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Comedy is in a strange place in the pandemic era. If there’s one thing Jim Norton has learned in nearly two years following the elephant in the room with a bag and a broom, it’s that we’re all full of excrement.
“We are all the same. And I don’t mean that in a good way. We are all the same obnoxious a—holes,” he says.
Norton will be among the headliners for the inaugural Laughing Spree Fest, a two-day outdoor festival bringing major comic talent, DJs, displays by local artists and more to Sunset Cove Amphitheater in Boca Raton Friday-Saturday, Dec. 3-4.
The comedy lineup for three shows also includes fellow headliners Bryan Callen and Andrew Schulz, joined by Plantation High School grad Bret Ernst, Leah Lamarr, Jeff Dye, Yamaneika and others. Tickets start at $60 at LaughingSpreeFest.com. Two-day passes start at $199, with VIP options also available. A parking pass costs $20.
A longtime Manhattan resident, the 53-year-old Norton has made a career out of New York pugnaciousness, given extra pug by being forced to grow up in New Jersey. It fuels his fight-talk podcast “UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra” and the popular SiriusXM show “Jim Norton & Sam Roberts,” now in its fifth year as a spin-off of Norton’s third-mic appearances on the “Opie and Anthony” radio show.
Norton answered a few questions while driving to a gig in upstate New York:
You’re a New Yorker. When are you moving to South Florida?
I’m so happy I didn’t make a pandemic move. … People either moved to Florida or they moved to Austin. Back then [New York] was this little weird alternate reality. We were all kind of living in this post-apocalyptic world of being in the house, and everything was this scary adventure. But now that the world is back to normal, a lot of people, I think, are regretting leaving New York and wherever else they were.
Wait, you think people regret moving to Florida?
Not necessarily because it’s Florida … I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to leave the city, but I don’t blame anybody who did. Especially since [New York City] had just a really creepy, vacant vibe to it.
It’s not 100 percent. You still have a little bit more of a menace in the air than you’re used to, but it’s much better than it was. There are buildings where you don’t have to wear masks if you don’t want to, so we’re slowly getting back to normal.
Have you spent much time in South Florida?
I’m not a big traveler. I’ve done shows in Miami, Boca, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, but I only do a gig and get out. I don’t have a beach body, you know what I mean? My torso looks like a baggy with a goldfish in it that you win at the fair. I’m really in no position to be half-naked on a beach.
Is Florida, by definition, a funny place?
I would say Florida is like a really great, flat mental institution. It reminds me of Long Island. There’s a lot of lunatics in Florida, as in Long Island. So I do love it, but there’s always this crazy feeling in the air that something could go wrong. Maybe I’ve watched too many Billy Corben documentaries, but it always feels like something can go wrong when I’m in Florida.
First, the fighters are very nice. They’re all fan friendly. People feel a connection to these guys that they don’t necessarily feel to $30 million boxers or baseball players. I also think UFC is masterful at giving fans the fights that they want. Boxing has been notorious for dragging a rivalry five years before the fight happens, and then you feel like the decisions half the time are wrong. I just don’t trust the integrity of the judging system in boxing.
Can you talk about the show you’re doing in Boca Raton?
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It’s a new act, as far as being different from the last time I was there. It’s the same as I do in New York, Boston. I’m actually really happy with new material. … It’s about kind of coming out of this mess and where we are at now.
Personally, and naively, I expected us to be a little kinder to each other when we did this. Do you know what I mean? … Anyone who’s survived this is walking out of the wreckage of a plane crash and instead of being grateful to be alive, we’re worse than we were before. We’re not even grateful to be alive. I’m shocked that we’re worse than we were before.
So you’ve found something to unify us?
Yeah, that’s kind of a theme of my act. … Americans just need to put down their own narcissism and have a moment of self-awareness and of clarity. We are all full of s—, and we are all part of the problem. Stop looking to blame Trump or Biden. That’s the thing that should unify us. It’s everyone’s fault.
Laughing Spree Fest takes place at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, 20405 Amphitheater Circle, in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park in Boca Raton. Hours are 7-11 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, 3-11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. Tickets start at $60 (plus fees). Parking costs $20. Visit LaughingSpreeFest.com.