Dave Attell and Jim Norton’s shared penchant for vulgarity makes them a good fit as touring partners and co-headliners, and at their February 23 show at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre (part of the Comedy Central Vegas weekend), they complemented each other well. Attell characterized their show as “dirty old man” comedy, and that’s apt for a performance that involved Norton giving a detailed account of how to get a happy-ending massage, and Attell promising “Back to the dick jokes!” every time one of his punchlines fell a little flat.
Norton and Attell are old pros with dedicated fan bases from their years on the road and various media projects (in particular, Norton’s appearances on The Opie & Anthony Show on SiriusXM and Attell’s Comedy Central series Insomniac), and they each played well to the appreciative crowd. In keeping with the dirty old man theme, the subject matter was pretty standard lowbrow fare, although Norton had a talent for turning stereotypical sexual humor into something a little more unconventional. Jokes about blowjobs and masturbation are standard for this style of comedy, which is often tinged with subtle (or not-so-subtle) homophobia.
But while both Norton and Attell freely threw around the word “faggot,” Norton revealed a surprisingly progressive viewpoint among what first seemed like hacky jokes about transsexuals. Instead of shaming those who present a “surprise,” he praised them (“You’re good!”), and embraced his experiences rather than trying to distance himself from them. Norton’s casual attitude about transsexuals, toe-sucking, happy endings and prostitutes marked him as far more open-minded and sex-positive than his demeanor would indicate.
While Norton offered up genuine personal insight amidst his vulgarity (his set began with an entire bit about his sleep apnea, which included his showing the crowd a picture of himself wearing his sleep-apnea mask), Attell was all about the jokes, delivering a set that was polished and professional, but more than a little superficial. For him, the unexpected wasn’t about revealing personal details or challenging conventional attitudes, but about the more common comedic practice of taking a linguistic left turn for a punchline, as when he followed up, “Anal bleaching, what do you guys think?” with, “I mean, as a baby name.”
Attell’s sometimes dizzying barrage of dick jokes was a little tiresome, and his set felt longer than Norton’s, though each performed for about 45 minutes. Both interacted well with the crowd, and Attell hit a gold mine with the recent Carnival Triumph disaster, discovering that one of the passengers from the doomed cruise was actually in the audience. After Attell’s set, Norton returned to the stage, and the duo’s relaxed interaction made a good case for expanding the team-up portion of the show. They had some fun with a female audience member who’d earlier asked Norton on a date, bringing her onstage and crowning her “Princess Las Vegas” with a plastic tiara. For all their vulgarity and dirty old man-ness, they were at their best when they were just being friendly.