We had the good fortune of connecting with Anthony Thornton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthony, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Being on stage has been “my thing” for as long as I can remember. I was in a local production of “Babes in Toyland” when I was 3 or 4, and ever since I’ve just gravitated to the stage.
For the longest time I wanted to be an actor. Didn’t matter if it was on a stage or in front of a camera; I was going to be a professional actor. 1 problem, I hated like scripts (I’m dyslexic). Another problem, I wasn’t very good. I was typically typecast as the same character in every show, “Understudy”.
I’ve always had a deep love for comedy. I remember listening to Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Steve Martin over and over. The way they told stories and broke down concepts was fascinating to me. I’m also skinny nerd with bad vision, so being the funny kid served as a good survival skill when it came to bullies.
When I graduated high school, I jump on stage as a stand up for the first time and fell in love with it. It was a rush that I’d never felt in anything I’d ever done, and I chased that rush as much as I could. A few years into stand up, I found Improv, and that became my life for 8 years. 4-6 shows a week, no plan, just make the audience laugh. I loved every second of it.
Before April of 2021, I was on a 3+ year hiatus from comedy, and performing in general. I was a massive bummer of a human being in that time. The stage is my happy place. My goal is to make enough money making people laugh, that I can afford to eat and get to the next stage.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My material is a lot of story telling, commentary on my life, and crowd work.
The thing that excites me most (and why I love crowd work so much), is creating moments that are just for us who are in the room. I love the jokes I write, but nothing beats an interaction with an audience member (hopefully pleasant interaction) that gets the biggest the biggest laugh of the night. It can’t be recreated. It’s a “you had to be there” moment that will pop into your head when you’re having a low day, and it will bring a little joy to you.
As far my written material goes, I’ve mostly talked about getting divorced just before the pandemic and trying to re-enter single life in the “post-Covid” (but not really “post”) era.
What I am really excited to start working out on stage is some deeper personal bits that use to scare me. Things like being a recovering addict, dealing with depression and anxiety, and even being more open about my suicide attempts. For my whole life, there has been a big stigma on these experiences, and I felt a lot of embarrassment going through them. I am not alone in that. Being able to bring light to the darkest parts of my life is cathartic, but I also feel like in a very small way, I am helping chip away at some of those stigmas, and maybe I bring a little joy to someone going through something.
Comedy is A LOT of failure. It’s actually mostly failure when you start. What I needed to learn is that it’s never the audience’s fault if I fail; it’s mine. The audience paid to laugh. I need to work harder. I still fail on stage (a lot), but now I know how to fix it on-stage, and what I need to work on so that my contribution to a show is worth the price of admission.
Comedy can be a rough business. It tests you and your dedication to it a lot. For me, I never aim to be the funniest person on stage. I want to be the one that puts in the most work off stage. My days a filled with hours of writing and re-watching old sets to see what worked, what didn’t, and figure out why I keep doing that thing with my hands.
Success in this business also comes when you surround yourself with talented people who share your passion.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Support live entertainment! Any live entertainment. We are all out here chasing out dream, and want to share that with you.
I prefer you support live Comedy, so here are some of those:
ImprovMania Comedy Club (Chandler, AZ)
The Bridge Improv Theater (Mesa, AZ)
Neighborhood Comedy Theatre (Mesa, AZ)
The Torch Theater (Phoenix, AZ)
JP’s Comedy Club (Gilbert, AZ)
House of Comedy (Phoenix, AZ)
Stand Up Live (Phoenix, AZ)
CB Live (Phoenix, AZ)
Tempe Improv (Tempe, AZ)
Cheba Hut (multiple locations)
Filibertos (accept NO OTHER “Bertos”)
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The list of people I need to thank for their contribution is endless. I’m really lucky in that way. I’ve had a lot of really great mentors and peers that have pushed me to be better on and off stage.
First, I need to thank Dorian & Krissy Lenz of Neighborhood Comedy Theatre (Mesa, AZ), and everyone I ever shared the stage with at NCT. I went in to study a little bit of Improv to help sharpen my writing and crowd work for stand up, and I never left. NCT served as my “Comedy College”. Without the skills I took from that, my stand-up would less honest, and way less engaging. They helped me find my voice. Also, when your friends are insanely talented, you tend to work harder in order to keep up.
Speaking of Improv theatres, The Bridge Improv Theater (Mesa, AZ) and ImprovMania Comedy Club (Chandler, AZ) have become my new homes since returning to comedy. For Stand up, Dave Specht and everyone at ImprovMania have provided a great place to do comedy. They have been so supportive of me, and have given me so opportunities to work my way back up the comedy ladder. On the Improv side, David Raftery and the cast of The Bridge have helped reignite the love I had for it. I go to their Jam once a week, where anyone can go up, and they almost immediately accepted me as their own. You don’t understand “support” until you spend time with improvisors. Again, without that Improv muscle, my stand up is not MY stand up.
Last but not least, I need to thank Jennifer Giralo and Brandi Bigley. I’ve known them a few short months, but they quickly became “my people”. Since I’ve started spending time with them I’ve written WAY more than I ever have, and I am driven to get on stage more. They inspire me to work harder, because not only are they incredibly talents comedians in their own right, but they are using their success to help provide platforms for people whos voices are usually drowned out in the comedy world. Jennifer is the first (and really only) person I’ve ever considered a “writing partner”. Unsurprisingly, my jokes have only got stronger and quicker since writing with her. Having her to help me explore an idea has allowed me to dig into personal topics that use to terrify me, and find the funny. Brandi brings an energy to the stage that is hard to match, but I find myself following them a lot, and that pushes me to be bigger and braver on stage. They both push me to Do Better Comedy.