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Why We Need The Unrivaled Honesty Of Comic Jim Norton

Why We Need The Unrivaled Honesty Of Comic Jim Norton
25 Oct
1:13

Courtesy of Loshak PRJim Norton

With a looming deal on the horizon after signing a contract extension for his morning radio show, a role in an upcoming Martin Scorsese Netflix film and a standup tour in full swing, you can bet against comedian Jim Norton becoming yesterday’s tomatoes any time soon.

The Bayonne, New Jersey native can be seen performing stand-up comedy live across the country on his Kneeling Room Only tour and can be heard weekday mornings between 7 a.m – 11 a.m. ET on SiriusXM’s Jim Norton and Sam Roberts show.

Norton, along with Roberts, hopes to have a new contract wrapped up by the end of the week after signing another round of extensions to stay on the air while the details get worked out.

“Jim is like undeniably one of, if not the funniest guys in radio,” Sam Roberts, Norton’s morning show co-host said. “It’s such a blessing to be able to do a show with a guy like that because it’s not the type of thing where we have to sit there for hours on end and try to find the humor in something or fake that we like each other, or fake chemistry or anything like that.”

Working out a lucrative long-term deal would not only be in Jim and Sam’s and the fans’ best interest, but SiriusXM’s as well. You’d have to be locked in an asylum to not appreciate the strides the team has made in just two years.

Even with the abundance of audio content from terrestrial and satellite radio, as well as podcasts, Jim and Sam offer unconventional originality and immeasurable levity beyond comparison.

The show’s absurdly long intro – which serves as one of the many delightful running gags – has you eagerly awaiting the co-hosts take on what happened the day before and in today’s early morning hours. The dressing down of staff can be as compelling as Jim and Sam’s unique and unequivocally funny perspectives.

Then there’s Jim’s characters: Chip Chipperson (a dim-witted Norton character who lives with his mother) and Edgar Mellencamp (an elderly man with a dry mouth) to name a couple.

“Chip comes from Jim’s heart,” Roberts said of Chipperson. “And that’s why Chip is the most lovable and people, whether they know it or not, I think are sensing that.”

Chip has also found people’s hearts in becoming a sensation outside of Norton himself. The Chip Chipperson Podacast has a loyal following that sees its live shows sellout a variety of clubs and theaters.

“Norton thinks that Chip will outlive him as a personality,” comic and frequent Chip Chipperson guest Kevin Brennan said. “I actually like Chip more than Norton if you can believe that.”

Brennan has a theory on why the radio and podcast character has taken off.

“Chip’s crazy,” Brennan said. “Chip says whatever. He’s insulting, he’s offensive, he’s ridiculous and I love it. I just think it’s hilarious. He’s so funny because he still has Norton’s mind. He’ll say stuff that’s really funny off the top of his mind that he just came up with. That character is hilarious. I like mean comedy, that might be a reflection of my childhood.”

The success achieved by a character Norton started out doing to annoy an ex-girlfriend and amuse himself when he was alone (still does) has come as a surprise to Jim.

“I’m really happy,” Norton said. “I hope it keeps going. I hope it’s not a temporary thing. Of course I’m shocked. The fact is that we all have Chip in us. We all kind of stink on some level. And Chip embraces that and is that. It’s awful jokes, so it’s really fun. It’s fun to pick the worst jokes you can think of.”

Because Chip and Jim are separate people, there is an art to interacting with Chip for the success of a radio bit or the podcast.

“I’ve learned to just treat his characters like real people,” former co-host of the Opie and Anthony Show, Anthony Cumia said. “Chip Chipperson of course, a very popular character. Whenever I do his show and there’s somebody who’s never done it before, there sitting there and going, ‘What is this like?’ I go, Just imagine you’re doing a talk show that’s hosted by a [very slow] person, because that’s pretty much it.

“Then they’re like, ‘Oh, okay I guess I could go with that.’ I’ve just learned to really treat them like they weren’t Jim, and how would I react to somebody that really acted like that. Opie never really got a line on how to [interact with] Jimmy’s characters.”

Following the Opie and Anthony Show’s departure in July of 2014 after Cumia was fired for using racist language on Twitter, Jim and Gregg “Opie” Hughes tried to pick up the pieces and continue on with a new incarnation of the show.

Comedian Jim Norton participates in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the Netflix comedy special, “Mouthful of Shame”, at AOL Studios on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The duo continued for about two years before Jim and Sam paired up and Opie tried a show of his own.

“Look, we worked together for a long time,” Norton said of the partnership he had with Hughes. “The relationship deteriorated. It happens. I feel like I was very loyal for a long time. I’ve been very, very reverential to O and A, what they’ve done for my career. I’ve been very publicly appreciative of him.”

Hughes was fired by SiriusXM in July of 2017 after taking a video of producer Roland Campos going to the bathroom. 

There were only a couple dustups while Jim and Opie were on the air together and it’s only recently that Norton has been more vocal about what it was like working with Hughes, especially on Jim and Sam.

“It’s one of those things where he’ll throw a jab, then I throw one,” Norton said. “Or I throw one and then he throws one. I think that’s basically what it is. We both wanted to for a long time, but we weren’t able to. So it’s kind of fun to do when there’s a reason for it.

“He’s doing his show and I’m doing my thing with Sam. There’s really no reason for us to even think about each other. So it’s not like we do it all the time. It’s occasional.”

No matter who he’s been on-air with, stand up comedy has always been a constant in Norton’s life.

Audiences fortunate enough to see Norton perform live in person are seeing the comic do what he’s best at. Despite Norton’s brutally honest, self-deprecating humor, the stand up chops he’s sharpened from almost thirty years of performing give him the confidence to prowl the stage like a panther.

“First of all, I love Jimmy,” comedian Russell Peters said. “He’s very funny, very astute and he’s a big student of the game.”

Comics like Norton are at a premium. Rawness and honesty are desperately needed to sift through vile dishonesty politicians spew out and the fraudulently indignant hypocrisy social media lynch mobs muster up on a daily basis.

“It’s his honesty onstage that keeps him where he is,” Peters said. “And I always try to tell comics, the more honest you are onstage the easier this job is to do. Keith Robinson told me that 20 years ago and I never forgot it. He’s not hiding anything.

“People are coming to see comics for the honesty. That’s what they want. That’s what the world is lacking right now. The news isn’t being honest. You can get two different types of news nowadays. How f***ing weird is that? You remember back in the day [when] news was news? Now you can have pro-Trump news or anti-Trump news. I’m like, Why can’t we just get news news?”

“He’s risky,” Brennan said of Jim’s stand up. “He’s always been risky. I hadn’t seen him in a while, because he’s been working mornings a lot. And he works the earlier shows usually, especially during the week, the weekends [he’s] on the road. But I saw him do a full 20-minute set or 25-minute set probably in July and it was f***ing great.

“I was kind of blown away by how good it was just because I know he’s so busy. He’s got a great work ethic so he does the morning show and he’s always on the road, he does Chip Chipperson. He’s just extremely busy.”

Peters and Brennan aren’t the only comedians regarding Norton as the Toast of the town.

“I love Jim,” Norm Macdonald said. “I love Anthony Cumia too. I think he’s a fantastic broadcaster, and those two together were great, now they have separate shows, but they’re both so good they can each have a show.

“It’s very hard to do radio for two, three hours a day, really hard to be funny I mean. Larry King used to do it all night long, but he didn’t have to be funny. Jim is just one of those unfiltered guys that just says whatever is on his mind, doesn’t second guess himself and he has a lot of passion for his opinions and that’s what makes, I think, for great radio.”

Jim Norton “Kneeling Room Only” tourCourtesy of Loshak PR

Norton examines his own life and career with the same honesty and self-loathing humor you can see in his act or hear on the radio show. When asked if after all the success he’s currently having he’s one good project away from hitting it big, he responded:

“No, I’m one bad project away from killing myself,” Norton joked. “I hope something happens. I never wonder, Where’s my spot? I never expect anything. The more good things that happen the better, but I never expect anything. I really don’t. I hope something good comes of it, but I never expect anything great to come.”

Something great that did come is the Netflix film the Irishman (2019) directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Norton filmed a scene where he plays one of his idols, the late comedian Don Rickles, performing at a night club.

“I love Rickles,” Norton said. “So it was really, really fun to play him. I tried to do it justice. The lines were written, which was easier.”

While shooting his scene, Jim worked with De Niro a second time (the Comedian), a third if you count De Niro appearing in the intro to his last standup special Mouthful of Shame.

“At one point, because De Niro wanted to hear material he hadn’t heard, they said, ‘Mr. De Niro is requesting that you just do your act.’” Norton said. “Because the camera was on him, so he just wanted to see my regular material just so he could laugh at it, so any shots of De Niro, if there’s any of him laughing, it’s at my regular jokes.

“It’s really weird, I was just talking to him and (Joe) Pesci. I mean there was an audience, but I was just looking over at De Niro and Pesci which was kind of surreal. It was great though because afterwards [Pesci] goes, ‘Hey, you were funny, man.’

“He was really cool and Scorsese is a really relaxed guy. I wasn’t nervous around Scorsese because I had met with him already and we had sat in his office and talked. And I wasn’t nervous around De Niro because I had done something with him, so Pesci was like the only one. It was still so much fun to do it with him. I didn’t let myself panic and get too nervous.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottking/2018/10/24/why-we-need-the-unrivaled-honesty-of-comic-jim-norton/

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