Q&A: Pat Thornton, the local comedian who’s performing 24-hours of non-stop stand-up in the name of charity
Tonight comedian Pat Thornton will run a comedy marathon, performing stand-up for 24 non-stop hours at Comedy Bar, all in the name of charity. It’s the fourth year that Thornton has attempted the feat to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation (he raised $14,000 last year; the goal is $24,000 for this year) and he has no plans to stop the charitable, comedic craziness.
We chatted with the comic about Kevin Sorbo, how he gets through the marathon and why he still does it.
How did the idea of doing stand-up for 24 hours come about?
I’ve been doing it for four years. The first year I got solicited on the street from a canvasser from the Stephen Lewis Foundation. We had worked together before on a TV show, so he knew me, and he told me, “You would be perfect for this. Do it at Comedy Bar,” and then they kept calling me. And I was like, “Okay,” and so I thought I should do something. So I was coming up with something with Gary [Rideout Jr., owner of Comedy Bar] and I said, “If I do something, I should do something crazy,” and Gary said, “You should do stand-up for 24 hours,” and the next day, when I was sober, I was like “I am doing this.”
Why is the Stephen Lewis Foundation so important to you?
I looked into a lot of their stuff after I was stopped that first time, and I had heard about them too. I really, really like when Stephen Lewis speaks. He’s a really passionate, intelligent guy, and I want to help him.
Walk us through the evening a bit. You get up onstage with your own material, and then other comics chime in in-person or via Twitter or email, right?
Yeah. I prepare a bunch of stuff. Last year I prepared well over an hour of material, but all of my friends are sitting in the bar, writing jokes for me, so I did 20-25 minutes of my stuff before I felt the audience getting anxious for me to start doing their jokes. It just becomes this crazy, interactive event where people keep bringing up jokes and putting them in a bowl and I pull them out and start to read them. It all becomes really weird and all the jokes start building on each other. We start to create a weird universe.
Like two years ago, the theme was Kevin Sorbo, and then he ended up actually performing at Comedy Bar because of it. What was that like?
That was one of the craziest things that ever happened to me. Gary had been talking about it awhile afterwards how funny it would be to bring Kevin Sorbo to Comedy Bar, and then I guess Sorbo was coming to town for the Fan Expo and Gary called us and booked him with a whole weekend at the bar. He did improv shows and he did Sunday Night Live. He was great. But it was really strange; all of our jokes were about him being poor and eating garbage, and his show was called Kevin’s Garbage Weekend.
When’s the time when you start feeling like, “All right, I’ve had enough?”
I don’t feel I’ve had enough. There’s a certain amount of adrenaline going so if I ever stop for 10 minutes, I would fall asleep or die. I just keep going. It certainly gets harder, but then it gets easier again. It gets kind of hard during the day because there’s less people there and the energy is low. But this year we are doing it on the weekend, so it might be different.
How integral is the Comedy Bar for doing this type of event?
I think it’s really important. First of all, it sort of has its own community, which is what I draw from to do this thing. It’s great that one of my best friends owns the bar, so who else would let me do this and take over their place for 24 hours?
Where do you find the inspiration to keep doing this year after year?
It’s really fun. It sounds crazy, because it’s hard, but I don’t even think about it that much. It’s just a highlight of my year. It’s the craziest, funniest time and everyone has a good time doing it. I’m excited to do it with them.