At dinner before Jim Norton’s Saturday nightcap at The Comedy Connection’s Wilbur Theatre, I commented: “I want to sit like Lincoln.” For anyone unfamiliar with where the 16th president was assassinated, I meant I wanted balcony seats. No shit – I really said that.This was a passing hope; I’ve never in my life been blessed with such exalted digs, and I didn’t expect this time to differ. In fact, I’d never been to the new Connection, so I didn’t even know if they had balconies.I’m sure you’re reading this review to learn about my seating arrangements, so here goes: When I showed up at will call, they only had one ticket reserved. I needed two. So the hospitable window agents hunted down the only remaining seats left beside each other. Amazingly, my new tickets were in the balcony, or, “The Box,” as they call it. For the first time ever, I lamped like Lincoln, Lawrence Taylor on Def Jam, and George and Jerry at the Flying Santos Brothers. It was exhilarating, and the show wasn’t bad either, even though the kid who yells “Freebird” was there.This was my first trip to the relocated Comedy Connection, and I’m impressed. I hope they don’t have plans to upgrade, and that the only addition will be that of a liquor license (coming soon). Right now it’s an ideal space to get rowdy – like a new apartment where your friend has yet to unpack. Instead of dressing up the Wilbur with gaudy brass and velvet accents, the owners simply brought the old Faneuil Hall fixtures. The place still feels like a comedy club where you can fart, puke, laugh at pussy jokes and spill drinks without caring. They can go ahead and switch the last two letters though; thankfully, the Wilbur is much more of a “theater” than it is a “theatre.”There’s nothing formal to it, as the Connection folks kept the age-old comedy show formula: host plus feature plus headliner equals entertainment. So long as the first two don’t suck, which they didn’t.Opener P.J. Thibodeau worked the crowd with jokes about amputees and colossal black cocks (“pepper mills”). My favorite: “I was in Maine recently, and you would think there would be more black guys up there since they like white chicks with big asses so much.”Thibodeau is a refreshingly honest voice; anyone who dislikes when comedians blatantly manufacture life experiences should enjoy his take on everything from groceries to rental cars, which he equates to hookers (“You can do things to rentals that you wouldn’t to your own car”).Norton’s fans are hardcore. Yes – they’re hardcore meatheads, too, but in their fandemonium as well. The majority of them might be sports crazed one-dimensional ex-frat cubicle rats, but they’re in tune with their leader’s mockery of irritable societal conventions.Laughs come easy for Norton, who set it off with bits about 17-year-old sluts and animal abuse. “I’ll never go to the zoo again without a gun,” he promised. Then came the most ruthless bit about Sarah Palin, her state, and her retarded kid that I’ve heard all year. “Alaska is an arctic shithouse,” Norton declared. “They want to secede – fine – let’s go up there, take all their oil, and then knock all the trees down on our way out just for the fuck of it.”Old people got reamed, as did Rudy Giuliani’s lisp, and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer (“Old Cancer Head”). But nobody caught it as badly as Hillary Clinton, the “menopausal sociopath” whose thick calves and ankles bore the grunt of at least seven stingers. For those still wondering how Barack Obama convinced so many white people to vote for him, Norton offered a hypothesis: He believes the turning point was when the president-elect winked on national television. “Real black guys only wink when they’re lining up to shoot you,” he said.Obama didn’t get off completely, though; “What’s with those purple lips?” Norton asked. “It looks like he blew Grimace.”There was a lot to be learned at The Wilbur this past Saturday, from how to lube vaginas with snot rockets to how to make women swallow by pinching their noses (“Take the medicine”). But despite Norton’s brand of subterranean brow comedy, his material is absolutely clever. Snobs can hate all they want; this dude is clearly on the bright side of the comedy divide. Plus - there's nothing lamer than being a "comedy snob."
While virtually every artistic medium has been compromised by vapid junk, Norton proves that the level of mainstream comedy is soaring. He might be an angry little scumbag, but he eschews cliché, and that’s all you can ask for these days. Well, that and some leftover Terri Schiavo jokes.