BOCA RATON – When Laughing Spree Fest producers first reached out to Jim Norton about performing in their festival, he didn’t think much of the request.
Unsure if the request was even “legit,” Norton did what he normally does with such inquiries. He forwarded it to his agent for further vetting.
Turns out, Laughing Spree Fest is quite real. And now Norton – along with some of stand-up comedy’s biggest names – is prepared to rock South Florida this weekend.
“My agent called and goes, ‘No this guy really seems legitimate. He laid it out. It just seems like he really wants to make this festival work.’” Norton said. “I’m kind of honored that he asked me to be a part of it on the ground floor.”
Norton will headline Saturday’s evening show, joining Bryan Callen (Friday night) and Andrew Schulz (Saturday night) to form Laughing Spree’s three-headliner monster.
“I really like the lineup,” Norton said. “Bryan is very funny. Schulz is on fire and is very funny and then Yamaneika is on the bill. There’s some really, really good acts on this festival.”
Norton at Top of Laughing Spree’s List
Landing Norton was a priority for Laughing Spree producer Warren Scott.
“From a professional point of view I think he’s a great performer for the festival. The audience is really going to love him,” Scott said. “Personally I’ve been a fan of Jim Norton for probably 15 years now since back in his Opie and Anthony [radio show] days, and even before then. I think he was great to get for the show.”
Laughing Spree is a self-contained comedy festival that beings on Friday at Sunset Cove Amphitheater, west of Boca Raton, and runs through Saturday.
This will be the first installment of Laughing Spree. Producers intend to grow into a yearly event.
Playing a major role in a first-year festival carries a different kind of weight for Norton.
“I would say it removes pressure because it’s not like there’s a history of it that you are comparing yourself to,” Norton said. “But it adds pressure, too, because if there is only one year of it, well, we know who’s fault it was.”
Norton’s New Material
A veteran of multiple Netflix and Comedy Central specials, Norton also hosts the daily Jim Norton & Sam Roberts show on Sirius XM radio and has written two books.
After taking some pandemic-induced time away from the stage, Norton started performing again in July – mostly in New York City – with increased vigor. He promises Saturday’s set will contain all new material, drawing heavily on pandemic experiences and including nothing from his Netflix or Comedy Central shows, or from previous tours.
“I really love the angle I’m taking on it and the way I talking about it,” Norton said. “It feels very true to myself. I’m just kind of talking about what’s been happening in the world.”
Lineups on both days offer comics with South Florida ties. Yamaneika, Sean Grant, Cam Bertrand, Esther Ku and Vince Taylor are scheduled for Friday night.
Show producers Scott and Minda open Saturday’s early show, Freddy Stebbins, Bret Ernst and Jeff Dye also on that bill.
Saturdays’ closing show includes Palm Beach County favorites Dan Long and Jackie Sanchez, along with Mark Gagnon, Leah Lamarr and Orlando Leyba.
South Florida Comedy Scene Grows
To Norton, the festival has the potential to give South Florida’s already thriving local comedy scene yet another big boost.
“All of the sudden all these people go and they have this awesome experience, so now you have thousands of people who have just experienced the same thing together that want to kind of go out into clubs and they want to see guys they just saw,” Norton said. “Or it makes them more aware to look out for it the next time it comes around.”
Individual ticket prices for Friday’s show begin at $60, with VIP packages running $115. The combo ticket for both of Saturday’s shows runs $99. Tickets to see only the festival’s final show headlined by Schulz are $69.99. Daily parking passes begin at $20.
Show producers limited the number of tickets in an effort to make comedy fans who fear large crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic more comfortable at the show.