takes self-deprecation to new levels with his frank revelations about his self-described perverse-leaning sexual proclivities. “No filter” only scratches the surface in describing Norton’s style.
Sometimes that places Norton in the position of defending his chosen craft and its more potentially triggering subjects, sometimes from hecklers. “How come it’s always the responsibility of people talking and never the responsibility of people with ears who are misinterpreting it?” asked Norton. “Why is it never the responsibility if people hearing it to not get it wrong? … I think you’re a brat if you stand up and heckle. Just get up, get the f____ out and shut up. You’re not tearing movie screens down. You’re not spray-painting books in the library. If you don’t like it, just get up and leave, you narcissist.”
Standing up for stand-up hasn’t harmed Norton’s career. Having a special on Netflix is a career apex in comedy nowadays, and he has a supporting role as a priest on the Starz network’s hit crime drama Power. He also managed to somehow convince Robert De Niro to appear in Mouthful of Shame’s introduction, which also features Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K. De Niro, with whom Norton had become acquainted during production of 2016 movie The Comedian, even has a blink-and-you-miss-it scene in which he spanks Norton’s ass.
“It was a really fun moment,” said Norton. “Honestly it was one really one of my favorite moments ever, being spanked by him. As a comic, to get him to do that was spectacular.”
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