If there was ever proof needed that some people still like their comedy edgy and sometimes downright offensive, the continued success of comic Jim Norton would be a shining example. His popular stand-up specials have titles like “Please Be Offended” and “American Degenerate.” His act is a bounty of self-deprecation, an hour-long personal-assault turned inward, much of it revolving around his physical and mental shortcomings alongside a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of references to his bizarre sexual deviance. All of this may sound sad on paper, but when vocalized by a comic as skilled as Norton, it can only result in uproarious laughter.
Born and raised right here in the Garden State, like many comics, Norton has dabbled in a variety of mediums, from TV to radio to podcasts and even books. He’s had success in most of these settings and currently can be heard co-hosting “Jim Norton and Sam Roberts” on SiriusXM Radio every weekday morning, but to experience him in his purest form, one really needs to see him onstage. And you can do that at 8 p.m. Friday, July 5, when he comes to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
We got to spend a few minutes with him recently in advance of the show.
Atlantic City Weekly: Were you the “funny kid” in school?
Jim Norton: That was actually the way it was. I couldn’t fight, I was totally unathletic and so the only way I could keep myself from being totally ostracized and getting my ass kicked was to be funny. And it was the great equalizer, because you could kind of fit in with any group if you were funny.
ACW: Did you have any nights at the beginning of your career where you just bombed onstage?
JN: At the beginning of my career … at the middle of my career … at this point in my career … and whenever the end point of my career is, I’m sure it will go out on a bomb. It’s just part of it. You can’t avoid bombing. The difference between now and when I started is that now I know what a bomb is. Like there are nights when the crowd is good, and I just suck and I’m thinking to myself, “wow, they deserve better.” And there are nights when I am good, but the crowd is just dead. But you learn how to salvage something out of it. You learn how to take a complete abomination and make it passable, whereas years ago when you’re bombing you would just panic and start tap dancing, begging them to like you which just makes everyone nauseous.
ACW: Are more people offended today by what you talk about onstage?
JN: Part of the challenge is making people laugh at something they don’t want to laugh at or at a point of view which they disagree with. I always like doing that. If I can make a New York audience laugh at a joke about Trump that isn’t trashing him, it’s fun to watch them go over and laugh at something that they might not agree with. What sucks is that people have become so sensitive and so easily offended that they start groaning at your setups. It used to be that people might groan after the punchline because they didn’t like where you went with a particular joke, but now they are groaning during the setups because the idea that they might be triggered is too much for them to handle. That’s what makes me crazy is that they don’t even let you get to where you were trying to go.
ACW: What makes radio and podcasts a good format for a comedian?
JN: Well, I think a long form podcast is great because you have an hour to talk with somebody. And there are no commercials and no language restrictions. One thing that never helps a comedian to be funny is a language restriction.
ACW: Who was the best guest you have had on any of your podcasts or radio shows?
JN: The best guest by far would have to be Ozzy Osbourne. Mike Tyson is a great guest, too, but I would say Ozzy is my favorite.
ACW: Who was the worst guest?
JN: The worst guest was Nancy Grace, because she was a baby and she walked out of the interview. For someone who grills people, she couldn’t take it at all.
ACW: What can fans expect from your show at Borgata?
JN: Of the hour, probably 45 minutes or more is new stuff. I always like to keep a lot of new stuff in my set. I’m doing a bit on Alabama and the abortion laws, some stuff on flat-earthers, talking about the Ted Bundy documentary, the Michael Jackson documentary, a bit on R. Kelly and abducted in plain sight — I’m kind of covering everything that has been on Netflix in the last few months. It’s been a great source of material!