According to Jim

Norton: Loud, proud and about to take on Cobbs

He’s brazen and crass when it comes to his stand-up act, but here’s the emotional punchline: baby-faced Jim Norton is downright sensitive.

“You know what I’ve learned about myself lately?” Norton mused. “… that I don’t need love as much as I thought I needed. For the last two years, I convinced myself that I needed to be involved. That, and that I’ll never be on a television show that doesn’t last more than a year. Everything I love falls into the toilet. I’m the black plague of great gigs.”

Well, maybe the latter isn’t entirely true.

“[HBO] just canceled ‘Lucky Louie,” Norton pointed out. “Yeah, critics hated it.”

So maybe it is true?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter. By the time you take Norton and a Cobbs Comedy Club stage, draw a line under it and add it all up, the sum resembles nothing like the black plague at all.

Foul-mouthed, in-your-face but downright commanding, Norton’s fierce wit manages to mirror the absurdities of real life back onto his audience. The man simply isn’t afraid to touch on the subjects some modern-day comics have begun to shy away from in a post Sept. 11 environment — politics, race, sex, religion and, oh yes, relationships.

Norton thanksRichard Pryor for that — the late comic was his earliest influence. But Norton seemed to take the slow ride up the comedy escalator in the ’90s, only to spill onto a creative mezzanine, which found him landing on the popular Opie and Anthony Radio Show on WNEW.

After a recurring guest stint on Comedy Central’s “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn,” the “baby-faced comedian” appeared on “Last Comic Standing,” hit “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and managed to land a scene-stealing role playing the shameless Rich in the critically-panned, low-rated cult fave “Lucky Louie,” which HBO sent packing earlier this year.

“It was a heartbreaker,” Norton noted in defense of the show. “Every laugh that you heard was real and Louie was brilliant.”

Norton, who’s based in New York, says he’s always appreciated how sophisticated San Francisco audiences have been when he’s performed here in the past.

Norton decided to hit the comedy circuit after “Louie” went nuclear. But once he got on the road, he noticed certain things in today’s comedy world that weren’t funny at all.

“I think when Pryor was doing comedy, he was rewarded for what he was doing,” Norton said. “I think that people have gotten so frightened. … They’re afraid to offend people. Back in the day, when you were a comedian, you were a rebel. You were supposed to offend people on some level, but now, everybody’s just terrified of it.”

Comedy preview

Jim Norton

When: 8 and 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Cobbs Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave., San Francisco

Price: Tickets are $22

Info: Call (415) 928-4320 or www.cobbscomedy.com

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