"Stand-up ruins you for anything else" As he prepares to unleash his brutal comedy on Britain, US stand-up Doug Stanhope reveals his sensitive side.
6th March 2012
‘Is this America’s most depraved man?’ screamed the headline of a leading British magazine about Doug Stanhope, during one of his more controversial assaults on this side of the Atlantic back in 2006. The question wasn’t unjustified: the stock-in-trade of this thrilling, Jägermeister-necking stand-up, who starts a new British tour tonight, is fearless, savage honesty. Hard-hitting topics such as paedophilia, abortion and prostitution frequently fall on his controversial, politically tuned radar. During one tour, he used to ring his mother, who had emphysema, while on stage to check she was still alive.
But at his home in the former mining town of Bisbee, Arizona (population: 6,000), the bleak world view he conjures up on stage feels thousands of miles away. ‘We pick all the colour schemes together – we both like it loud,’ says Stanhope, showing me around the brightly coloured compound buildings he’s spent seven years lovingly painting with his blue-haired girlfriend, Bingo (real name Amy). The riot of yellows, reds and greens feels like an antidepressant. ‘You have to have all this if you work in London a lot, because the city doesn’t have any colours,’ he says. ‘I have great fans in Britain: they get me, they’re challenging and they’re such a brooding, miserable lot of people that I can get along with them. But aesthetically, the city is so f***ing displeasing. I think it might boil down to the cocktails – there’s never ice in them.’
When we meet, it’s the weekend of the Superbowl and his open-house party is the one all the locals mark in the calendar. ‘I have all 32 NFL team helmets,’ says Stanhope (a New England Patriots fan), proudly pointing at a shelf full of them in his specially designed ‘Man Hut’ (the football room). ‘It’s just silly. I love football helmets. I’m the gayest football fan in the world – I really just like the uniforms.’ He lights a roll-up. ‘I don’t even understand the game that much. I played for a year when I was about 12, when the pads weighed more than I did.’
Stanhope has at least 15 regulars who come round every Sunday to watch the NFL season and around 25 more who swing by sporadically (including, once, boxing legend Jake LaMotta, who lives a few blocks away). As the bash gets going, it becomes abundantly clear just how much Stanhope loves being the host with the most: he’s flitting around offering drinks, making introductions and dishing out jumpers for anyone who’s cold.
A story goes round that he’s helping to build a swimming pool for an overweight neighbour who needs exercise. The chap next door, who uses Stanhope’s laundry room, tells me of the cute furry mouse slippers he recently found hidden inside a pile of his freshly laundered clothes. ‘Doug and Bingo are acting like they don’t know anything about it,’ he grins. There’s even a former politician among the throng, who describes Stanhope as ‘the most sensitive, aware host. That’s not very common among people with star status.’
Far from being depraved, Stanhope sounds like he’s the nicest man in the US.
‘You never talk about comedy here,’ says Stanhope, who I’m fast beginning to think should run for town mayor. ‘The local people don’t give a s***. There’s this,’ he says, surveying his genial gathering, ‘then the rest of the time it’s just walking dogs and quiet. Local friends passing through, stopping by and talking about grout work.’
Does his miss it all when he’s away? ‘Yeah,’ says Stanhope. ‘But it’s a good trade-off. I would be dead if I lived where I worked. Or I lived like I work. I’m not coming home and going “JÄGERBOMBS!”’ He never performs in Bisbee. ‘You don’t s*** where you eat,’ he says. ‘Even when I do the same club a few nights in a row, I think: “I’ve got to get out of here, put the shame behind me.”’ That desire to cut and run is exactly why he thinks he’s going to enjoy touring Britain much more than doing an extended run in London, which is what he’s done in the past. ‘On the road, you play a town you’ve never heard of – you know it doesn’t matter,’ says Stanhope, who will probably be writing most of his new material in transit. ‘That’s where your best shows come from – you think, f*** it, let’s go for broke.’
There will be one date in the capital in April, at the 4,000- capacity Hammersmith Apollo. Many fans will be have been sent his way via recommendatory tweets from Ricky Gervais or through his vignettes on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, which he used to do from a trailer park down the road.
‘If the money was all the same I’d never do a venue larger than a 75-seater, where you can control the environment,’ he says. ‘I wouldn’t want to play an arena.’ He wouldn’t want his own TV show, either. ‘I should want one, but I don’t – it’s too permanent,’ says Stanhope emphatically. ‘And it’s a s*** pay off for a lot of work, as opposed to stand-up, where you get immediate gratification. Stand-up ruins you for anything else.’’
The torment of trial by troll Standfirst: Cyberbullying, racist tweets and mockery of the dead - Tim Rayment looks into why even the meek go mad online
Doug Stanhope was perusing The Daily Telegraph when he felt himself growing annoyed. “Hey, listen to this,” the comedian said to his road crew, reading out passages from the newspaper. The crew, not greatly interested, returned to their iPods. So he took to Twitter to find an audience. “Read this cunt Allison Pearson's column,” Stanhope told his 83,000 followers, helpfully providing a link to her article about the right to die. Then he added a public message to the author of the piece: “I just went Christian just to pray you get a fetid ovarian cyst.”
The next day Pearson was with her two children and elderly mother, lost in a world of daffodils and hot cross buns, when a posse from Lord of the Flies paid the family a virtual visit. The strangers seemed to be mostly men, with avatars suggesting an interest in Vikings or war games, and their abuse came so fast that Pearson found herself blocking 50 Twitter users an hour to keep her account fit to be read by the friends of her teenage daughter.
“It's one of those things you see in nature, where killer termites start swarming all over you,” says Pearson, a columnist and author of I Don't Know How She Does It. Among the messages was a tweet from Ilyas Moumane, a young Londoner: “I hope your kids get Tetraplegia and if the do (and I'm PRAYING!) then I would LOVE to see an article from you then, cunt.”
What has the internet done to us? Last week a law student called Joshua Cryer was sentenced to 240 hours of unpaid community work for days of racist abuse directed at Stan Collymore, the radio presenter and former footballer. He was the second student in days to risk his degree, and a criminal record, for a display of online prowess. Swansea University is examining whether Liam Stacey, 21, should remain on his biology course after he tweeted pleasure that Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton Wanderers footballer, had collapsed on the pitch during an FA Cup match (“LOL, FUCK Muamba. He's dead”).
Across Britain, families have been shocked to find that tribute sites set up on Facebook to commemorate their dead relatives are invaded by taunting internet “trolls”. “They've got no right to do that, no right,” says Robert Mullaney, father of an effervescent 15-year-old who hanged himself after a short series of threatening messages on Facebook. The grieving father was bewildered when defaced pictures of his son appeared on a tribute page as part of an online game in which points are awarded for getting a reaction from family members. “The internet should be able to stop them,” says Mullaney.
The footballer Micah Richards left Twitter last month, no longer able to face the racist abuse. Even Stephen Fry deserted his beloved account for a while. When the comedian Stewart Lee spent six months watching his online profile, he found that a third of posts about him were fantasies wishing him violence, including many on mainstream websites such as The Guardian's.
Six years ago, I argued in this newspaper that as human nature does not change, it should come as no surprise if feelings of anger and futility that are denied one outlet find another. To inhibit casual racism, for example, has been right. But it emerges in another guise, often anonymously or from social media accounts under stolen identities. Compress anger into 140 characters, the format of a tweet, and it gains power from short, gynaecological language. When 100 other people join in, the motive might be showing off to the rest of the group. Each makes only a few posts, or even one. But the effect is indistinguishable from bullying.
“Virtual violence has become a massive problem,” says Mike Fisher, founder of the British Association of Anger Management, who is researching whether an addiction to online gaming is a contributor to aggression. “There's absolutely no awareness of any social etiquette to support appropriate and respectful behaviour.”
Why do we abuse strangers so freely? Psychologists cite the usual attributes of new technology. It's impersonal. We do not see the effects of what we say. Because tweeting is instant, we do not always stop to think. In the 1980s we felt safely cocooned from the outside world in our cars and developed road rage. Yet there was still a chance the other driver would stop and get physical. There is no risk of a punch through the computer screen.
For Cary Cooper, an organisational psychologist at Lancaster University, anger against strangers is usually rooted close to home. “You can't take it out on your boss because jobs are insecure,” he says. “You can't deal with your wife because she is a powerful woman. And that is the danger of social media. You can vent your spleen on somebody who is not the real target.”
This might be the underlying story of Pearson's tormentor. When I catch up with Stanhope after a night of stand-up comedy in Stoke-on-Trent, he is unrepentant. He says he is angry about Pearson's “phoney” argument that a man with locked-in syndrome, who can only blink his eyes, should be denied the right to die. He is also angry because, in an earlier column for another newspaper, she had seemed to argue the opposite.
Then, as he talks further, a background tale emerges: after years of emphysema, his frightened mother killed herself with an overdose of morphine. Stanhope was there to say goodbye. She could kill herself. The locked-in man cannot. That's a bit complicated for 140 characters.
“I'm not hurting anyone,” he says of his comedy routine, which now includes a diatribe against Pearson. “If I was hurting someone weak, I'd be aware of it.” Of internet abuse, he says: “People get so protective about their kids. It's an easy way to fuck with somebody online. And I'm really good at fucking with someone. But I didn't want to do that [with Pearson] because what she wrote stands on its own.” In other words, he considers that by wishing her an ovarian cyst he sportingly played the ball, not the person.
One of his Twitter followers goes further. How can you take all this seriously, asks Moumane, the Londoner who wished paralysis on Pearson's children. “I urge you to go outside and get some sun. It's only Twitter.”
Cooper, the psychologist, says: “I'm on Twitter and I'm stunned by some of the things people are prepared to say. When you're eyeball to eyeball with somebody, you don't hurt them the same.”
This is true. When Joanna Geary, now The Guardian's digital development editor, was a journalist on The Birmingham Post, she invited an aggressive pseudonymous contributor into the newspaper's offices for a tour. Behind the fearsome “Clifford” was Richard Morris, a polite, erudite, pasty and bespectacled middle-aged man who felt passionate about local news. He had no idea he had made Geary nervous.
“I was surprised because I don't think of myself as particularly scary,” he told her. “It certainly made me realist that some of the posts I've put up have probably been unnecessarily combative.” He now posts politely, if robustly, under his real name.
By strict definition, a troll is someone who deliberately disrupts online commentary with assaults on other contributors or by repeatedly taking threads away from the topic. But it has become shorthand for all forms of internet abuse. Some trolling is so sophisticated it is hard to tell if the sentiments are real. One troll logged on to a forum for teenagers run by Christian fundamentalist; he entertained himself with what, in another context, would be theology.
“I once succeeded in making a particularly odious mod [online moderator] offer up penance for watching Herbie Fully Loaded because I claimed that a car with a mind of its own was blasphemous,” he wrote. It might seem a modest victory, but we were all young once.
More serious is Sean Duffy, an unemployed 25-year-old with Asperger's syndrome who live a “miserable existence” drinking alcohol alone at his home in Reading. He was jailed for 18 weeks for online message and videos that mocked the deaths of teenagers. Four days after Natasha MacBryde, 15, was hit by a train in Worcestershire, he created a YouTube video called Tasha the Tank Engine featuring her face superimposed on a locomotive. “You have caused untold distress to already grieving friends and family,” said Paul Warren, the magistrate who passed sentence.
Should people get a criminal record for less extreme abuse? Britain is using the courts to seek a balance between free speech (which has no constitutional protection, as it does in America) and the rights of the individual, left exposed by a lack of etiquette and empathy online. Cryer, who had posted tweets racially abusing Collymore, was prosecuted under section 127 of the Communications Act for sending grossly offensive messages.
Even in America, freedom of expression is not an absolute. “This kind of speech is almost hate speech, which under American law is afforded the least protection,” says Athalie Matthews, a solicitor at Bindmans who specialises in media law. “Social networking sites have to take robust measures to enforce their terms and conditions, to ban people and throw them off. I've seen some very sick groups on Facebook and [people] had to go through a Kafkaesque bureaucracy to try to get them taken down. There needs to be a lot more protection.”
This is not just an English-speaking phenomenon. In France, celebrities have been targeted by internet users who set up fake Twitter accounts or websites in their names. One victim was a terminally ill French film star. Antoine Cheron, a French lawyer, says a usurper created an internet site, falsely described as the actress's official page, and then pretended to be her and sent messages to fans when the star was in hospital.
The law has responded forcefully. Usurping an individual's identity carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and fine of €20,000 (£16,700), and last October – in the first such case in France – a judge sentenced a 19-year-old to three months in prison and a €12,000 fine for insulting on his Facebook page police officers who had arrested him a year earlier when he was drunk.
Some think it is high time to send a message that Britain expects at least a little empathy and respect, too. “It's time to stand up to them,” says Richard Bacon, a BBC radio presenter whose most serious online stalker went from criticising his work to fantasising about his death and insulting his wife and infant son. They know their fellow trolls are watching. You can abuse someone in front of an audience and that's why, in the end, it is bullying. It's time to expose them or, if you're the victim, go to the police.”
After wondering for months if he was taking this too seriously, he has followed his own advice and reported his troll to the police. Allison Pearson is right behind him. “We're in this uncharted terrain, aren't we?” she says. “If a guy in the street came up and said the things they said to me, they would be arrested. As somebody said, it makes you nostalgic for the green-ink brigade.”
Wow! I love this thread. Thanks for all of the links. I would love to encourage anymore unofficial mp3 uploads if that is possible. To repay some I uploaded a decent little Doug Stanhope bootleg for you. I'm pretty sure it was not included here. Enjoy.
An Act Built for Misery
14 September 2012
If you read the praise bestowed on him by critics and contemporaries in Great Britain, you might imagine that Doug Stanhope is less a stand-up comedian than a stand-up deity. The UK’s daily newspaper the Guardian, for example, had this to say: “Stanhope shocks you with the virulence of his lucidity; he shocks you into realizing how transparent the confidence trick of Western propaganda can be made to seem. What he has in abundance is the charm, don’t-give-a-damn swagger, and aggressive intelligence that make for important, exciting comedy.” Iconic British comedian Ricky Gervais, meanwhile, offered this tweet to the world: “Doug Stanhope might be the most important stand-up working today.”
So how does the American Stanhope, who makes frequent tour stops in England and Scotland, feel about spending time abroad? “I hate it,” says the 45-year-old comedian during a recent phone interview. “It’s not good at all. I mean, I have a great fan base over there, but I just hate the day-to-day of being there. It’s so ... depressing. Like, I get seriously depressed, and I don’t want to do comedy ever again, anywhere.
“It’s just ... it’s every little thing,” he continues, becoming more agitated – and funnier – by the second. “It’s cramped. It’s claustrophobic. It’s gray. It’s ugly. Everything sucks. The food is terrible. Everything’s wicked overpriced. The rooms are tiny. The elevators are tiny. It’s just this stone and moss and gray and gloom ... . There’s no color, no one’s happy ... .”
Then it sounds, I tell him, like audiences need his comedy across the pond. “Exactly!” Stanhope exclaims. “That’s why I go over there. They’re a dismal people, and I have an act built for misery.”
As evidenced by the comedian’s dark, acidic, frequently venomous routines on everything from nationalism to Sarah Palin to child pornography, he also has an act built to surprise, and offend, and, for many, many of us, make you laugh like few others can. With his 10 comedy albums, 5 DVDs, numerous TV appearances – including a memorable role as a suicidal comic in a season-two episode of Louie – and corrosive live performances that were twice named “Best Stand-Up Show of the Year” by Time Out New York, Stanhope is a singular, unmistakable voice in American comedy, one that will be heard locally when his “Big Stink Comedy Tour” lands at RIBCO on September 28.
And if the Rock Island nightspot seems an odd place for Stanhope to be performing, a tavern venue should actually suit its guest just fine. As the man says of his stand-up performances, “I go up and I have cocktails and I get half-hammered and yell at people and tell them to go f--- themselves for an hour. I mean, there’s nothing that beats it.”
Though now based in Bisbee, Arizona, Stanhope says he began his career in professional comedy in Nevada. “I was 23 and I lived in Vegas,” he says, “and it was back in the day when stand-up was still on prime time ... . I think I did six open-mics in my second week of comedy – there was that much comedy in a town that, you know, didn’t really have much to offer.”
Though Stanhope admits that “my memories of being young are suspect,” he says he does recall his first stand-up performance. “I went to the same open-mic every week, always threatening to go up [on stage] the next week, and I finally decided to sit down and try to write four or five minutes of jerk-off jokes. I actually just went through some old notebooks, and I have my first set ever written out where I even wrote down, ‘Hi, my name is Doug Stanhope.’ Like, I wrote that part out.
“If I thought about it now,” he says of his comedy debut, “I’m sure I’d be hiding under a couch in shame. But comics are very supportive, for the most part, and your first time, everyone’s behind you. So it went great. It’s harder the second time, when you repeat the same material and realize the audience is mostly the same comics that were there the last time.”
Stuck in a day job practicing what he calls “bordlerine-fraud telemarketing” (before amending his statement with “It was fraud”), Stanhope says his segue into full-time professional comedy “just happened. I was living a pretty transient, vagabond lifestyle anyway, so I was already custom-built for making that transition to the road. I didn’t have a kid, and I didn’t have a $45,000 job with Procter & Gamble that I had to debate – you know, ‘What is my wife gonna say ... ?’ I could just go.
“I did well enough,” he continues, “that six months in I got a job as a house emcee down at a club in Phoenix, and that’s where I got to meet working comics and get connections to get booked into shitty one-night-ers. And then I got in my car in ’92 and lived on the road for three years. And had a f---in’ blast.
He laughs. “I mean, there’s no money, and they weren’t prestigious gigs. But you’re out getting laid at bars where, generally, no one would even talk to you. If you had time off, you’d find a friend, or you stayed on some comic’s couch, or you tried to find a fat girl who had a soft heart and a soft pillow. And you got to drive around some of the most beautiful country in the world. Montana and Wyoming, and all these places you’d never see otherwise. It was fantastic.
“And there was no pressure. Like, I really miss the no-pressure part of it. No one goes to the f---in’ Red Lion Lounge in Gray Bull, Wyoming, expecting you to f---in’ blow the roof off the place.”
As the years went on, though, Stanhope’s acerbic, intelligent, rudely hilarious routines began to stir greater and greater interest and awareness. He began performing at renowned comedy festivals in Canada, Scotland, and the United States – winning 1995’s three-week San Francisco International Comedy Competition over rival Dane Cook – and eventually released the first of his comedy CDs with 1998’s The Great White Stanhope.
“I was just happy to be doing it, you know?” he says of his comedy successes in the ’90s. “At first, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m gonna get my first paid gig, and it’s gonna be $15!’ Then you get that, and someone says, ‘Hey, do you wanna go do a weekend in Flagstaff?’ And you’re like, ‘Holy shit!’ So yeah, I just remember being happy to get what they were offering, and the next thing you know you’re making a living out of it.”
Over the past 12 years, Stanhope has made occasional forays into mainstream show business, co-hosting the last season of Comedy Central’s The Man Show and participating in an installment of the DVD series Girls Gone Wild – gigs that he’s described as “piles of shit I accidentally stepped in.”
But he also was one of the many comedians featured in the 2005 comedy documentary The Aristocrats (seen telling the titular dirty joke to an infant) and enjoyed a 2010 stint as the “Voice of America” correspondent on BBC TV’s Newswipe with Charlie Brooker, and has become a familiar presence through his appearances on Comedy Central Presents, Premium Blend, and Howard Stern’s radio and TV shows.
Plus, last year, he earned a whole new slew of admirers – yours truly included – for his biting, heartbreaking performance as Eddie Mack on the Louis C.K. comedy series Louie, a role that found Stanhope portraying a bitter, alcoholic comedian who casually reveals his plans to kill himself.
“I’ve known him for a dozen years,” says Stanhope of C.K. “I mean, I’ve known him from comedy. We don’t talk or anything. But yeah, he just called me up and said he’d written a part with my voice in mind, and I tried to talk my way out of it. I told him, ‘Listen, I suck at acting. I’m terrible.’ And he goes, ‘Well, would you want to do it?’ And I go, ‘I’ll try it, but just for full disclosure, I’m a shitty actor.’
“So he says, ‘Well, we’ll just go through it,’ and we went through the script on Skype, and he said, ‘Let’s do it again in a couple days. Try doing this a little different, and just take this that way ... .’ A couple of pointers. And he didn’t call back. It was like two weeks. And I’m like, ‘What a prick! I told him I was terrible, and he doesn’t even have the decency to call and tell me that I suck!’”
Laughing, Stanhope continues, “But then I realized I had a Howard Stern appearance booked, and I go, ‘Now that I’ve memorized all the dialogue for nothing, what I’m gonna do is insinuate all this dialogue into a Stern interview – just sneak it in word for word. So when he [C.K.] finally casts someone else to play this part months later, it’s gonna look like he stole the entire episode from my interview with Stern.’ And then, of course, when I’m all excited about that, he calls and says, ‘Yeah, you’ve got the part.’ And I was like, ‘Aw, f---. I liked my idea better.’”
Despite the praise his Louie performance received, though, don’t expect Stanhope to make the leap into full-time acting work any time soon. “No, no, no,” he replies when asked if other television or film gigs are on his horizon. “I’m glad to quit while I’m ahead.”
Besides, TV engagements take time away from stand-up, which is clearly the performance mode Stanhope prefers. (And not just for the rush of performing live, as the comedian says of his Louie gig, “That was three days of filming to make, like, half of what I’ll make in Des Moines. Three long days.”)
“I’ve done a few years just flying to gigs where you get in and you might as well have your jokes in a briefcase,” Stanhope says. “You fly in, and you get a car to the gig, you tell your jokes, you get to the hotel, and you have a 6 a.m. flight the next day. And it’s way too business-y.
“But what we’re doing now,” he says of the “Big Stink Comedy Tour” he’s currently traveling with, “is instead of flying, we get in a van. You know, it’s just a couple friends of mine, comedians, that’ll be on the same bill – Geoff Tale and Brett Erickson, who are f---ing brilliant comics. And there’s my girlfriend, and my buddy who’s tour-managing, who does all the driving and deals with the merch and the business ... . We just get to f--- off, just like the old days.”
Stanhope also gets to continue honing material for a new CD that he’s hoping to record in February, though he admits that – as Chris Rock expressed in a recent New York Times interview – it’s become harder and harder to shape polished routines when audiences now routinely film the performance of unpolished material at comedy sets, and post the works-in-progress online. “Of course, it’s way harder for Chris Rock,” says Stanhope, “which is one of the reasons I enjoy obscurity.”
But he does have a solution to the problem. “I don’t know if someone’s done this or it was my idea when I was drunk or I heard it from someone else, but it’s a brilliant idea. Just make the backdrop of all your sets f---in’ giant vaginas and penises and penetration. ‘Cause that way, if someone films you and puts it on YouTube, it’ll be taken down immediately.” Laughing, he says, “Just a whole backdrop of porn would work for me because of my act and my audience. Not so much for, like, Judy Tenuda, maybe.”
Beyond his stand-up rotuines, Stanhope is known – and, among certain circles, adored – for being a strong proponent of the Libertarian party, and he famously threatened to run in the 2008 presidential campaign. “I thought the run could be fun,” he says, “because it would’ve been futile, and because when I decided to do it Libertarian, I thought, ‘You know, their field is weak enough that we could actually, maybe, get on the ticket, and that would be hilarious. We could actually become their nominee just because they had no one else.’
“But then,” he continues, “when I got into the nuts and bolts it was just so nightmarish and un-fun that I quit, and it was one of the best days I’ve ever had. I was like, ‘I don’t have to put up with this shit! I was doing this as a joke and now I’ve spent months, like, studying stuff, and f---in’ paperwork, and trying to follow all these guidelines ... . F--- this.’ “There are times where you have a bit that’s seven minutes long, and you’re three minutes in, and it’s dying on its ass, and you can’t bail out of it. But that was a bit that was four months long that wasn’t funny the whole time.”
And beyond his stand-up routines and his politics, Stanhope is also famous (or perhaps notorious) for the level of vitriol occasionally directed at him by hecklers ... and his equally vitriolic yet riotous responses to them.
“I’ll never encourage it,” says Stanhope of verbal assaults from audience members, “but yeah, there are some times when I’ve had fun with it. Sometimes, when I’m just bored with saying the same shit, it’s refreshing.” And, sometimes, hilarious even to Stanhope. “I had some bit in Glasgow, Scotland, this spring,” he says, laughing even before recounting the story. “It was a big theatre, and I pulled out my notes at one point – it was kind of a planned thing – and I said something about how I come up with a lot of ideas over there, but then I don’t know if they’re gonna translate. So I looked at my notes and said, ‘Like this one for instance: Do you guys dream over here? Like, at night? When you’re sleeping? Or is that just an American thing?’”
Laughing again, he continues, “And most people got it. But some fucking guy in the highest balcony is just going ape-shit, in that thick Scottish brogue, ‘You’re a fuckin’ wanker!!! Of course we fuckin’ dream over here!!!” Stanhope pauses for about 10 seconds while he tries (and I try) to stop laughing, and says, “It was just so brilliant. For him to be so out-of-place with everyone else, and to take it so seriously ... . Yeah, that was fun, and it provided a great callback for my closer that I had worked out. But it wasn’t by design. It was just, ‘Oh, that was great that you were so f---ing stupid!’”
Still, the comedian says that in general, those who want to be vocally confrontational with him “don’t come to my shows. Most people are on my side. If anything, they fight with each other. ‘Cause I do have such a diverse audience. I get some pretty straight-laced libertarians that’ll show up, and then my frat guys that’re way drunk will be beside them, and they all hate each other ... “You know, I’m just trying to build some unity. Like a kindergarten teacher. ‘Okay, everyone, we’re gonna get along tonight.’ And then they do.”
In addition to unity, Stanhope’s RIBCO set will find him building on his reputation for bracing, thoughtful, and riotous social commentary of the type he's mastered even in a 140-character-or-less format. (Among his pointed Twitter.com/DougStanhope comments are “You never hear in the news 'Two hundred killed today when atheist rebels took heavy shelling from the agnostic stronghold in the north,'” and “'I'm against abortion except in cases of rape'... that's like saying, 'Yes, a fetus is a human being, unless his dad is an asshole.'”)
But while Stanhope's local audience can expect impassioned rants on ineffectual politicians, the drug-legalization dispute, and any number of topics that routinely raise his blood pressure, there should also be an ample supply of potentially off-putting crudeness, considering that the comedian readily admits, “I like dumb dick jokes and fart jokes.” Stanhope, however, adds that it’s become tough to truly shock a modern stand-up crowd.
“In fact,” says the comedian, “nowadays, the taboo topics, it seems, are almost hackneyed because everyone’s decided to go to the darker places, and are kind of beating them up. There’s nothing off-limits left, and I’ve said everything about all the touchy subjects that I’m passionate about.”
So how does Stanhope continue to keep his audiences on their toes?
“Oh,” he says with a laugh, “I tend to come up with stuff.”
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