'I know it's a little weird': Behind the toilet humor at Wednesday's halftime show
Jonathan Burns didn't give Blazers fans the halftime show they wanted. He gave Portland the halftime show it deserved.
PORTLAND — Jonathan Burns went to bed feeling like he had nailed his act.
He’s only done a few NBA halftimes over the years and the Pennsylvania-born comedian is still perfecting the abbreviated version of the hour-long show he uses on tour. But Wednesday night, the Portland crowd was into Burns and his ever-shrinking tracksuit. He didn’t have to pull them in further as he contorted his body through a toilet seat, dragging his nose and lips across the lid as he worked his shoulders through the opening. At one point, with a shoulder appearing to be dislocated, he ran around the Blazers logo, arm flailing as Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” played through the Moda Center speakers.
“I felt really good about it,” Burns told The I-5 Corridor. “I’ve been working hard on it to make it bigger and better. I’ve been doing it for a number of years and have been invited all over the world to perform.
“And I know it’s a little weird.”
Burns woke up at 4 a.m. the next morning for a flight to Las Vegas, where he was performing for the rest of the week. After landing and checking into his hotel, he was about to nap when his phone exploded.
Turns out, comedian Patton Oswalt had come across a tweet from the night before — a 30-second clip from Burns’ performance captioned, “Man WTF is this Blazers halftime show.”
“We’re gonna be Okay, America,” Oswalt wrote and fired off to his 4.7 million followers.
🕺🏼 @seba6xMan wtf is this Blazers halftime show 💀 https://t.co/lyLpPM2U6D
The replies were a mix of hysterical, mean and a little too much on the head.
“At first it kind of felt like some nerd on nerd crime. Like, Patton, why would you do me like this?” Burns said. “But being in comedy you’re so used to being self-deprecating and being roasted by all your friends. Behind the scenes at a comedy club is just people busting on each other all the time, so you kind of have to have humor about yourself.”
It helps, too, that Burns doesn’t exactly need the Twitter affirmation. Burns grew up as a flexible attention-seeker in Pennsylvania Amish Country and started doing magic shows as a teenager. He’s managed to incorporate those skills into a comedy act, and has performed for Penn and Teller and on Late Night with David Letterman. He started doing the basketball circuit in 2019.
“Halftime shows are different from everything else,” he said. “Usually it’s sexy girls shooting bows and arrows from their feet. And I’m not that.”
It’s ultimately been a positive for a performer who ended his show in a way no one else ever has at the Moda: Down to a CJ McCollum jersey tucked into short shorts with “Rip City” across the ass, Burns ripped his white underwear out from underneath his shorts, tossed them to the camera, blew kisses to the crowd and then contorted his body into a suitcase to be taken off the floor.
Oswalt gave him a follow that day on Twitter, and a few more NBA teams have called since.
“I told them that if they bring the court,” Burns said, “I’ll bring the toilet seat.”
— Tyson Alger