Interview conducted by Hatchet Staff Writer Ana Cvetkovic
Jim Norton, known for his controversial political comedy, can be heard on “The Opie & Anthony Show” on Sirius XM Radio and has his own Netflix special. He will be in the District this Thursday through Saturday for three sold-out improv shows.
The Hatchet talked with the comedian about his early beginnings, politics and the difference between radio and stand-up comedy.
Hatchet: So did you happen to catch the State of the Union last night? Any thoughts?
Norton: I did not. I never watch that stuff.
Hatchet: Oh really? Your stuff is very political.
Norton: It’s just such nonsense, I don’t believe any of it.
Hatchet: D.C. is a very politically focused city. You comment a lot on race, terrorism and current events in your comedy. Do you believe there’s any value in being politically correct in comedy?
Norton: No. Political correctness I think is based in a desire to cover things up. I’m not going to tell you what I think, I’m gonna tell you what I think you want to hear. Maybe the intent of it originally was to be nicer, to be gentler, but no, I don’t think there’s any advantage. I think it just teaches people to be dishonest and not speak their minds.
Hatchet: Your 2012 special was called “Please Be Offended” and you’ve said in interviews that you believe in freedom of speech. Is there anything that is off-limits in your comedy?
Norton: No. Not at all. There’s nothing off limits for actors or musicians, so I don’t see that there would be for comedians either.
Hatchet: Is there a message behind your comedy?
Norton: No, I just give my opinion. I tell the truth. I hope people laugh. When I say the truth, I don’t mean that I’m always right. I mean I’m just honest with my opinion. I think that’s a comedian’s obligation, to be funny and to be honest. You know, sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong.
Hatchet: You’ve worked in many different media – radio, TV, film, books. What works best for comedy and why?
Norton: Well, stand up of course. But I love radio. Radio is such a fun gig. I love doing radio. It’s really free and there’s no rush to get to any point. You can really take your time, so I love radio. And I like writing too. I love all of it.
Hatchet: Can you get away with more because you’re on XM Radio?
Norton: God yeah, much more, sure.
Hatchet: Why is that?
Norton: Because there’s no language restrictions. It’s a subscription service, so no one can “stumble” onto something. That’s also kind of what made satellite popular…. There’s self-imposed limits [on radio], you know, there are certain things you don’t want to go on there and do. You’re allowed to do almost anything [on satellite radio].
Hatchet: Do you have any advice for young people trying to break into comedy?
Norton: Write all your own material and perform as much as you can and listen to the sets after you’ve performed. It’s really easy to be lazy in stand up, but you have to do the work if you want to get good at it. So don’t be lazy, because there’s nothing more annoying than how lazy people can be.
Hatchet: How did you get started with comedy?
Norton: I wanted to do it since I was 12, so I went on in a bar and I was awful, but I started when I was 21. It was something I had always wanted to do.
Hatchet: What were some of your worst jokes?
Norton: I don’t even remember. I remember the first joke I told. It was like comparing Oprah’s vagina to a black hole in space. It was some awful joke, but it’s the first one I can remember telling.