Comic uses sharp opinions to wake up a ‘dull' generation Laura Blackley
August 14, 2009
Doug Stanhope is a guy with no shortage of opinions. He'd just as easily fit into the role of the outspoken fellow at the local bar as he would an internationally known stand-up comic. As the latter, though, he launches into caustic rants and tirades onstage and takes no prisoners, tackling touchy social issues like abortion, addiction and religion, to name a few. No matter your political leanings, Stanhope is sure to offend in one breath, and inspire howls of laughter in the next. take5 spoke with Stanhope recently.
Question: You talk about live performance being where the energy is. What is it about performing that creates this?
Answer: (Live stand-up comedy) is the last true freedom of speech. Have you ever tried to watch stand-up on YouTube? It just doesn't have the same punch. Even when I've done shows on cable TV, it's still edited and watered down. When the waitress drops the tray of drinks in the front row or the drunks start getting rowdy (during your set), that stuff doesn't happen anywhere else (but during a live show).
Q: Do you draw from real-life experiences when writing your material?
A: Real life is all I draw from. I don't have any imagination left. When I started out, I used to sit down and actually write out jokes, but now I live a weird enough life and hang out with really funny people. Most of my influences are people that I've known, rather than, say, a George Carlin or Andrew “Dice” Clay.
Q: You've been called “Possibly America's Most Deranged Man.” Why is this?
A: Because of sensationalistic journalism. I mean, hey, I'm no Keith Richards, and it really says a lot about this generation if I'm the guy they're calling the most deranged. We live in such a Mormon state of being where everyone's taking Xanax, and it's just dull. This generation is that dull.
Q: If you could change one thing about this generation, what would it be?
A: If I could change one thing about the generation of today, I'd make them older. There's no fire left, everything just seems so mundane. Everybody's walking around with a camera-phone in their faces, filming their entire lives, to watch, when? It's not inspiring, nobody's doing anything groundbreaking, just filming themselves and texting each other.
Q: You do the grumpy older guy thing a good bit during your show. Where does that come from?
A: I've been doing the grumpy older guy thing since I was in my 20s. What I can only hope for now is that people will actually listen and buy it and think that I have some depth.
Q : They say that stand-up comedy is one of the hardest jobs out there. What do you say to this?
A: That's not true. I wouldn't do it if that were true. I don't do hard work. I mean, a fireman doesn't rush into a burning building because he's as terrified of fire as you are. He does it for the adrenaline rush. It's the same with me. Stand-up is only hard work if you're not funny.
Shock Tactics: Doug Stanhope By Eamon Sweeney
Friday October 02 2009
Doug Stanhope was once memorably called "a poet of articulate disgust unleashing fireballs of comedy from the hell of his imagination". Other critics have been a lot more blunt, labelling him a misanthrope, a misogynist and a drunk.
One publication asked in 2006: "Is this America's most depraved man?" In the summer of that year, Stanhope made an infamous 10-minute appearance at Kilkenny Cat Laughs festival. At what has since been called Stanhopegate, he told the Kilkenny audience that it was little wonder that men here slept with children because, as a tabloid newspaper reported it, "Irish women are too ugly to rape. Comic booed after shocking festival jibe."
Stanhope is unrepentant. "The only thing I found shocking is that the tabloids are such easy bait," he says. "Some guy you've never heard of said something you won't like. It's ridiculous. I always have shows like that when I'm improperly booked because it's a niche genre of comedy.
"If one-in-10 people who go to a comedy club enjoy what I do, I can make a nice living from that, so long as I can cull them from the other nine people who will vocally hate me. If you want to put me on a mixed bill, problems will probably arise. They pulled me off mixed bills [at Kilkenny] and put on extra one-man shows. We sold them all out. I'd like to say I've a vivid memory of the week, but I don't."
It's no surprise that he can't recall the incident in detail. A few weeks after Kilkenny, Stanhope took an ecstasy tablet given to him by a member of the audience at an Edinburgh show being filmed for the BBC. "Oh, I've taken every drug while performing," he says nonchalantly. "I took it to sober up a bit. I don't remember much of the night, but I've seen some clips and I think I pulled it off."
He adds: "Mushrooms have never been a good idea. You go, "Well, this setting is different and I know all these people." No. It's always a fucking bad idea. Hallucinogens have never worked. Cocaine is the best. It can make your brain go faster than your tongue can keep up, but if there is a drug that's stage friendly that's it, aside from alcohol in the right doses, of course.
"I'm terrible at smoking pot, so the few times I've been onstage on pot were as horrifying as not being onstage on pot. I'm not a good smoker. I weird out and get paranoid. Ecstasy is not bad, but it makes you very happy, and when you're an angry act its counterintuitive: 'Everything sucks but I can't help smiling. We're all doomed, but, Jesus, this grin won't come off my face.'"
Stanhope hasn't mellowed. On September 11, 2008, he launched a campaign to raise money to pay for an abortion for Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. "We set up a website and the funds went to Planned Parenthood," he explains. "I paid for at least one abortion myself." Does he have any qualms about this? "No, absolutely not," he answers. "If there's any major passion I have, it's over-population.
"Whatever unpopular or calloused point of view I have, I can always find someone who wants money for it. I'm bombarded by requests for money from pro-choice and atheist groups, as I'm also a loud atheist. It's not even a cause, it's a theory -- who are you kidding?"
Unsurprisingly, there was a heated reaction. "Oh yeah, I got email death threats," he shrugs. "I got one on MySpace. They should at least have changed their picture to something more intimidating, but it was some guy all goofy in a leprechaun's hat on St Patrick's Day. He might as well write his death threat on a children's birthday card with a big cuddly bear on it and a balloon in its hand.
"Half my estate is going to Planned Parenthood, so if any pro-life zealot wants to kill me, he's just going to pay for a giant abortion spree as soon as they get my money. Death threats are the third most popular thing on the internet after porn and gambling."
A few weeks ago, Stanhope performed yet another controversial routine at the comedy stage at Leeds Festival. "I was playing to 19-year-old kids who'd been sleeping in mud puddles and they're only in the comedy tent because they're trying to get out of the rain as they wait for their band to tune up," he says. "I opened up thrashing them about the Royal Family and it set the tone. Once you get that many people out of control, there's nothing to do except dance on it.
"I don't have an act built for these kinds of events. Every now and then my manager doesn't give a fuck. It's different when months beforehand you're talking about it in theory; when you're just answering a number you're manager is throwing out at you on the phone. Then you get there and go, 'I knew this was going to suck. I'd forgotten how much.' I don't need the money for people to throw fruit at me."
Doug hesitates when asked about his all-time worst gig. "There was one really bad one early on in my career at an air force base in Korea to an all-black audience following a Def Jam comedy act that they thought was supposed to be the headliner," he answers. "Then I came out with my mullet and the microphone didn't work. It lasted about six or seven or minutes until the promoter gave me the throat-slashing 'get off the stage' sign."
He adds: "I've had them shut down the sound and turn off the lights at other places. I was booked into Ohio University as part of a Comedy Central tour. For some reason, it was listed under family friendly events for parents' week, when all the parents come with the freshman students. 600 people or something walked out, but it's their fault. They fucked up the booking."
As the airwaves finally cool in the wake of the Tommy Tiernan-Electric Picnic controversy, I ask him whether he heard about the furore. "No. Did he die?" he asks at the mention of the Irish comedian's name. Eh, not quite. The old chestnut about freedom of expression and comedy reared its head again. "It's just cyclical," he says. "Looking at it after 20 years or so, you just know this kind of thing will happen again and again. It won't be a big deal anymore and then it'll happen again. I don't care. The tabloids get good fishing. You just go through your notebook and say, 'What fucked up thing can I say that they can bite on like a pitbull?'
"The Nazis get a lot of coverage. I don't think you can be called a proper politician until you get compared to Hitler. If they haven't put a Hitler moustache on your picture on a placard at a protest, then you haven't made it. Even Obama is getting it over healthcare, which is really stretching it. Anyway, you can print the headline, "Doug Stanhope challenges Tommy Tiernan to Jew-killing contest."
Doug Stanhope plays the Button Factory, Dublin (€21.50) tonight and the Radisson, Galway (€20/€22.50) tomorrow
Interview: Doug Stanhope talks comedy clubs, Twitter and gauging success in this crazy business
The last time I saw Doug Stanhope, he was running up to me to give me a sloppy drunken hug and kiss at Montreal's Just For Laughs Festival in July. No, Stanhope wasn't in the fest. He was booking his own "Just For Spite" shows down the street. So imagine my surprise (and also lack thereof) when I saw Stanhope listed on the bill this weekend at Comix comedy club here in New York City. I called him at his Arizona home near the Mexican border to talk about that, his use of Twitter, and whether he's as satisfied with his career as Jeff Dunham is right now. Are you imagining the fun times yet? Read on, my friends! It's my new interview with Doug Stanhope...
This seems like a rare treat, seeing you in a mainstream comedy club, since you've been booking yourself in dive bars and rock clubs mostly the past few years. What's the scoop? "I'm trying do some more comedy clubs, just because it stops my audience people from inbreeding. People who would never walk into the Highline Ballroom would never step into Comix," he said. "And doing that many shows in a row keeps me fresh."
Speaking of which, how about that YouTube promo you shot for Comix?! Roll the clip! (Of course there will be plenty of profanity contained therein, so it's NSFW -- just look at the label!)
"A lot of this stuff is sprung on me last-minute by my manager," Stanhope says, laughing. "He knows I'll go along with whatever the stupid idea is. I can be somewhat difficult to manage. Things I think are fantastically funny and things to do at night are reprehensible to people the next day. If comedy clubs switched to morning radio shows, I would be a different comic altogether. I would be more of a Richard Lewis -- all manic and terrified, all annoying and sullen."
Really? "That morning radio. That's something you could hide behind. I could do morning radio without drinking. It allows you to talk. It doesn't demand you to give punchlines every couple of minutes. My audience is like Trekkies and sex offenders. They have no patience for you to get to punchlines."
So was it planned for you to perform here the week of the New York Comedy Festival, like you did during Montreal? "Coincidence. I think they were trying to market against it, but I'm not a marekting guy. I don't know anything about the festival." Not that he doesn't have an opinion about New York City hosting a comedy festival.
"It just seems redundant to me. When any given Thursday, you can shuffle into the (Comedy) Cellar and see five of the best comics working today and working out shit. It just doesn't make sense to me. And I'd much rather see someone working out shit at Carolines, that could go any fucking way any night...in the clubs, you stlll have that treat of people shuffling in and not knowing what they're in for, whether they're celebrating a retirement or a bachelorette party. I miss that chaos sometimes. Absolute fucking outrage. I've been preaching to the choir for so many years. Whittling down the audience. I can't stand to have the audience agree with me, so I'm starting this gay-pride/white-power movement. Keep bifurcating my audience a little."
Bifurcating? Not many comedians will just drop a word like bifurcating into an interview? "That's one of 22 that I can pull out of my ass based on my false intellect."
Is that why you're also on Twitter (@DougStanhope)? "Twitter I like, because, I don't know, if people do respond to it, I don't know. All I know is I don't have to deal with people. If I take a couple of Xanax and am in a blackout state, I can toss 140 characters out to the world. It challenges you to come up with a joke. Sometimes I have something great and then I think, why would I put this on Twitter? I need to say this in a club!" "I don't know why anyone else would do it? People who don't have to keep up a fan base or promote a show. I don't know why you guys would be on Twitter -- and how does it work? You can get this on your phone?"
Yes, if you want to. "Every time J.Lo has a bowel movement it can come up on your phone? That would rack up the charges. I still have a TracFone where it takes you four buttons to make a text." "But it beats getting up to do morning radio to get an audience. I'd rather throw a few status updates on Facebook and Twitter, than get up and do the 'Morning Zoo' crew on St. Louis or wherever."
Are you satisfied with your career at this point? "I don't know where I'm at. Financially, it's as good as it's ever been. But I don't know what to do next. Should I start killing fat kids on stage? Maybe I should do a mushroom intervention on myself."
Jeff Dunham said about the same thing, apparently, before he became huge -- thinking his career had stalled around 2003. "I thought the same thing. I thought his career had died in 1989. I thought it had rnoved out to casinos and corporate gigs. Out of all the people, he is definitely the most surprising. It's like Pablo Francisco in Sweden. He's huge. I mean, no offense to Pablo. He's a friend of mine. But of all the people to be famous in stand-up, he's doing a 22-city stand-up tour in Sweden. I didn't know there were 22 cities IN Sweden?! At least that Pablo thing makes sense. English as a second-language country makes sense. But Dunham. They're not talking people into thinking puppets are funny. There's something deeper wrong in the well. You can't chalk this up to PR or something. Jalapeno on a stick?"
Well, they do have the same management with Levity (Pablo Francisco, Jeff Dunham) and Judi Brown-Marmel. "Hmmm"
Are you happy, though? "I'm happy with exactly where I am on the grey stand-up margins of society. You don't need to be huge...It's one of those things. If you are huge, you need to second-guess what you're doing. I'd much rather be marginalized than be any of those fucking goofball acts. I'm not saying there's no room for them. It just makes you scared for humanity and feeling very, very alone on this planet."
Maybe that makes you even more vital now. "I'd much rather be a boring, mediocre artist and have more people be like me."
What about being more different? "I wish more people were into the shit that I were into. You don't want to be different. I want to be able to plug my iPod into a party and go more than two songs before people start leaving. Yes, that is the theme song to the NFL. I like it. Sometimes you wish you weren't the only one fucking laughing."
Is that how you feel living in southern Arizona? "I love it for what it is. But I think I'm going to make it part-time. There's no spark here. There's no creativity here. There's no fucking jokes being made. They're turquoise belt-buckle people here. There's no help developing a good fist-fuck joke on these people here." When he stays home, he says, "You do that for two or three months when you're taking down time, you just become fat. You learn why Middle America is the way it is. You learn why Wal-Mart becomes a part of the daily entertainment fabric of people's lives. I want to spend more of my off-time in Austin and other places. You know, get onstage, when it's not just workout shit, I can just think in that capacity. When you don't deal with people on a regular basis you forget why you developed...being funny serves a purpose socially, that's why you developed that. You wanted to fit in. You weren't a socially adept person. You weren't good looking, so that was your plumage...but you (the general you) don't need to be funny. It doesn't translate to the $32 dicks coming out to Comix."
Doug Stanhope joins Newswipe Charlie Brooker series returns next year
Controversial American stand-up Doug Stanhope is to join the team of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe. BBC Four has ordered a second six-part series to air in January, promising an ‘impudent’ way news is presented to the public. Stanhope will be the programme’s US correspondent, covering ‘those stories that are driving him bonkers’, while journalists including Marina Hyde, Adam Curtis and Peter Oborne will also contribute.
Charlie Brooker says: ‘The return of Newswipe is both exciting and daunting, because it nearly killed me last time. Maybe this time it'll finish the job. It’s hard to say precisely what we'll be featuring, because I can’t predict the future, but hopefully we won't be picking apart coverage of either an intercontinental nuclear war or a global ebola outbreak. Whatever happens, we'll be staring at it with amusement and horror.’
GQ magazine once branded Stanhope ‘America’s most depraved man’, and his TV appearances in the UK have so far been limited to a Channel 4 Comedy Lab on immigration entitled Doug Stanhope: Go Home, an appearance on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, and a set on BBC Two's Live Floor Show, which he said he performed on ecstasy.
Master baiter Doug Stanhope's just screwing with you. Maybe.
By Jeremy Martin
Doug Stanhope hides his appeals to human reason and antiauthoritarian rallying behind X-rated humor, so the comparisons to Bill Hicks come almost automatically. But where Hicks famously compared his own progressive act to “Chomsky with dick jokes,” Stanhope comes closer to a combination of Murray Rothbard and William S. Burroughs: Mistrust and hatred of government (Stanhope eventually endorsed Obama, but not before considering running himself as a Libertarian) that stems from a mistrust and hatred of people in general (when I give him a list of words writers have used to describe his act — “cynical,” “misanthropic,” “miserablist” — he responds, “I’m fine with all of those”). This most often expresses itself in transgressive, grotesque descriptions of sex and violence. In short: He’s created a website offering Bristol Palin $25,000 to get an abortion and move out, posed online as a 12-year-old girl to lure a would-be pedophile into nightmarish cybersex (but only after the perv analyzed the symbolism in Huckleberry Finn), and one-upped everybody, including Bob Saget and George Carlin, in the gross-out-contest doc The Aristocrats, with a version of the joke he relayed to an infant.
So this is your first time playing San Antonio?
I was booked there years ago, but I got fired before I even showed up. The same people that owned Cap City Comedy Club owned the place. I ended up getting naked onstage in Austin, so I got not only fired from there but all my other dates with Rich Miller, the guy that booked for them.
So you’re playing more rock clubs now?
I’ve been doing that the last few years pretty much primarily. It’s more intense. It’s more of a feeling of chaos, that anything can go wrong at any moment. … There’s no crying bachelorette parties storming out because they got 20 free passes to see whomever was there. It’s a whole different kind of scary element. I have some pretty fucked-up fans. I mean, there’s a lot of normal people that come to the shows, but there’s a handful that are, like, serious dangers to themselves or others. It’s really weird to have kind of stalkery fans when you’re not even famous. I think I’m up to five people who have tattoos of me, and one of them is the most grotesque, awful [laughs], and it’s the guy’s whole back of his calf and it looks awful; it doesn’t look like me at all. … He has Rodney Dangerfield on one leg and me on the other. That doesn’t explain [the tattoo of me] any more.
Does having more fans there change the dynamic of your show?
There’s less people walking out, but there’s more chicks standing in the front with their tits out waiting for you to notice, or a guy that’s so drunk that he’s bringing me drugs onstage while I’m onstage and trying to make a subtle heavy-handed handshake in the middle of a fucking spotlight. This was at the Varsity Theater in Minnesota. I go, “No, dude, this is probably not the time.” And he goes “It’s not pot!” On one of those old DVDs I did a bit where I go, “Everyone wants to give me a heavy-handed handshake, but they always give me pot, as much as I talk about the fact that I don’t smoke pot. Potheads don’t remember. If anyone wants to trade out for pot after the show for a different kind of drug, someone just gave me a lot of pot.” So this guy just kept quoting back to me, “It’s not pot!” That’s not the point. It makes it worse.
So you get that and the fucking drunken idiots — the stuff I kind of encourage on some level. If it happens to the extent that it doesn’t completely fuck up the show and the material, that’s the whole point of going to live shit — not to just sit there with your fucking legs crossed and order your minimum and some jalapeño poppers and go see fucking Gabriel Iglesias again.
Do you feel like you thrive off that antagonism?
Yeah, definitely. That’s the hardest thing to keep going into towards 20 years in the business — just trying to muster up that fight when inside you’re all happy, in a good mood in the green room, and you’re like, “Oh shit I’ve got a show to do. I can’t be enjoying my life. There can be no upside.”
Do you think you’ve ever had someone going in expecting a typical Jerry Seinfeld knock-off or something, and you’ve changed their perspective, or do you think you just piss them off?
I’m sure the numbers aren’t in my favor, but yeah, there’s been a lot of people that — that’s where I got the draw from. I did my first 15 years doing comedy clubs. I was culling some out of that herd, and those are the people I have today.
[But] as you get older you realize, “Nope. Nothing I’ve ever said has really made a difference except given other people who are angry for the same reason a place to find good company.”
I don’t think I’ve ever changed anyone’s mind. It’s preaching to the choir to some extent. By the time someone’s old enough to go to a bar, they’ve pretty much made up all their decisions about who they are, and if you get a girl pregnant, you marry, or whatever, your belief system is you already know it by the time you’re drunk at an Improv. So it’s just a matter of finding like minds. … But there’s no one mindset for my crowd — half of them will want to hear fist-fuck jokes and the other people will want to hear about the economy. •
Saturday, May 22
When a comedian is not afraid to say anything on stage, the crowd can get a little rambunctious. Alcohol-fueled rants, hecklers and controversy are all things that gritty and smart comedian Doug Stanhope deals with on a daily basis. The former host of The Man Show and popular standup comedian is on a North American tour that will bring him to Nietzsche’s on Saturday (May 22). He talked to AV this week:
You’re originally from Worcester, Massachusetts and you’re currently touring the East Coast. You also have a few tour dates in Canada. How do you feel when you come to a place like Buffalo that has cheap Canadian beer?
I drink the same shitty beer no matter where I go, Miller Lite or Coors Lite. I drink weak, piss beer because I know I can drink a lot of it throughout the course of the night without fucking up my show. Although, my type of audience doesn’t really seem to give a shit if I fuck up my jokes.
George Carlin once said, “If you’re not offending someone, you’re not doing your job as a comedian.” When you hear an audience member heckling you while you’re on stage, what goes through your mind?
It depends on what they’re upset about. You can offend someone because of the minutest thing. You could be talking about rape or fisting or abortion, things that on paper would be highly offensive to some parts of the audience, and then in passing you say something about diabetes and someone in the audience is offended because their grandpa just died of diabetes.
You’re not afraid to touch on subjects like child porn and pedophilia. Have you ever met Chris Hanson of Dateline NBC?
No, but he’s one of those guys you watch and you just imagine a punching him in the face over and over. Like a Fight Club scene, you know? “I just wanted to destroy something beautiful.”
Do you think your appearances on Girls Gone Wild helped to shape your on stage persona?
[He laughs.] You ball-busting motherfucker. It helped me learn how to act like I didn’t mind being there, when actually I did. People talk about it like it must be some dream job. I got no pussy and did little to no drugs. Ask any bouncer at a nightclub how much fun it is to be around drunk, stupid sorority girls at last call.
Which was more painful: being held responsible for the downfall of The Man Show or watching Too Late With Adam Carolla?
I think Adam Carolla is very funny, I see him on Howard Stern all the time and I think he’s fucking great. I didn’t mind shooting that pig in a ditch called The Man Show. Unfortunately American television, unlike the BBC, doesn’t always know when to fucking quit.
I typed “Doug” into Google and the first entry that came up was former Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie, the second is the cartoon character from the Nickelodeon TV show Doug, and you come in around the bottom of the first page. What is your reaction to that?
Shame. It makes me worry more for you because you sit around Googling “Doug.”
I’m a blogger and this interview will probably make it into a blog. You have a journal on your website, you regularly update your Facebook, and you have a Twitter page. What does social media do for you?
It gets people to visit my website and they can see when I’m playing on the road. But blogging is instant gratification. When you’re watching Chris Hanson and imagining pummeling his face in, you can just go right on Facebook and go, “I want this guy dead.” I bet there are a dozen Facebook groups devoted to Chris Hanson being dead. Google that.
Doug Stanhope interview
August 5, 2010
So I've been promising Doug Stanhope clips on the Twitter feed for a few days now. But it's taken me a bit longer than expected, partly because I've had more f-bombs than usual to navigate. I bleeped the most prurient parts, but these clips are still PG-13, FYI.
I’m a fan of Doug Stanhope, so I decided to create a portrait of him and give it to him at one of his shows! This marks the first time I duplicate a colour palette from another piece. Check out my blog to see which one! Also, find out my visual inspiration for this image, and read about how Doug’s voice is like gravelly Gravol.
Stanhope started his run of shows in London last night - and from the amount of news and blog alerts clogging the net it seems that the vast majority of the audience were journalists desperate to hitch their wagon to his coattails.
Doug Stanhope exclusive!
28th September 2010
When Robert Chalmers interviewed stand-up Doug Stanhope back in 2006 he asked "Is this America's most depraved man?" The answer was a resounding yes - not least because it's the only GQ interview that's taken place at a mushroom festival in a Jamaican nudist colony. I caught up with Stanhope recently in the considerably more civilized environment of Leicester Square Theatre. After his sold-out show culminated with one of the most foul-mouthed diatribes I've ever seen, he grasped the lone unfinished beer and bellowing into the microphone: "Would the guy from GQ.com meet me in the bar next door? Outside though so we can smoke..." We talked tough guys, taking critcism and quite how drunk is too drunk for a funnyman...
In my experience watching and performing stand up, that was one of the best things I've seen. But do you care what people think?
Yes. Especially over here. Stand up is much harder over here. It's harder to get people to like you and to have material that is relevant here. In the States, I know everything, I can go up and wing it, I don't have to sit there for ten hours and sweat about a set.
You talk about being a slacker, but you're doing a brand new 70-minute show from last year; that is an incredible work ethic.
That is a work ethic which I think I need but don't like. I'm so terrified that someone has heard a bit before. I don't like repeating something from say 12 years before…
You have a loyalty to the craft...
Loyalty? I call it fucking paranoia, a mental illness. There's no ego involved, a violent round of applause does nothing for me. Tonight only feels good because the last four shows have sucked in comparison. Tonight I had some stuff that I was saying off the top of my head and I did find myself having fun. There's so many levels of satisfaction or disappointment. Now when I walk out to a round of applause, that's something that motivates me. But the worst terror is when they announce "Doug Stanhope" and there's a huge round of applause. I think, "You better live up to expectations".
In 2004, 600 people walked out of your gig. How do you feel about audience walk-outs?
Those don't happen anymore, now we have throw-outs. People that are too drunk or too big a fan but they're bad at drinking.
How drunk is too drunk when you're performing on stage?
Well last night I was way too drunk. It's like 'How drunk is too drunk at a party?' It depends how drunk they are versus how drunk you are, if they like you, how many people you know at the party etc. If there was a perfect science as to how drunk you should be at a show, I would have figured it out in 20 years. And I never want to figure it out because that's what gives live comedy some measure of unpredictability. If it was all like it was on TV, you wouldn't see it live, you'd stay at home.
Do you put a lot of thought into what is funny, do you chase laughs?
Generally I go out there to amuse myself. Because if I'm not having fun, it's fake. New comics who get into comedy competitions and say 'Oh I don't know what to do' should play to themselves. Because at the end of the night, win or lose, you'll walk away going 'At least I did what I thought was funny'.
What's the best style advice you've ever been given?
Well, mostly what I've brought for this week is football jerseys. I have more football jerseys, NFL jerseys, than there are teams. I have throw-back jerseys that I don't wear anymore. They're very thin, so they're easy to pack.
Who's the toughest guy you know?
[Fear Factor host] Joe Rogan.
Do you like what he did to Carlos Mencia? [Rogan confronted notorious joke thief Mencia on stage and it became huge YouTube hit]
Not passionately because they are a rare example. Because of that Carlos Mencia and Joe Rogan thing people jumped on that bandwagon that had no interest in comedy. But comedy is by far the best self-policing art form. You can't get through the open mic circuit if you're even vaguely derivative of a comic, people say, 'You're trying to be Bill Hicks.'
What's your best cure for a hangover?
Drinking. There's occasionally a night when I don't drink but I realise I feel just as shitty in the morning anyway. I don't know if it's a hangover or what.
What would you say is the one thing every man should know about women?
This is where I need to be insightful…The obvious answer is that every man is an individual and sees something different in a woman.
Do you have any regrets, career wise or life wise?
No regrets, I just wish I remembered it more clearly. Because it's been a weird fucking life. And as a drunk, people will tell me stories about me and things we did together and I'm just as excited as everybody at the table as to how it ends.
Doug Stanhope was speaking outside the Leicester Square Theatre, smoking. For more information on forthcoming tours see www.dougstanhope.com
Doug Stanhope might offend you, and he doesn't really care
September 30, 2010
“The only people I’ve ever cared about impressing were my peers,” said 42-, um, 43-year-old comedian Doug Stanhope. Anyone who’s seen Stanhope’s rough-around-the-edges 2007 Showtime special “No Refunds” knows that statement holds weight as he used the special to brashly profess his own philosophy on life and the people in it — all while drinking label-less beer and chain-smoking Marlboro Lights.
He’s more likely to run up a bar bill than buy an iPad, took a recent stab at running for president of the United States before withdrawing because “it turned completely unfun” and in a nice but irrelevant credit, beat out Dane Cook in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition back in 1995. Of course, Stanhope has more credits to his name, and though he doesn’t seem to care about any of them, his biggest achievement may be marked in 2010 as he stands in the midst of his 20th year in comedy.
Two DVDs, a cult-like following and oodles of beer, cigarettes and club gigs later, Stanhope revisits Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton this Friday for a special, one-night only performance.
P-C: How old are you?
Stanhope: 42. (pause) Wow, I’m actually doing the math on that now. (pause) Wait, no I think I’m 43. (pause) %#@!. How old am I? March of ’67 so I think I’m 43. Have I been walking around telling people I’m 42? I don’t know. It doesn’t come up much. (pause) Wow, that sucked (laughs).
P-C: Where are you originally from?
Stanhope: Worcester, Mass. is where I grew up but I haven’t lived back East since I was old enough to leave. I quit school at 16 and then my dad and I sat around staring at each other, waiting for me to be legally an adult so I could get the %#@! out of there (laughs).
P-C: You’ve been to Wisconsin before; what do you like most about Appleton?
Stanhope: (laughs) It’s just the antithesis of where I normally go. It’s just happy, friendly people. My act tends to draw the drags. Mostly I work rock and roll clubs, so it’s usually a lot dirtier, a lot dirtier in element of people in the crowd. I’ve actually walked across the street to avoid people going into my show, not realizing that’s where I was playing. (laughs) I don’t know if it was Winnipeg or Edmonton on this Canadian tour where I’m looking for the gig and I saw this mob out on the street (laughs) and I’m like ‘%#@! that.’ Walked on the other side of the street only to realize they were my audience. So, yeah, Appleton’s a nice change from that.
P-C: Anything you dislike about Appleton?
Stanhope: Umm, no. I’ve been playing there so long; I have some really good friends there. The owner of the club (Cliff Diedrick) is a good friend of mine. It’s a good beer drinkin’ town. And no threat of cocaine.
P-C: Your shtick was smoking and drinking onstage; do you still smoke onstage since most states have enforced smoking bans?
Stanhope: I don’t smoke onstage anymore. It bothers the smokers too much. It’s like a movie and seeing someone smoke on screen. You’re not even hearing the dialogue anymore. You’re just, “Get me the %#@! out of here, I need a cigarette.”
P-C: What’s your beer of choice these days?
Stanhope: I just drink $#!@ beer. Any kind of weak, watered down, American light beer is fine by me. And Jagermeister, too.
P-C: It’s safe to say you’re rough around the edges; do you aim to offend in your act?
Stanhope: No, but it’s nice when it happens. (laughs) It’s harder to do; now I have my own audience, so people generally know what they’re coming to see. And that’s another good thing about Appleton; since it’s a comedy club there will be that low percentage of people that just show up because it’s comedy. Those people don’t always take well to what I do but that’s their fault. They should put more effort into planning their entertainment.
P-C: Does anything ever offend you?
Stanhope: Things bore me. Nothing offends me. (pause) Wait. Stupidity offends me. Stupid comedy.
P-C: Why do people seem to either love you or be completely offended by you?
Stanhope: I tend to lean toward topics that have some weight and that’s obviously going to limit your crowd. But I’d much rather have the fan base that I have which is a small but tenacious, loyal fan base that I don’t have to dumb it down for than have popular appeal knowing that I’m not saying #%$@#.
P-C: Do you think people are just too sensitive these days?
Stanhope: I don’t think these days. I just think all around. I doubt it was better in the past. Without having any vested interest, people just have these very strong opinions that they’ve really not thought through that are baseless. “Well, that’s just the way I was raised.” Well, have you ever considered it? Have you ever done mushrooms? (laughs)
P-C: So in an odd way, would you say you’re a new-age role model?
Stanhope: No, I don’t think so. I think what I’ve done is circled the wagons for a lot of like minds where we can meet up and talk about how %#@#! up everyone else is. That’s the problem with doing comedy, especially in the states, is that by the time people are old enough to get into bars, they’ve pretty much made up their minds about most things. I’d do a lot more good if I were playing to sixth-graders. You might have an effect. Those gigs I don’t think are coming my way anytime soon.
P-C: You’ve continually gained popularity in comedy over the last 20 years; is there one obsessed fan moment that sticks out in your mind?
Stanhope: I’ve had a few. Not anything dangerous by any means but certainly annoying. I have a folder from an insane woman in Brisbane, Australia with hundreds of e-mails in it. She’d send me like 60 e-mails in a day just full of craziness. I mean she really is crazy, some of them talk about, “You know I have to go back into the mental institution.” So you get stuff like that.
I just got an e-mail from a guy that came to my show in London because he’s got Leukemia and he’s got a few months to live and that was one of the things he wanted to knock off of his bucket list.
And the new CD I put out has a story about a guy that killed himself after one of my shows — actually had planned to kill himself — and postponed his suicide because he saw I was coming to town. His girlfriend or whatever e-mailed me afterwards and told me all about it.
We threw out a subject and asked Doug Stanhope what came to mind:
Lindsay Lohan: “People should just spend more time behaving like her and less time worrying about what she’s doing.”
Brett Favre: “Love him. … I love Brett Favre and shame on you all for booing him. We’ll talk about that in more detail when I get there.”
Twitter: “Never figured it out. My Facebook is hooked up to my Twitter but I don’t even know how it works. I don’t understand it. Twitter is like that last stage of new technology that made me realize my age, where I go, ‘Alright, I’m not going to try to figure this #$#@% out.’ It’s what an answering machine was to your parents. ‘Set this up for me. I don’t know how to use it.’”
Dancing with the Stars: “Who would watch dancing with anybody? That show is completely inexplicable. I have no idea how that gets ratings. They set up all these reality shows with some art form that you would never watch unless you pit people against each other. You would never watch opera, but if they made ‘Battle of the Operas’ then you’d pick an opera and sit on your couch and cheer ‘#$%$# that guy’s opera! That guy’s opera stinks! I hope the other opera wins!’ And get some vicarious thrill.”
Justin Bieber: “I don’t watch anything that he would be on. I don’t watch MTV, I don’t listen to music on the radio, so I have no idea why I know his name. I know who he is. It’s one of those things, like Lindsay Lohan. I don’t watch her movies. I don’t know anything about her. I don’t watch gossip shows. I don’t know why I’m forced to know who she is. It’s brain rape. You make me know who this guy is against my will. I’ve spent my entire life trying to not know about people like that and I can’t not. I could bury myself under ground like some freakish David Blaine trick and I would still find out who Justin Bieber is.”
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