The Magazine That Stands Up For Comedy
|INSIDE THIS ISSUE
|WANT TO SEE
STM IS LOOKING
FOR WRITERS TO
FOR INFO AND
Richard Lewis -
Concerts from Hell:
The Vintage Years
Lisa Lampanelli -Take
It Like a Man (CD/DVD)
Dane Cook -
Tom Green - Inside &
Brother Sam: A Tribute
to Sam Kinison
Latinlogues, Vol. 2
Series -Bill Bellamy
Todd Barry - Medium
Rick Younger-Come On
Steven Lynch - The
DL Hughley - Notes
from the GED Section
Billy Crystal - 700
Tom Green and Allen
Rucker - Hollywood
Causes Cancer: The
Tom Green Story
Margaret Cho - I Have
Chosen to Stay and
Penn Jillette and
Mickey D. Lynn - How
to Cheat Your Friends
at Poker: The Widom
of Dickie Richard
Margaret Smith - What
Was I Thinking? How
Stand-Up Did Nothing
to Prepare Me to
Become a Single Mother
Bill Maher - New Rules:
Polite Musings From a
Oliver Double - Getting
the Joke: The Art of
Robert Klein - The
Amorous Busboy of
Decatur Avenue: A
Child of the Fifties
Dave Schwensen -
Comedy Faqs and
Answers: How the
Stand-Up Biz Really
Fri, Oct. 14
Domino - Mo'Nique
plays a dramatic role
Knightley and Mickey
Fri, Oct. 21
Stay - Janeane
Garofalo co-stars with
Ewan McGregor, Naomi
Watts and Ryan
Fri, Nov. 4
Jarhead - Jamie Foxx
stars opposite Jake
Sarah Silverman: Jesus
is Magic - Comedian
discusses race, sex
and politics with friends.
Rent - Sarah Silverman
plays a supporting role
in the feature
adaptation of the hit
Yours, Mine and Ours -
George Lopez and Lil
JJ (Beauty Shop)
In the Mix - Kevin Hart
co-stars with singer
Usher and Chazz
|How did you get started doing stand up?
I got started in 1990 in a bar in New Jersey. I was awful. I’ve always wanted to do it
since I was 12...I sucked for a long time.
Who were some of the comics that you started out with? Which rooms did you work?
I worked five years [doing] Jersey gigs – Pennsylvania, Maryland – all these hellholes,
bars. The guys I started out with was Jim Florentine, Bob Levy. Those are the guys I
came up with. They were kinda my peers. It was all shithole work…Bars that were trying
a comedy show on a Tuesday, biker bars.
Biker bars? What was that like?
Better than you think. Not great but tolerable. Strip clubs-
How was that?
The worst gig ever. It was a three-night engagement. We’re there for four hours and we
did four 10-minute sets in front of the same audience. 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock,
10 o’clock - we’d go up. We totally knew that “bring your own alcohol” really attracted
people from Phillipsburg, New Jersey - the worst place ever.
|Jim Norton is on fire! As co-host of XM Satellite Radio's Opie & Anthony and star of his
own HBO One Night Stand, his career is flying into high gear. The acerbic comedian
made lasting impressions as a favorite on Last Comic Standing 2 and a regular on Tough
Crowd with Colin Quinn. He has appeared on The Tonight Show twice in a single year and
most recently, landed a supporting role on Louis CK's new HBO comedy series.
STM tracked the comedian down at the Comedy Cellar to discuss his relentless passion
for stand up. He opens up about his personal sacrifices, addiction to sex and has some
choice words for comics who don't write.
|How would you describe your creative process for getting ideas? Do you write onstage?
Yes. I write every night. Sometimes, I’ll be inspired and I’ll jot some things down.
Normally, I’ll tell a story onstage. I try to keep it to my life, mostly.
When was the last time you bombed?
Oh Jesus! I didn’t do that well last night. I still bomb. Tonight was great. Last night,
I didn’t have a real bad bomb. After a while, you kinda know how to get out of it. Last
weekend, I actually had the first two or three shitty sets too. I normally don’t get total
silence anymore but I still bomb. I always will throughout my career.
So what happened in those two sets?
I’m working on material now. I have a half-hour coming out in October, so I wanted to
replace that half-hour...I work out that half-hour in public. Some nights, it’s great.
Other nights, it’s stinks. That’s the way it is when you’re working on material. Any
comedian who does well all the time is probably a hack who sucks. If you’re constantly
a crowd-pleaser every night, you’re probably shit. You’re probably even stealing
material or you’re doing the same old generic nonsense.
Have you ever had material stolen from you?
Things here and here...My stuff is pretty specific. I tell a lot of my dumb celebrity
stories...tell about my awful body, my prostitute story. You know all that stuff is true to
my life. I’m sure some things are taken but not that much. Some guys will take your
How do you deal with that?
I haven’t seen grand thievery yet. If I see it, I will say something. I don’t think I’ve
seen it. One time...years ago, it was a movie reference. I thought, maybe we just both
thought of the reference. And my other friend reminded me, “No, you’re taken two
different parts of the movie and putting them together.” “Oh, yeeeah.” I told him.
He’s an actor and he kept doing it anyway. Fuck him.
|COMIC SENSE: "A lot of guys do the same shit
every night and they wonder why no one cares
about them. “Hey, motherf*cker—write! Take a
risk. Stop needing to kill on a Tuesday. You’re
making $20 dollars here.”
|When did you find your “voice" and how did you know?
Well, it just feels right. I think ten years in, you start to find your voice...Earlier than
that, you’re doing jokes. You’re doing well but you get comfortable just being onstage
and just talking to the audience. I don’t need energy. I work my material with very low
energy…I know that if a joke works, especially in this room, at the Cellar, really slow
and deliberate, then it’s going to work anywhere. If I kinda try like that - take out any
nonsense that might be getting a laugh that I don’t want.
If the joke is getting a laugh just because I make a face, then the joke needs to be
better written. Or if because I’m cursing...Cursing is great but I try not to curse in bits
until I know they work.
A lot of guys do the same shit every night and they wonder why no one cares about
them. “Hey, motherfucker—write! Take a risk. Stop needing to kill on a Tuesday. You’re
making $20 dollars here.” I don’t do this for the money. I’m at the Cellar because it’s
What can comics do if they become bored with their material?
Put it on a CD and start writing. Once I put something on a CD, I rarely ever do it
again. My only advice is to pick up a pen, you lazy motherfucker and write. You
fucking anchor on the business. I got no mercy for guys who don’t work. None!
My writing is kinda onstage. I do four hours of radio a day, so it creatively saps you.
I’m always trying, always working on something. Sometimes it works. A lot of times, it
stinks or it bombs…I try really hard to do a lot of material because I get bored very fast.
Guys want to go out and have your social lives. You want to get the big laughs on a
Tuesday. Fuck you. Don’t complain. Take your $20 bucks and go fuck yourself. Have
fun on your date, stupid. But, I’m going to work.
|What sacrifices have you made to do stand-up?
Every relationship I’ve ever had. Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving. I work every
night. I’m going to get tired of that crap. And now, I kinda like want…I’m 37 and I’m
still on Craigslist at three in the morning, looking for full service for a $100. Maybe, I
should have done a couple things differently. You sacrifice your social life. You don’t
have a wife, kids or friends.
To me, I’ve sacrificed completely having a social life. I’m not saying that’s for
everybody but that’s what I did. And I’m glad I did it…I’m happy with where I am so I’m
moving in the right direction. And I know I’m always working on something. If you’re
doing that and you’re a funny person, you’re going to succeed. If you’re trying to work
towards new material most of the time, you should succeed. It is luck.
Comedy Central never fucking gave me shit - nothing. The only reason I was on that
dumb network because Colin Quinn, who is my friend, wanted me on his show. They
gave me Premium Blend. I guess I’m kinda bitter because they canceled our show - his
show. You know. I’m kinda pissed off about that. I heard about Chappelle leaving and
I just smiled. I love Dave for that. I’d love to hold him. I ought to take Chappelle out
to dinner for that. I’ll be honest: I’m just pissed off because I loved doing Tough Crowd.
I loved it.
|How did it help your career?
It made me a better comic.
Oh yeah! That forced you to write, comically. You better be funny because – Colin, who
was ruthless, Nick DiPaolo, Keith [Robinson] and Greg Giraldo – these are funny dudes
who would smash you. If you start doing things in your act, they’re going to attack you.
If you start [doing] corny, nonsense jokes, you’re going to get wasted. I have been
many times…We all have bombed but it really made you want to write.
I was doing Opie & Anthony and then we got thrown off the air for the sex at St.
Patrick’s. I was depressed and suicidal. I loved doing it. It’s very rare that in this
business that you find something you love so much. This forced me to write again. And
I built a whole new 45 minutes. It made me a better comic. It made me a better writer.
I wound up putting out two CDs. I did a lot of shit that I probably wouldn’t have done, if
radio had continued at that point. Tough Crowd was an invaluable, great experience.
|I enjoyed you on the show.
I liked that it didn't matter what news topic was being discussed, you always gave
more details about the story and still made it funny.
It is our job to be funny. I hate it when people go, “You know, I never liked it because
it was always degenerative when you guys [are] trashing each other.” And it’s like, "You
fucking dummy, that’s what the show is about. It’s about our relationship. These are
my friends...What do you think we do?" We shit all over each other. That’s all we do.
|COMIC SENSE: "I try to be honest about what my
reaction is. That's the problem a lot of comedians
have...They think they have to be right. No, you just
have to be honest."