Jim Norton is a renaissance man of comedy
The comic will perform at The State Theatre on Nov. 11
“I don’t think I’ll ever not enjoy doing stand up.”
Despite gaining fame through radio, podcasts, books, television and film, Jim Norton still thinks of himself as a stand-up comedian. He is always eager to do a new show, as he enjoys the freedom and self-reliance of stand-up that other forms of entertainment lack.
“Podcasting is fun, radio is great, but all those you have a boss of some sort or you depend on advertising, with stand up it’s just you,” he told The Eagle in an interview.
Norton’s “Kneeling Room Only” Tour debuts Nov. 9 and offers the comedian a perfect opportunity to return to his artistic roots as a stand-up comic. Norton has an upcoming show at The State Theatre in Northern Virginia on Nov. 11.
Norton said he never doubted his decision to pursue his dream of being a comedian.
“In all honesty, I was just working in a warehouse. I didn’t have a lot of great options so it wasn’t that scary because it wasn’t like I was giving up a law career,” Norton said. “There were plenty of times I wanted to give up, but I wouldn’t let myself give up. Because I dropped out of high school, it’s the only thing I had.”
Although he experienced disappointing performances and doubt during the early stages of his career, he said he implores struggling amateur comedians to stick to their guns.
“Do what you think is funny and not what you think people will want to hear,” Norton said.
He authored two best-selling books in 2007 and 2008, telling the world his most intimate and embarrassing moments. These books tell thorough tales of sexual escapades, passing time in rehab and landing himself in jail. However, Norton said he was not hesitant or embarassed to tell these stories, which he still embraces today.
“I was always pretty comfortable with it, I mean again my life is the one thing I have to talk about and make fun of,” Norton said. “So if I’m gonna talk about anything, I should definitely start with my own life, right?”
As a bold, unabashed comedian, Norton often finds himself at odds with an increasingly politically correct society.
“It’s really fun now how jokes are being taken as actual news headlines. ‘Comedian makes tasteless joke’ is a news story. People really need to fuckin relax, it’s so stupid. I don’t think it has anything to do with comedy, it’s a sign of how stupid and hypersensitive people are becoming,” Norton said.
The current climate of political correctness does not make Norton worry for the future of comedy, however, because he said people always need to laugh.
Norton’s outspoken nature is not limited to comedy. The comedian advocated for the legalization of sex work in a 2014 Time Magazine article and he said he remains adamant on his position.
“For me the important part of legalizing sex work is that you know that everybody doing it is doing it voluntarily. That’s the most important thing is you want to know that everyone is there of their own free will and they are of age. I think if it’s legal then there’s less fear of reporting if someone abuses you or report crime because you’re doing a legal profession,” he said.
Norton said he is skeptical that the U.S. will legalize sex work as other nations such as The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, and believes that American hubris is to blame.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Norton turns UFC pundit on his podcast UFC Unfiltered with co-host Matt Serra. Norton said he became interested in UFC around 2007 when he interviewed several UFC fighters for his former radio show “Opie and Anthony.”
“I think the first guy I interviewed that was a headline fighter was Chuck Liddell and the more I talked to these guys, I went to a couple events and the more I talked to these guys the more I liked them,” Norton said. “They were all really nice guys, I started enjoying watching them fight so my love of UFC started with loving the guys I was interviewing.”
Jim Norton makes a cameo appearance in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix feature “The Irishman” in which he portrays comedy legend Don Rickles. The star-studded cast of the 2019 film humbled Norton, he said.
“I walk in and it was just Scorsese having a conversation with DeNiro and Pesci. It was just three of them in a room,” he said.
Meeting with legendary director Martin Scorsese made him feel comfortable and he already knew Robert De Niro, however fellow New Jerseyan Joe Pesci was a different story. Norton said doing scenes with him was nerve wracking.
Despite wearing so many hats as Jim Norton does, he will always have the energy for stand-up. Like he said, people always need a laugh.