He’s made a comedy career out of pushing the envelope and pressing buttons.
Next week, comedian Jim Norton cracks up the D.C. Improv from April 14-16.
“The longer you do standup, the more you hate clubs and you just want to do small theaters or big theaters if you can,” Norton told WTOP. “But the D.C. Improv is one of those clubs that you always want to do. You don’t ever get to a point in your career where you don’t want to do the D.C. Improv. It’s an amazing room.”
There’s no shortage of material for him to tackle in our tumultuous times.
“Obviously, I’m covering what happened in COVID, my personal life updates — it’s a totally new hour from when I was there the last time,” Norton said. “There’s stuff about COVID vaccinations and how much I hate everybody. … I can’t even read comments anymore on social media because reading people’s comments just makes me hate them all.”
Born in New Jersey in 1968, Norton fell in love with standup comedy albums.
“Obviously, Richard Pryor and George Carlin,” Norton said. “My mother worked at a library and she would bring me home Woody Allen standup records. … I’d say Pryor, Carlin, Woody and Robert Klein were my four idols growing up. … I try not to care too much about people’s [personal] failings; I just try to enjoy or dislike their work based on the material.”
Norton was discovered by controversial comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who asked him to be his opening act after spotting him on Louie Anderson’s TV sitcom “The Louie Show.”
“I was seven years in when I met Dice,” Norton said. “He took me on the road with him for three years. It makes you such a better comic going up against a tough audience, because they very were pro-Dice audiences, they didn’t give a crap about me. … Dice would always talk me up to local radio guys, Dice is the one who brought me onto ‘Opie & Anthony.'”
This new recognition earned Norton a spot on the nationally syndicated “Opie & Anthony” radio show with Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia in New York from 2001 to 2014.
“‘Opie & Anthony’ took my career to the next level and changed my life,” Norton said. “It was on regular radio for a long time and it pushed the envelope. … We got in a lot of trouble on regular radio, let’s just say that. Then satellite came along. It was a hilarious show — a lot of mean, vicious jokes. … I think it’s the funniest radio show of all time.”
He became a household name on Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.”
“It’s one of my favorite things that I ever did,” Norton said. “It was structured in that Colin was the lead, talking about the topics of the day … but we would always just fall apart into yelling at each other or insulting each other. … A lot of people missed the point like, ‘Oh, you guys are just insulting each other!’ No dummy, the point is we’re all friends.”
These days, Norton co-hosts the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast with former fighter Matt Serra.
“It’s crazy to see how during the pandemic they built Fight Island and did fights almost every week for a while almost in front of nobody,” Norton said. “Doing things like ‘T.U.F.: The Ultimate Fighter,’ ‘Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight,’ ‘Dana White’s Contender Series,’ all of these shows get you interested in the younger talent. … UFC is very fan-friendly.”
Where else can we see his standup specials to gear up for the DC Improv?
“I have a couple of things up on Netflix right now and one of my old specials is on HBO, you know, Epix — my crap is all over. It’s out there; you can find it,” Norton said.