COMEDY REVIEW: Kevin James Thornton @ The Stand, Newcastle (28.11.23) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

For over a year now, a short song has lived entirely rent-free in my head. Ebullient and knowingly dumb, Shamala Hamala was my gateway drug to Kevin James Thornton; the Indiana-born comedian who blew up on TikTik during the pandemic telling stories of his life in the nineties growing up gay in a super-fundamentalist church youth group.

Warm, witty and disarmingly self-deprecating, Thornton’s secret sauce was relaying his heartfelt odes to his bizarre childhood experiences (which were entirely self-inflicted; his parents weren’t churchgoers at all) through an autotune filter, à la Cher.

Thornton landed in Newcastle trailing 2 million followers on Instagram and TikTok (with combined views of nearly a billion), and a comedy special, Be Yourself, on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. Thankfully, he confirmed he had a Greggs Sausage roll in town, noting that — following a recent genealogy revelation of his strikingly British DNA — the taste awoke an ancestral memory in him, one soundtracked, intriguingly enough, by The Smiths.

Opened by Newcastle’s very own gay ADHD marine biologist comic Al Stevenson, who delivered some blisteringly confident and deliriously lurid crowd work, the show quickly saw Thornton confirming that, yes, his microphone was set up to do the autotune bit he’s made his name with (despite a minor tech failure later on that he rescued and transformed into a near-standing ovation moment), and that we were the crowd upon which he was trying out a range of new bits for his future special, checking them off throughout in his bejeweled notebook.

Proving he was made of much more than his famous autotune bit, Thornton deftly plumbed deeply personal depths to explore the reality of being gay in a deeply religious community, the true nature of god, finding himself newly-single at fifty, and, related to the previous point, the strange and enduring shock of spotlit patio fellatio.

Watching this hilarious set from a comic radiating with positivity and kindness, Steve Martin’s comment about how co-star John Candy had “a little broken heart inside him” kept playing in my head. There is a tender centre to Thornton that makes his comedy sing; a delicate, relatable touch that left the crowd buoyed up and thirsty for more. Shamala Hamala.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout