URSUS AMERICANUS with Neil Thornton

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

11/03/2015 - 14/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Gay bear. American expat. Aging slacker. In this one-man show, Neil Thornton tells jokes and stories about growing up gay in America and about how he became the married bear he is today. He tackles the irony of homophobia, the humiliation of high school, and the uncharted territory of man-on-man marriage. His comedy is by turns intellectual, bawdy, angry, and insightful, but most of all funny.

“A bold performer with intelligent material. Constantly amusing and thought-provoking.” – ruminator.co.nz

Neil Thornton is a comedian from New York City currently living in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s a regular in Wellington comedy clubs and tours all over New Zealand, opening for performers such as Urzila Carlson, Mike King, Ewen Gilmour and Brendhan Lovegrove. He will be appearing soon on TV3’s “After Hours” comedy special. 

In the United States, Neil performed in clubs and theaters in New York City, Washington D.C., Provincetown, Fire Island, and the Poconos. He was the producer of New York’s first all-bear comedy revue, “Funny. Furry. Fierce.” which sold out three years in a row at NYC’s Urban Bear Weekend, and performed in “MAULED: The Bears of Comedy” at Provincetown Bear Week. 

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St., Te Aro, Wellington 
March 11, 12, 13, 14
Tickets $15 via eventfinda.co.nz ($10 Concession) 

Website: neilthornton.com
Twitter: NeilThorntonNYC
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Neildbearthornton

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,

Claiming his identity with joy

Review by Shannon Friday 12th Mar 2015

This show is so gay.  No, literally – Neil Thornton’s Ursus Americanus is a faux case-study of his journey from young nerd to grown-up, married gay man.  Specifically, the type of gay man known as a bear: a big burly dude with muscle and/or a beer belly and body hair.  And facial hair.  Definitely facial hair.

Not only is the show gay, but it is also really, really good.  Do yourself a favour and go see it.  I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bisexual or trisexual (trying to have sex), this is fun night out. 

Thornton does what so many queer people want to do: answer the sometimes asinine questions that some straight people ask, such as asking a gay couple, “Which one of you is the girl?”  Answer: Neither. That’s the whole fucking point. Or is it the whole point of fucking? 

Oh, yes, fucking.  The show is rather explicit.  Talking about gayness is, to no small extent, talking about sex, but not just sex.  Thornton handles this balance brilliantly, lacing in jokes and throwaways about the act, while earnestly discussing sexual desires and yearnings. 

The questions, instantly familiar to anyone who identifies as queer, serve as setups to personal stories with wry observations, self-depreciating comments, and straight-up (so to speak) jokes.  There’s an accompanying (occasionally temperamental) slideshow with the standard embarrassing high school photos – omigod, all the 80s-tastic-ness! 

There’s no doubt Thornton knows how to tell a story – either by building careful suspense, or with clever callbacks, or a well-timed reference (Lilith Fair! Wilton! Bwah!).

And you HAVE to see his engagement ring.

What grounds Ursus Americanus is how happy and well-adjusted Thornton seems.  Amid a Fringe Festival where there are a number of self-pitying shows about being ‘different’ or how bullying has scarred someone irrevocably (and it can – I don’t mean to downplay the impacts of bullying), it is a delight to see someone rejoicing in their difference and claiming their identity and experiences with joy.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council