.Jim Norton Has a Big Heart

Comedian brings his “Now You Know” Tour to The Rio.

Comedian Jim Norton has been grinding at the mics (comedy parlance for “working hard”) since 1990. Originally being taken on the road by Andrew “Dice” Clay, Norton found a home at the wildly successful “Opie and Anthony” radio show, eventually replacing Anthony. And now, over 30 years later, Norton is still going out, night after night in New York City, working small clubs, and honing his new material to a vibrant sheen. When Norton hits the bountiful stage of The Rio Theatre on March 8, it’s going to be a master class in comedy and performance.

“Sorry. I was onstage at the Comedy Cellar (in NYC) and wasn’t able to take your call,” says Norton, who is out of breath, but ready to talk. The famous Comedy Cellar, and the sister club, The Village Underground, are where Norton works out at least two sets a night.

Comics have to be onstage. For comparison, a guitarist can sit in their room, alone, for a year, running scales for 24 hours a day, and emerge an accomplished virtuoso.

But solitude doesn’t work for comedians; they need an audience. When A-Lister comics need to work on their new hour of material, they have no choice but to work it out onstage.

 “When Chappelle is in town, he hits the Comedy Cellar. Chris Rock. Ray Romano.  Again, it just depends if they’re in town, and if they have something to work on. It’s a small room, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the best test for material. Because the Cellar is in the Village, on McDougal Street, so you get all walks of life. You get your White people, Black people, gay people, tourists, students and older people. It’s every single representation. So you kind of get an idea if your material translates to a larger group of people,” says Norton.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in stand-up comedy lately, it’s a bit of a mess. The woke vs the unwoke.  The pro-Trans vs the anti-Trans. The “We’ve sold our souls to Satan,” vs. “We still believe in humanity,” comics.

Comedy camps are being staked out and divisiveness rules. Norton is no stranger these phenomena.  “I never thought I’d live to see the day that there were comedians trying to punish each other, for jokes,” says Norton.

“I never care about the ideology of another comic. I don’t care if they’re far right wing. I don’t care if they’re extremely liberal. If I like the material, and I think they’re coming from an honest place, I respect them. What I don’t like is any comedian trying to penalize another comedian for their jokes. You’re going to get a round of applause for scolding another comic’s material? It almost feels like cheating to get ahead,” says Norton. 

Playing the game of identity politics isn’t something Norton wants to get caught up in. “Dave (Chappelle) is saying things that are upsetting one side of people,” says Norton. Always seeking to find compassion in any given situation, Norton admires Chappelle as a comic, even though their viewpoints differ.

It should be noted that in the last year, Norton married a beautiful transgender model named Nikki. It was during COVID that Norton had the most important and best times of his life.

He spent that lockdown trying to get his Norwegian wife into the country through Canada. “She was dealing with a minor marijuana charge. It was a nightmare,” Norton recalls.

When Norton heard that, due to COVID, Canada was going to shut down the border, he went to see Nikki in Montreal. He planned on being gone for a month,but  it turned into 15 months.

“I spent my quarantine living with a woman for the first time. It proved to me our marriage would work. So for me, that lockdown was the best time of life,” says Norton.

Jim Norton will be at The Rio Theatre,
1205 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
8pm  Friday, March 8.
For tickets go to riotheatre.com


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