Comedian Jim Norton prepares for delayed Glass City debutWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jim Norton takes the stage at Fat Fish Blue on March 14, it will be his first performance in the Toledo area. Not for a lack of trying, however.
The New Jersey native was originally scheduled for an engagement at Fat Fish in February 2012, which had to be canceled at the last minute.
“I think because it was too close to Cleveland before I shot ‘Please Be Offended,’” Norton said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star in reference to his 2012 stand-up special. “So I think that was why Toledo got canceled.”
Still, Norton isn’t worried about facing Glass City crowds for the first time during his three night gig at Fat Fish. He has a great connection to Ohio audiences, he said.
“I think they’ll be the same as Cleveland or the same as Columbus, you know,” Norton said. “I’m not really that worried about it. I do very well with those crowds. Cleveland is a very good market for me.”
Of course, even with the most positive of crowds, Norton’s brash, confrontational style can be off-putting for some members of his audience. Norton said he can deal with crowds however they react to him.
“My job is to entertain them, and I want them to laugh and have a good time. But they can be adversaries — or, sometimes, just a couple of them are, to be very honest with you. But my job is to entertain them, so I really do want them to have a good time. I mean, I always do. But if they become adversaries, then I’m comfortable with that, too.”
He didn’t always have such a thick skin when it came to the hecklers of the world. Indeed, in his early days, Norton’s onstage persona was far more restrained.
“When you first start, you really, really do want to be liked. And you do want people to approve of you and all that stuff. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with them not agreeing with you. You know, I’m used to the audience not agreeing with me. But I always want them to have a good time.”
Today, Norton is far more polished and self-assured in stand-up, and far more willing to take his comedy to extremes he wouldn’t have considered in his early days. He says his onstage persona is not too far removed from who he is in “real life” — like with all great performers, he just turns the volume up once he’s under the lights.
“It’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s all me, in the sense that, I mean, I’ll take positions just to be silly or ridiculous. Most of what you’re seeing is how I really feel, or what I really want to say. So it’s me, it’s just a bit of an exaggeration.”
As Norton adjusted to his audience, audiences all over the country adjusted to him, with regular television appearances and his consistent gig on the “Opie & Anthony” radio show bolstering his visibility.
Norton said the gig on “Opie & Anthony” is a natural fit for all involved.
“They don’t ever tell me, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t say that!’ They don’t mind mean humor, they don’t mind inappropriate humor, and that’s what I’m really good at. So we’re really just a natural fit for each other, honestly.”
While his brashly opinionated views have occasionally gotten him into heated discussions with guests — most notably a certain former governor of Minnesota — Norton insists that he never attacks meek opponents.
“The Jesse Ventura interview, I was very happy with that argument. But I don’t pick on weak targets. If I argue with somebody, there’s gonna be a real reason for it. I don’t bully people in the studio.”
Just like last year, Norton will be filming another stand-up special very shortly — at the end of March, to be exact. But this time, Toledo crowds will get the chance to experience this new material firsthand, well before the rest of the country gets to see it on their television screens.
“I have over an hour of new material. You wanna say a ‘work in progress,’ but stand-up always is a work in progress, honestly. But with this hour, some of the topical stuff I might shorten a little bit, but I’m very happy with this hour.”