Much like the homeless guy, myself and fellow comic Todd Clay got our own little dose of magic with the offer of two free tickets to the Norton show. Our seats were right up there with the ones the two old guys from The Muppets used to get. A little side note, if you likey likey a beer in your hand during a show at the Somerville Theatre, don’t try paying for it with a credit card. Insert short story here about the five angry thirsty guys from Southie stuck behind me in the beer line using colorful language to describe their opinions of my fiscal policies. Just trust me on that one, bring cash.
Norton’s performance on the other hand, unlike mine in the beer line, was smooth as silk. He’s a polished pro who over the span of his career has worked with every comic worth mentioning in addition to no shortage of TV and movie credits as well as a long standing place on the famed Opie and Anthony show. Norton’s opener was some girl from LA with local roots. Shame on me for forgetting her name. She was capable enough as a comic and did her best to get the crowd dialed in but didn’t really set any fires. Norton, again a polished pro, didn’t really need her to. This was the filming of his one hour comedy special and he’s savvy. He wasn’t going to run the risk of walking into a dead body for a crowd. Prior to coming out on stage he ran a short film that had all five guys from Southie squirting their long awaited beers out their noses. It was a riot and a half that let everyone in the house know they were in for a treat and it absolutely made the whole theater electric.They loved Norton before he even said so much as a word on stage.They loved Norton before he even said so much as a word on stage. It struck me as a really clever move that’s gonna become standard issue for big names in comedy from here on in. It also gave Norton what comedians refer to as the love bump, no Jimmy Norton short package pun intended. He could feel the electricity. The crowd hung on every well delivered word and somehow the sold out Somerville Theatre seemed to shrink as if he was standing in his living room doing standup at home surrounded by friends. It ain’t the sort of magic that happens every day for a comic but when it does it give them the confidence to break from the well rehearsed and venture into the off the cuff stuff where more magic happens. Watching it all take place right in front of us was a pleasure to witness. Despite the fact that Todd Clay sitting next to me was begging for the bathroom to come to him at the time, there wasn’t anyone in that house on that night willing to get out of their seats for even a minute. It was all too good.
For me, the likable thing about Norton is his dis-likability. I can’t help but think that he’s cognizant of it. I see a ton of comics take the stage every week and no shortage of them sit up there delivering jokes and clever observations as if they’re sitting in front of a vanity mirror, constantly tending to the need for their audience to like them. Norton on the other hand seems to go out of his way to help folks perceive him as a despicable human being and it comes across as an honest sell. The thing about Norton is that it’s such an honest sell that you can’t help but admire him for his honesty. It’s a rarity in this world and it goes a million miles after the fact to help you come to see him not as the creepy little bald guy he guides you to see, but as Jimmy Norton, take him or leave him. It’s a whole brand of magic in of itself.Norton treated the house to one more magic moment.After 55 minutes of Norton tickling you, you’re all done. Your stomach just has nothing left, and that bathroom just couldn’t wait anymore. Before he left the stage Norton treated the house to one more magic moment. Sitting just behind us, which was a damn shame because we’d have insisted on her taking our great seats; was the mother of the late comedy great Patrice O’Neil, a man who not only left us way to soon but left us all wishing we saw more of him in his time here. No sooner did Norton finish his set did he look out to the crowd with his hand shading his eyes asking “Wheres Georgia?”
When the spotlight finally found her Norton thanked her for coming and told everyone in the house who she was, then he said goodnight. A long long litany of folks then proceeded out of the theater and each and every one of them in their own way took the time to pull Mrs. O’Neil aside and tell her how great her son was. All of a sudden Todd Clay wasn’t in such a hurry to get to the bathroom anymore.
They say comedy is tragedy and timing. If I didn’t know what that meant before, watching that woman who went through the tragedy of losing her son beam with pride wearing a smile a mile wide proved it to me. Norton, visible from where I stood watched the whole thing unfold and with a smile of his own on his face. He seemed to me to take greater pride in watching that moment unfold than the one that just unfolded for him. It made me a big big Jimmy Norton fan and it made me really happy to know Boston treated him so well that he’ll be back. Don’t miss it, it’s magic. Go to the bathroom first and bring cash.