When comedian Jim Norton was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno earlier this month, he told a raunchy story about attending a bris for his friend’s son. Midway through the account, Norton turned to fellow guest Meredith Vieira and assured her that, despite not being Jewish, he is indeed circumcised. It’s information she didn’t ask for. Vieira, known mostly as the warm, straight-laced former Today anchor and former host of family friendly Who Wants to be a Millionaire, cracked up — the same way she did throughout Norton’s entire bit. The veteran comedian has a gift that makes even the unlikeliest people embrace the dark humor he delivers.
The bris story, although edgy for network television, was Jim Norton Light. If you catch the N.J. native live onstage or on one of his comedy specials, you’ll be treated to real-life stories about Norton’s love of hookers (not excluding transsexuals), his sex addiction and his embarrassingly hilarious attempts at intimacy — topics that are all run through an X-rated filter.
“For some reason, I’m not in the mainstream psyche enough to get in trouble for things like that,” Norton told Hollywood Take. “I get away with a lot. I mean, I can’t go and do whatever I want without limit. I’m not stupid. But I think I could get away with more than most people because people expect me to be a creep.”
It’s actually the perfect position for an artist like Norton to be in. Unlike comedians Daniel Tosh and Tracy Morgan, who have much more visibility due to their near-constant appearances on television, Norton was never forced to make public apologies for his jokes — the way Tosh and Morgan have. “There was a lot of money at stake for those guys,” Norton explained. “I don’t blame them for saying they’re sorry. You say you’re sorry. Who cares? You’re going to lose millions of dollars for a dumb rape joke or a dumb gay joke?”
He’s as pragmatic as he is perverted. And that combination has served him well over the years. A tireless worker and jokesmith, he’s the co-host of the wildly popular Opie & Anthony Show on SiriusXM, he’s been a New York Times bestselling author twice – he released Happy Endings: The Tales of a Meaty-Breasted Zilch in 2008 and I Hate Your Guts in 2009 – and he’s one of the most prolific comedians of our time. In fact, his newest stand-up special American Degenerate premiered on Epix last week while his latest album Please Be Offended just became available in stores and online.
His dedication to his craft and to being honest onstage has yielded him a rabid fanbase. “I try to not take that for granted,” Norton said of his ever-growing following. “It’s one of those things you work many years to get. And when you get it, you never want to lose sight of that. I always try to respect the audience by giving them new material. By the time people come out to see me on the road, I want to have at least 40 minutes of new material. I never half-*ss it to my crowds.”
Dylan Gadino is the founder and editor of Laughspin.com, the premier editorial destination for all things comedy. He's also the co-host of the Laughspin Podcast, a weekly comedy news roundup and interview show. Gadino contributes to The Huffington Post, has appeared on SiriusXM and has been quoted as a comedy expert in many national publications. He hopes the Shire is real.