When comedian Jim Norton pops his head into The Fillmore Philadelphia on Nov. 30 as part of his Kneeling Room Only Tour, his stand-up will be lewd and rude, just like you expect from this legend. The language will be coarse and cutting. No topic will be out-of-bounds and no cow sacred will stand. “There is nothing, no matter how sensitive or fresh, that can’t be made funny,” said Norton. “Something can be in poor taste and mean-spirited, but it can always be funny.”
What the caustic stand-up comic’s audience won’t hear – unless they are fans of his SiriusXM radio show “The Jim and Sam Show,” or the “UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra” podcast – is how utterly charming and erudite Norton is in conversation. Fact is it is cool, artful conversation (“nothing planned, just be natural and the subject feels comfortable enough to open up”), that’s made Norton’s name beyond comedy, as his SiriusXM show has become a go-to hotspot for celebs and newsmakers to make pit-stops. “We just wanted to do a show that felt good,” said Norton, regarding what he and his radio partner Sam Roberts hoped to achieve.
“It just happened that our second show was when Nancy Grace walked off (she thought the pair made light of the plight of murdered children), the video went viral, and we got wild press from it overnight. Suddenly, every publicist wanted to book guests on our show. We didn’t mean for her to walk off, or to get that publicity. We did, however, get more comfortable with ourselves, doing what we wanted to do. I just ask things that I want to know.”
Norton cites a November chat with Netflix’s Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher”), where the actor dissed working with alleged sexual predator Kevin Spacey on the film “Baby Driver,” as an organic chat that went weird. “Spacey is in the news. Bernthal worked with him. I wanted to know what it was like” (it wasn’t pretty, according to the actor). In that regard, what Norton has is a dialogue – not a monologue – with his guests, as well as a gentlemanly code of honor regarding his comedy friends.
Take Louis C.K. with whom Norton has long been pals and working associates (Norton appeared on HBO’s “Lucky Louie” and FX’s “Louie”). The radio host has been cool and collected – even quiet – about the rumors of C.K.’s sexual misconduct, until the masturbating comedian came clean and admitted to his crimes.
“You really have to piss me off for me to totally unload on you. With Louie, I genuinely feel bad for my friend and I love him as a person, but in reality, he f—cked up. I don’t want to see his career ruined. I’m hoping this is all there is. I’m not being politically correct by saying this, but I think that if you are working on a show, and a guy who you respect says ‘Hey, I want to j—rk off in front of you,’ that’s a terrible and uncomfortable thing to have to deal with. If you go on a Tinder date and that comes up – it’s not a nice thing, but there’s no power dynamic there.”
Like Marc Maron (who discussed his friendship and disappointment with C.K. on his “WTF” podcast), Norton said that C.K. denied all rumors of his crimes to him in confidence.
“He told me several times in the last two years that they were untrue and I believed him. Those stories came without names or specific details. It’s a mess.”
Will Norton make fun of C.K.’s plight? Norton stated that he has already been making fun of Harvey Weinstein on stage and is slipping several Louis lines into his new act. “You have to address what is going on,” said Norton. That does not mean that the skewering comedian cares much for tearing into Trump or all things on the political horizon. “I try not to hit the typical angles when joking about Trump,” said Norton, looking for what he likes and dislikes about the President rather than preaching about belief systems.
“That’s boring. What I do is joke about Trump’s level of communication. I like the fact that he’s a humiliation for the entire political system. I like that he is proof that we can go outside that same political system and elect somebody. The first person to break through that wasn’t a politician had to be crazy, had to be out-of-control. Maybe next time, we’ll find someone more centered and palatable.”
As for playing Philadelphia, the Bayonne NJ-born comedian stated that he has always had a great relationship with our fair and funny city. “I’ve done everything from small clubs to the TLA to the Fillmore, and love having a real, honest fan base there. No joke. Philly’s one of my favorite towns.”
Jim Norton: Kneeling Room Only at The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen St. Thurs. Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. $85.-$49.50, thefillmorephilly.com