We had the good fortune of connecting with T.J. Norton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi T.J., how does your business help the community?
I sometimes question: what’s the point of doing comedy.
“What is the point of doing comedy? The world is polarized, it’s depressing and it’s too much to handle!”
That’s exactly why creating comedy is important. I think it’s how we gotta deal with some of the tough internal and external realities of being hopelessly human.
Comedy is the most beautiful thing in the world because it lets me put my personal boogie man up on a stage so we can all laugh at it together. It’s in that shared laugh that we realize a few things.:
1.) We are not alone on this cosmic journey.
When I share what I’m going through and it makes you laugh you’re telling me: “I feel that way, I’ve been there and that’s so true.” When we identify with other people it makes the ick less ick.
2.) When we shine a light on it, our darkness isn’t so scary.
I think that all the spooky feelings we gather over our lifetime can feel like a heavy load. When somebody else shines a light on their baggage, it can help us to look at our own. It’s scary, but maybe not as scary as it was.
3.) Our pain can be turned into purpose.
One of the most hopeless thoughts that goes through my mind is that “All this pain was for nothing”. When I share how I got through the hard parts of my life with humor, I feel like those challenges were worth it. When I share an ugly part of me, and we all get to laugh about it, I suddenly feel like my ugliness is more human than monster.
Comedy is how I transform my personal shame into pure joy. It’s my hope that when I give that joy to the world, the world can be a brighter place. Maybe the brightness can make it a little easier for all of us to be ourselves.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a kid, I was always drawn to art. I was writing before I could write. Drawing random squiggly lines on paper (directly from the muse.) When my home life was too chaotic, I found refuge in playing pretend. I played with lightsabers until I was too old. Then I kept playing till I was WAY too old. Humor, play and creativity were my tools to get through the tough times.
As I entered high school, I came out as bisexual–in a town that was less than tolerant. The only thing that seemed to get me through was performing in musicals and doing improv comedy. It was safe place where I could be totally authentic.
I went to college at the University of Northern Colorado for Musical Theatre. I excelled in the program and learned an enormous amount. All the while continuing improv comedy, playwriting, and developing a substance abuse problem.
By the time I graduated college, I received interest from some inspiring creatives in LA. I moved here to pursue my comedy, acting and writing career. After hitting a rough point in my early time in Los Angeles, I decided to get clean and sober. I realized that if I wanted to share comedy with the world, I had to really show up as my best self.
Ever since getting sober, I’ve passed Writing Lab at The Groundlings. I’ve been in “Found”, a musical at the lovely IAMA Theatre, and I’ve been developing two different heartfelt, wacky T.V. Pilots.
I’m open about what I’ve gone through and how amazing my life has gotten for the people who don’t think there’s hope on the other side of their struggles. It’s been my experience that we can get through anything life throws our way. In my case, I’m grateful I can use comedy to transform my painful experiences into joyful expression!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Groundlings! GOTTA check them out. I love Will Rogers State Beach. North Hollywood is where I call home. I’m partial to Republic of Pie as a coffee shop. Also the Groundwork in North Hollywood. That’s where I get a lot of work done. I would love to take my friends downtown. There’s so much art and culture. Also IAMA theatre that does amazing work.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Thanks to the Groundlings for teaching me and giving me a place to share my funny.
Jack Mordhorst David Grapes II Jeff Kearney