Doug Stanhope: pro-choice, pro-drugs, but defiantly anti-Guardian The comedian who ran for president for a laugh is now considering quitting comedy altogether. Or is that the afternoon vodkas talking?
10 September 2011
Hanging on a wall in Doug Stanhope's Arizona home is a framed letter, written in 1979 by his school psychiatrist. Concerned about the then 12-year-old Stanhope's obsession with sketching bloody limbs and smutty cartoons, it addresses his mother with the opening gambit: "First of all, we strongly believe that Douglas is in need of professional help …"
Over three decades later, any random observer at one of Doug's stand-up shows might think said psychiatrist had a point. Almost always drunk, Stanhope's topics include such crowd-pleasers as questioning whether child abuse is really as bad as victims say it is, claiming he assisted his own mother's suicide, and promoting genetic mutation on the grounds that it might make sex more interesting. He has a book out – if you dare search for it – called Fun With Pedophiles: The Best Of Baiting. Michael McIntyre, he is not.
"I go onstage, it's like I'm leading you into battle," Stanhope sometimes tells his audiences. "You're not all going to be here at the end." Based on all this, a certain sense of apprehension is perhaps the natural response to meeting Stanhope. It doesn't help that, when conducting a Google search of recent interviews, one recent piece that came up used the following Stanhope quote as a headline: "Guardian people? Fuck them …"
Yet here we are, drinking afternoon double vodka and sodas in the Pimlico apartment he never leaves (he hates London, as he does most big cities) and Stanhope seems kind of sweet, and kind of sensitive. "I've had some bad shows where I just sucked," he says of his recent run at Leicester Square Theatre, "but I've had some assholes, too. Some guy stood up Saturday night and said 'This is the same shit you've been peddling the last five times you've been here.' That's your biggest fear: someone who knows every word you've ever said." How did it end? "Oh, with him being escorted out."
Stanhope doesn't laugh at this. Instead he looks hurt, like a big old teddy bear that needs a hug. He continues: "You know, I'm amazed I have this much of a fanbase. I immediately split the crowd. I thought about coming on every night and shouting, 'Gay pride, white power!' just to confuse people." He's sounding morose but suddenly someone walks past and Stanhope kicks into life: "Hey man! How are you doing? Good!" He turns back around, smiling. "Bartender," he explains. "We've come to know each other ..."
At school, Stanhope says he was too dark to be considered the class clown and, after a spell as a "fraud telemarketer" ("borderline legal stuff, trying to scam people basically"), he decided to give stand-up comedy a go at an open-mic in Las Vegas. "I was 23 with a mullet doing lots of jerk-off material," he says. "I can't look at the old tapes now." Maybe not, but within six months he was working as a house MC in Phoenix. By the early noughties he was the name on every edgy comedian's tip list, and gained a further cult following through his cameos on Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, although any Guardian readers who liked his spots on there might still be advised to approach with caution. When I put it to him that, like Brooker, there's a liberal heart beating behind the misanthropic exterior (he's fiercely pro-choice and pro-drugs), he disagrees. Later that night, onstage at Leicester Square Theatre, he'll go on a dubious rightwing rant before ending with, 'Fuck you, Guardian, for calling me a liberal.'"
So what are Stanhope's politics? He maintains he's never been all that political, but can that really be true? One of the thrilling things about Stanhope's material is that, when it really works, it offers a refreshingly honest take on life, often exposing our own double standards. Even when he talks about anal porn he spins it into a message about how they should teach it in schools as a way of controlling Earth's rapidly rising population. These are often inherently political points he's making. Besides, if Stanhope really didn't care for politics why did he run for president in 2008?
"It seemed like a funny thing to do!" he says. "I thought we could maybe get on the ticket of the Libertarian Party. But people were either amused or horrified at the idea of me representing their party." How come? "It made me realise the sheer breadth of all the shit I don't know about politics. I thought I'd study, so I read an actual book called Politics For Dummies or something but I just couldn't retain it all, it was like school."
Hang on, so he was basically cramming to be president? "Yeah, I was; I was really trying and that sucked all the fun out of it. It was the worst period of my comedy career. My friends didn't want to be around me. It was the best decision I made when I said, 'Fuck it, I'm not doing this.'"
After pulling out, Stanhope switched his allegiances to Ron Paul – "I look at it like I look at football teams, it's a bit of fun so I root for the underdog" – then switched again to Barack Obama once Paul was knocked out of the race. Consistency isn't his strong point, but then pinning him down is somewhat pointless. The more we talk, and the more you listen to his old material, the more he seems less like the righteous Bill Hicks type "lazy" journalists like to compare him to, and more a Charles Bukowski-esque character: a drunken deadbeat throwing out tales from America's seedy underbelly without caring too much what the "message" is. Sometimes they just so happen to make a mockery of the absurd rules and rituals human beings live their lives by, at other times they're just jokes about blowjobs. His live show is as unpredictable as his position on the political spectrum; in the last year alone the Guardian has watched Stanhope pull off a sensational show, and also seen him aim half-formed rants at all the wrong targets (drug addicts, prostitutes) without locating anything close to a punchline. Given the subject matter, does he ever feel a sense of responsibility with his act?
"Yeah, well …" The cigarette that's been twitching in his hand during the interview finally needs to be smoked. Standing on the pavement outside he opens up, discussing a fan letter he was sent. "It was from this 23-year-old kid, and it was all fanboy for the first paragraph. Second paragraph, it said, 'By the time you read this I'll be dead.' We looked into it: he was facing seven years for looking at child pornography. We fact-checked, it was all legit …" he trails off. "So I don't feel responsible but it does affect me. Because I do have a lot of fucked-up people coming to my shows, and people who will travel a long fucking way. So you want to do the bits they like or whatever …"
He trails off again. Often during a routine he will joke about his heart not being in stand-up any more and maybe this is why. He might claim not to give a fuck, but you sense that he constantly feels like he's letting people down. Some have suggested he's depressed, but he actually seems happier than ever in his domestic life (in true Bukowski style, Stanhope got together with his partner of six years after inviting her to take hallucinogens with him at a DIY Burning Man party he was having with friends in Death Valley).
"I've got a great relationship, a nice house, great dogs," he sighs. "We're strongly debating quitting. I don't want to create things to be angry about, I'd sooner start doing happy shit …"
Doug Stanhope, then: the comic who's pissed off because he's happy. The guy who can turn anal sex jokes into political statements, yet run for president because it's a laugh. And now, perhaps the ultimate contradiction: the bile-filled angry comic who's actually … softening? "Yeah maybe," he says, smiling, "and if people don't like it they can fuck off!"
Doug Stanhope - Slowly Devolving
by Adam O'Connor
3rd November 2011
What does "conventional" mean in stand-up comedy these days? Some of the most successful and widely popular comics are edgy (some blatantly offensive and vile) and completely inappropriate. In the modern world, where art and media simply regurgitate and reinterpret works of the past, there isn't much that we haven't heard before. And there certainly isn't much that shocks us anymore, either. Enter Doug Stanhope.
"I started at the end of the boom. I started in 1990 in Vegas. And Vegas is the worst place in the world you can start doing comedy. And my second week in Vegas, I did six open mics. That's how much comedy was going on in Vegas. And that was at the beginning of the decline. By the late '90s, I remember daring anyone to name a comedian who got famous from stand-up. And then it started somewhere around [Dave] Chappelle. Then it started cranking again."
Life is indeed cyclical, and all things change. And for a lot of comics, their style evolves and changes over time as well. Most grow, learn, progress. Stanhope? Well, he feels as if his is slowly devolving. "I don't even know if it's comedy anymore. I think it's just me getting drunk and yelling at people. And they keep coming back! I can describe how much fun it is, how much I like it, but as far as what I do for a living, it fucking beats me. I've let it devolve into that. It's not even spoken word because it's screaming," says Stanhope.
Well, someone has taken notice. As one of the busiest comics in the industry currently, he's even getting noticed and gaining the attention and respect of established industry veterans. For instance, Ricky Gervais recently tweeted that "@DougStanhope might be the most important stand up working today. Just saying'. Please tell him that if you know him." Now that's some recognition! And it's not entirely lost on the cynical Stanhope.
"That was very nice. I wish I had someone to brag to anymore. The young days, when you would call your mom or someone and go, 'You'll never believe the comedy competition in the fucking VIP Saloon! I was the best open mic-er in East Las Vegas!' But that was very cool. And it's not like it's someone I know, and I know most comics," he says.
But for all the positives that he's amassed in his 20 years in the business, Stanhope still runs into the same frustrations and job hazards that all comics do. "Coming up with new material, more subjects you're passionate about. It's like if you fought passionately in Africa against famine and AIDS, and then you go to Toys For Tots. I just get sick of my material really fast, and every audience is the same. So I feel like they've heard it before. But of course they haven't, it's just that I have," he says. "There's nothing I hate more than fucking looking at myself and listening to myself, but compared to what real people do in their lives, it's nothing. You can never complain about work to anyone other than another comedian."
Changes in the industry, as there have obviously been a few over the past two decades, have affected him as well. But not necessarily in a negative sense. He's sharp enough to know what it is that he needs to do to adapt to technological evolution and how that relates to the entertainment business. But he's also still a dude that likes to throw back the booze and certainly doesn't give a shit if he offends you, either. That is one thing that will never change.
"You know, you sit down and write an hour. It evolves. It gets better. You add this other bit that's in its nebulas stages. So anytime you put out a disc, it'll have that one or two bits that became so much better. But at this stage with the industry, with everything being electronic, it might be better to just start putting out bits: 'OK, here, buy this on iTunes. Buy this 12-minute clip about fist-fucking or whatever's current, about some Japanese tsunami or something.'" | RDW
Doug Stanhope on Pedophiles, Prison, Suicide and Other Hilarious Topics
Nov. 14 2011
You may remember him from his aborted run for the 2008 Libertarian presidential nomination, from his fight-provoking confrontational 2004 Austin set when he followed the political bombast of Alex Jones or from the riots that occasionally ensue at his shows when he touches a particularly sensitive nerve in his audiences. But perhaps provocative comedian Doug Stanhope's greatest moment to date is his role as Eddie, the bitter lowlife comic at the end of his rope in the episode of the same name on Louis C.K.'s brilliant FX series Louie. Mocking Louie's attempts to talk him out of suicide, Eddie makes checking out sound almost rational.
In between bursts of profanity and bemused laughter at a vending machine that gave him a Milky Way bar instead of a fucking Coke, he parried Mixmaster questions by phone from his hotel in Oklahoma City. Read on for his thoughts on the Penn State scandal, performing in an Icelandic maximum-security prison, bringing back the Eddie character and why he remains staunchly pro-suicide.
How's the tour going? How'd Houston go last night?
Houston, I was sluggish. Comedy clubs, I fucking hate comedy clubs. You're on stage for like 20 minutes and then you see them start passing out tabs. One of the worst things about comedy clubs that you never really focus on is, because they're a corporation, no one there is making money off you. The guy making all the booze sales is nowhere to be found. Why don't you let the show go on all night? Well, it's all employees. There's no boss who's trying to rake in cash, it's all employees who wanna get the hell out of there. They don't care how much the house takes in.
Texas has got to be full of targets for someone who's as confrontational as you are. What are some of the things you might make fun of, or are you even baiting your audience?
At this point, I have my audience. It's all preaching to the choir at this point. I much prefer to try to find things that they all have problems with. How do I figure out how to offend the people who like me? I'm not going on stage talking about Rick Perry, the fuck. It's not my business.
I'd think Rick Perry would be of interest. Having run for president, to some extent, yourself, is politics still something you follow closely?
No, not at all. If I ever had any interest, which I never really did, the run for president should have been a goof, but I took it a little too seriously. But even talking about them as though they have any credibility -- those guys don't affect your life, and talking about them gives them more power. It almost feels like ... just don't even mention that they exist, all of those assholes. ... I'm trying to figure out how to get these goddamn coins in this machine. I'm getting a soda, lighting a cigarette and then I'll be focused. I'm absolutely stupefied by this vending machine. I've never seen a vending machine that ... NO, I DON'T WANT A FUCKING MILKY WAY! [chuckles]
Your DVD was filmed in Oslo, Norway, and you recently performed at a maximum-security prison in Iceland. Do you have any places that are off-the-beaten-path that you want to do?
I was just talking about that with my manager. Once you've done a maximum-security prison, how do you go up from there? How do you get weirder? You start running out of ideas. If this gives me another Milky Way, I'm going to freak out on the phone with you. Goddammit. The dollar-bill thing doesn't take dollar bills. I want this entire interview to be me walking back and forth trying to get dollars. All I want is a goddamn Coke and a cigarette. So yeah, it's hard to top yourself after a while. "Oh hey, we've got this gig, we want you to do a cemetery in L.A." Well, you've already done it, and I just played a maximum-security prison in Iceland, so ... I guess that's how life is. I guess that's why old people are boring.
Any plans for more prison shows, maybe in the U.S.?
I would love to, they're just so hard to set up.
Did you get a sense while you were there of how you would fare as a prisoner?
I know I'd fare as well as I would if I were a soldier -- I'd be in Canada. I played paintball once, get shot once, and then go "Yeah, I'm gonna be a sniper, off in the distance somewhere. This hurts." That's how I'd fare as a prisoner. I would definitely kill myself. Even just a drunk-tank thing. I'm claustrophobic.
Have you ever been to jail?
One time when I was like 17 or so, just for disturbing the peace because I laughed. My buddy was getting arrested for unpaid warrants, and he was very vocal in his dislike for the police. "Your mother sucks cocks in hell, you faggot. Take me out of this paddy wagon. Take off that badge and I'll ... " So I was just on the other side of the street laughing my ass off, and they said, "You think that's funny? You're under arrest for disturbing the peace." So I use that for my argument for why it should be legal to shoot cops in the face. Because if I was just a 17-year-old kid laughing my ass off because something was funny to me and someone grabbed me, held me down, restrained me, cuffed me, put me in the back of a car and held me in a cage, I would be well within my rights to shoot that person in the face, and the headline would read "Crafty Youth Evades Kidnapper With Swift Shot To The Face." So if you think police should be held to the same standards as civilians, the thing with me is you should be able to shoot a cop in the face. This hasn't passed the Supreme Court. ... Hey, can I get four quarters? Where did you get that vending machine? I've never seen a vending machine like that. The one that has the door on it with sodas behind it? I just got a Milky Way when I was trying to get a Coke. ... So yeah, I would be a terrible prisoner.
You're a big football fan. I don't know if you follow college football, but I'm sure you have thoughts on the whole Penn State thing.
It's really difficult to, uh. ... All right, I got my Coke! Now this interview should go smoothly. ... The Paterno thing, the story is hard to find. They're not talking about the guy at all. They're talking about Joe Paterno and his legacy and was it morally wrong even if he's not legally culpable, but there's nothing about the guy, it's all just breaths of fucking opinion. Why can't I find, you know, why this guy just got arrested? This happened in the '90s. How did he just get arrested now? Do you know? I'm asking, this isn't rhetoric.
I don't know. I think one of the kids finally came forward.
They came forward several times over the course of years, and there was never charges filed. There was a mother of one of the victims being questioned on ESPN. I fucking hate crossover stories, where they're ruining ESPN and CNN. She was saying what he did, and it's like, what did you do? You're the mother, why weren't you filing charges? And that was being completely ignored.
I'd imagine it's just the money that the university has and the sway it has on the politicians and the police in that town.
That's called team spirit. But they're saying they were aware of the issue but not the extent. And it's like, he was in a shower with a 10-year-old boy who's not his own. How is that not enough? "Well, I didn't know he was fucking him in the face and ass." What, you thought they were playing Penny Penny, Who's Got the Penny? The guy will be dead in six months. He'll completely Andy Rooney it. Sandusky, that's a suicide. I'm in a death pool now, so I study these things. Andy Rooney retired and I'm like, "Motherfucker." Our death pools run an entire year, so you don't get to pick new ones until New Year's. Andy Rooney retired and I'm like, "Fuck, he's going to be dead in a minute."
Who else do you have in your death pool?
You pick 20 people at the beginning of the year, and you get 100 points each, less their age. I heavy-loaded Celebrity Rehab, so so far my only death is Jeff Conaway. But I have William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Tom Sizemore, Heidi Fleiss. On my personal wish list, I have Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I had to pick a comic, so I went with Ralphie May, who just had a pulmonary embolism but didn't die. I have Ali, and then down goes Frazier. I had Refrigerator Perry, Dave Duerson committed suicide. Same team, '85 Bears, same side of the ball, wrong fucking jersey number. I was so close. Fucking no one had Osama Bin Laden, which was stunning to me. When he got killed, I was like, "How the fuck do I not have Osama Bin Laden?" Half the military on the planet trying to kill this guy, I called my buddy who runs it, no one has it. Yet four out of 11 people in rural Arizona had Amy Winehouse. So to say her death was a surprise, not exactly.
Speaking of death, I'm sure you get asked a ton about your appearance on Louie, but "Eddie" was my favorite episode on my favorite show on TV right now. I was glad to see on your blog that you want to play that character again.
In all seriousness, I want to play that character everywhere. I'm on Two Broke Girls, but I'm Eddie committing suicide for some reason. I'm on Dexter, and I'm Eddie committing suicide. I don't want to go outside of my comfort zone.
So you do think he did commit suicide? It was left open-ended, but looked pretty bleak. You think he went through with it?
I don't know, I'm not one of those guys that puts a lot of thought into the character. I didn't become Eddie. I just said words off a piece of paper. Acting is so grotesque. Actors are the filthiest people I've ever met. Of all the arts, actors are the most bereft of substance. They're just shells of people, and they're so consumed with themselves and what they do. Like it's important. Or difficult. It's difficult for me because I'm so aware of how fucking stupid it is.
So you weren't drawing on some past part of yourself?
It's me if I'm still living the same life I started in. That's what I was doing for the first four years of comedy, just driving around living in my car, getting $150 gigs, eating cheese cubes off happy hour buffets. But it was a blast back then. You're 25 years with a mullet and a used car, it's a fun run. You don't have a job, you're getting fat girls in Montana. You're 44 and you're living out of your car, yeah, you're Eddie. Nobody's making you a sack lunch anymore. "Follow your dreams." You're 44, it's not "follow your dreams," it's "Get a job."
I did find some other parallels between Eddie and you, or at least you as you are in your act. One clip, you're talking about how if the first half of the movie is not that great, it's probably not going to have an awesome ending. You're not exactly anti-suicide.
No, I'm pro-suicide. My mother killed herself. It was the fucking bravest thing I've ever seen anyone do. She was dying of emphysema and was like, 'Fuck this, I'm not going to drown in my own fluid.' Still not a lot of great bits about it. It might have to be a book. ... Three years ago, past the statute of limitation on some of the jokes. I still don't know how much I can admit any complicity in it. That statute probably doesn't go away. But when you're a comedian, everything you say is a joke.
Payback for the gift of surgery "You can't send them a gift certificate to the Olive Garden," Doug Stanhope says of the medical pros who helped him out.
Cathalena E. Burch
December 8, 2011
Doug Stanhope says he thinks all charities are scams. So you might wonder why Stanhope is doing, of all things, a benefit concert in Tucson on Saturday. Call it payback.
It all started a year ago, when Stanhope's belly button became "an outie gone wild," he said. "I just thought it was getting bigger because I'm getting fatter and older," said the 44-year-old Bisbee-based standup. "Several people would recoil in horror if they saw me without a shirt on, but then someone told me what it was and used the word 'necrotizing': 'That could pinch off and become necrotizing.' Just the word necrotizing in my head for weeks; maybe I should try to get this thing fixed."
But he's an uninsured comic, and that type of surgery didn't come cheap. So Stanhope, whose alcohol-and-cigarette-fueled crass and abrasive comedy spares no one, posted a blurb on his website: Will trade surgery for complimentary CD. A few months later at a show in Las Vegas, a pair of Tucson anesthesiologists offered their services and recruited a surgeon friend, who performed the procedure early this year.
"And the next thing you know I'm still fat but my navel doesn't stick out like a cocktail wiener any more nor is there any risk of it becoming necrotizing," said Stanhope, who was then faced with a dilemma: How to repay the favor. After all, the procedure would have set him back as much as $18,000. "How the hell do you say thank you for that? You can't send them a gift certificate to the Olive Garden," he said.
Instead, he offered the trio his time: He would donate proceeds from his annual December show in Tucson to the charity of their choosing. Thankfully, he said, they chose a cause he can get behind: the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
"I love animals and hate people. It wasn't something people-related; it's something I'm behind," said the owner of two mutts and a stray cat he found behind the jukebox at Hotel Congress' Tap Room. "At the core of their message is spay and neuter, which they don't have in any human-related charities as they should," he deadpans, quoting a comment on his website.
The hypocrisy of his gesture is not lost on Stanhope. "Anyone who has seen me in the last six months who sees this whole charity thing going on probably thinks I'm a huge hypocrite," said Stanhope, who has lived in Bisbee six years. Stanhope called in a few favors from some colleagues and stacked Saturday's bill with some formidable comics including underground legend Neil Hamburger aka Gregg Turkington; Brendon Walsh, a regular on the late-night circuit and a regular tour mate; and Tucson comedian Garrett Staab.
Doug Stanhope unleashes comedy with no apologies
Feb 14, 2012
(Reuters) - Comedian Doug Stanhope makes no apologies for his uninhibited, controversial dark comedy, and with fans and friends like Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K., why should he? The stand-up comedian, who had a busy 2011 with a 25-date run of shows in London and a role on FX comedy show "Louie," is releasing a digital album of live stand-up titled "Before Turning The Gun On Himself," on March 6, ahead of his upcoming tour around the United Kingdom.
With sketches titled "Dr. Drew is to Medicine what David Blaine Is To Science" and "Keynesian Economic Theory As Applied To Private-Sector Independent Contracting," Stanhope's comedy draws from current affairs and daily observations.
For most comedians dealing in dark, dirty, boozy comedy, parents might not be the most obvious audience, but for Stanhope, it was his late mother Bonnie Kirk who was his biggest fan. She died in October 2008. "My mother was always the one with the dark, really filthy sense of humor. She was a vulgar woman. She used to tell me to do comedy before I even tried it. She was always up for any gag," said Stanhope, laughing.
The Worcester, Massachusetts native, whose live material is focused around current affairs in American politics and society, has often found himself in hot water with his audience for controversial jokes on subjects ranging from genocide, rape, abortion and addictions. But he is unapologetic for the content.
"It makes me tremblingly angry when (others) apologize, like Tracy Morgan and even Michael Richards ... when other people apologize, it's nothing, it's fake," said Stanhope. Morgan recently found himself in hot water over comments many interpreted as anti-gay, and in 2006, Richards made a racial slur onstage that caused outrage.
Alcohol plays a key component in Stanhope's on-stage comedy experience, and the comedian often drinks during his routines, saying it helps to relax him. "I'm so absorbed in what's going on around me that I'm not getting into the act, my mouth is on autopilot. Alcohol allows me to overcome all of that," he said.
CHALLENGED IN U.K.
Stanhope, who is currently preparing to return to the U.K., found himself challenged by English audiences when previously doing his shows at London's Leicester Square Theater. "I'm always nervous about that place, there's something insidiously wrong with that whole island," said Stanhope. "Over here (in U.S.), I know I can go on stage with little or no preparation ... but over there (in U.K.), you don't have that comfort, because half or more of your material has no relevance there, they wouldn't get the joke."
Stanhope has attracted the attention of his peers, appearing with Louis C.K. on "Louie," guesting on shock jock Howard Stern's radio show from New York and British comedian Charlie Brooker's "Newswipe" TV satire.
Recently, the comedian was praised by Gervais, who said Stanhope "might be the most important stand up working today." "I've never worked with Ricky Gervais, but for some reason, he started being my de facto publicist, he started twittering about me. Never met him ... but I like it. I'm really easily starstruck by anyone," said Stanhope.
Asked whether his stint on TV playing Eddie, a washed-up, alcoholic, suicidal comedian on "Louie" would lead to more screen time, Stanhope denied wanting to work as an actor. "Acting is horrifying, the whole idea of it. It feels so false, it never feels comfortable acting," said Stanhope, adding that if he did return to TV screens, it would only be in the guise of his "Louie" character, Eddie. "With (stand-up) comedy, the pay-off is immediate and the work is minimal. With television, it's a serious job."
And for those who haven't seen him live, the comedian says he is working on a new direction. "I'm trying to make it more positive, or at least, negative with a solution instead of 'everything sucks, we're all doomed.' I want to start a cult," the funnyman quipped.
"Before Turning The Gun On Himself" is available to pre-order on iTunes ahead of release on March 6, with the companion DVD to be released later next month.
Doug Stanhope on politics The controversial comedian discusses his political beliefs ahead of his UK tour
The List (Issue 693)
16 February 2012
How would you describe your political views?
I don’t really like describing myself in those terms, but if I had to, I’m kind of an anarchist, just in a quiet way. I’ve been following the election at the moment [for the Republican presidential nomination] and the only one that’s speaking the slightest amount of sense is Ron Paul. It’s sad because they barely give him any airtime. I know why the guy stutters – he’s like me in that, if he gets given any attention, it’s for such a short space of time that he doesn’t know how to boil down his whole approach into those soundbites they demand from you.
Did you vote in the last election?
I voted for Paul in the nominations. Which is funny, cos it means I’m registered as a Republican somewhere. It’s kinda like coming out of the closet when you’re not really gay. ‘But you’re not Republican!’ I am for this.
The last big election [in 2008], I was on the road, working, so I didn’t vote. Honestly I couldn’t have cared less.
Do you think voting should be compulsory?
Hell no, I think too many people vote as it is. Too many idiots voting for the guy with the nicest hair – I think you should have to demonstrate you have some idea of what you’re talking about before you get to vote. It’s no different from when you were in elementary school and were looking for votes for ‘Most Popular Kid in School.’
Some sort of dictatorship would work well – there’s a lot of baggage attached to the word dictator, but nobody’s saying it has to be a bad guy – it’d be great if we could live under a really cool dictator.
Will Obama get a second term?
I don’t see any way around it. There’s a lot of fuss about Romney and Gingrich at the moment, but I got a lot of psychopaths who like me too.
Do you have an opinion on the Scottish independence debate?
Yeah, I say go for it – every individual person should be independent of everyone else; if we have to do that country by country, so be it. Whatever it takes so long as it comes down to individual households governing themselves. I mean, obviously, it comes down to an individual governing themselves, but I wanna decide who lives in my house.
Which would you rather have: the US political system or the UK one?
I don’t really care about the system – it doesn’t really effect me. The local government stuff, that’s the stuff that really matters, that makes a difference in your day-to-day lives, but no one really cares about that, and they should. It’s why I get a $50 ticket if I park my car outside on street-cleaning day, it’s why there’s a new stop sign at the end of my street. I don’t think the wider government makes a difference. I could live in any country in the world, and it wouldn’t make a difference. I could live in China, and the only difference in my life would be, ‘Hey, I can smoke in a café here’.
Can you see something like the Tea Party taking hold in the UK?
I don’t know if people in the UK are angry enough – I don’t know what you got to be angry about. It rains all the time, but you don’t really get angry about that, do you? I don’t really see the difference between the Tea Party and things like the Occupy movement. I watch both of ‘em on TV, and you see maybe 10% of the people saying something intelligent, who know what they’re talking about, 20% are there because they agree with those guys, and the rest are just around cos they thought, ‘Hey, I wanna sleep on a park bench for a couple of weeks. I wanna go for a picnic, but I wanna picnic angry.’
In the UK in the 1980s, alternative comedy thrived in opposition to Thatcher; in the 00s, Bush became a key part of many comedians’ routines. Do you think comedy is inherently liberal?
Man, the worst thing about Bush getting a second term was realising all those comedians would be telling that same joke for another four years. That was a one joke presidency stretched over two terms. Comedians are always gonna wave their dick in the face of power, but as for leaning politically one way or another – I mean, I don’t even know what I am. A lot of people used to come up to me and say, ‘Ok, so you’re a libertarian.’ And I’d say I dunno what that is, and they’d say, ‘Well libertarians say this, this and this, and you say this, this and this,’ and I’d say, ‘Ok, I’m one of those then.’ Nowadays people tell me I’m an anarchist, so I guess I’m that.
Do you think the main political parties are far enough apart on the political spectrum?
This is an old cliché, but there’s more than two ways to think about politics, and no one in public office is gonna fully represent what people want. I think if you got your average Joe Lunchbucket and sat him down with two of these guys, from different sides, they could convince him of anything they wanted, because that’s their jobs. One of ‘em could even talk him round to hating the other guy, but when the other guy comes over and shakes his hand, that’s all it takes to convince him the other way. People can argue now that, ‘Oh, I’m a fiscal conservative but a social liberal,’ or, ‘Oh, I’m socially conservative but-’ No, you’re just a guy at a dinner party who talks too much, and there’s no party for that.
Why are American politicians (and Americans in general) much more outwardly patriotic than their UK counterparts?
Same reason people are wearing Giants shirts instead of Patriots at the moment [the New York Giants had just won the Super Bowl]. In spite of all the financial crisis shit – I mean, that hasn’t affected me much. I’ve actually done pretty well out of the financial crisis, but then comedy always does – in the Great Depression, vaudeville was the number one form of entertainment… People love America because America is the greatest country in the world to live in – where I live [in Arizona], today is the shittiest day in a while, and it’s in the low fifties. And if it got lower than that, I can pay $80 and get on a bus to somewhere it isn’t shitty. And I can pay $80 on a bus and go skiing, or go somewhere to get a tan. The financial situation sucks, but I can get on a bus and go somewhere that it doesn’t suck. Yeah, there’s lots of gluttony in American culture, but that’s because we can.
People ask me, ‘Is there any material that’s too edgy, that crosses the line?’ Yeah, saying how great America is. Doesn’t go down well at all.
"I hate London more than anything in the world" On the day the Scottish government announces its plans for a referendum on the issue of Scottish independence we catch up with the eternally hungover Doug Stanhope for a brief insight into his thoughts on all things British... and Irish
27 February 2012
The Skinny: How's your morning going?
Doug Stanhope: "Well, I'm alive."
TS: And hungover?
DS: "Actually, I just call them mornings now."
Relaxing in his bathtub Stanhope comes across as comfortable, content and surprisingly personable. He interviews well and speaks openly, honestly and often misguidedly about any topic you wish to throw at him. We found it appropriate to discuss Scotland given the the circumstance ahead of his upcoming tour and more importantly: independence and the possible break up of the United Kingdom..
"I think it's great. Personally, for me, all it means is that it's just another fucking border I have to go through to work. But yeah, I wish the 50 states would break up. Lose the centralised government. More choice. How do you want to live, there's 50 different ways! You hate black people? We've a state for that. You wanna have an abortion? Here's a state. You like drugs? Here's a state. I think we should just keep breaking up countries now so they become just individuals. It's the borders that are a pain in the ass.
"I mean the problems over there are so deeply rooted. I've done bits on it and it's like people hate each other for reasons that are centuries old and might not even be actual stories. I remember the first time I played Scotland the only thing you have to remember is, 'Don't fuck this up and call this England'."
Being Irish I'm interested to find out what he thinks of us too. "I love Ireland. I mean, I hate the whole fucking island, in terms of weather and shit it just depresses me, but as far as people go I fucking love Ireland. I love Scotland too. I remember we did Aberdeen last year and that was a fucking blast." And England? "I hate London. I hate London more than anything in the world."
He's just as at home discussing national politics as he is discussing booze: "I mean I don't drink for the flavour but you guys drink like you've got a gunshot wound and you need to kill the pain immediately;" or neds: "I'll never forget the day someone said to me, 'fuck them they're neds'. But they just look like some bags of shit. I suppose they could be quite dangerous but they just look like some retarded homeless orphans." Stanhope is a journalist's dream.
Proving this, at the end of the interview he openly requests I make up as much stuff as possible about him. "Write it up however you like and feel free to include giant lies! If you put in whatever you want, say that I said them, and I'll back you up. Makes the creative writing process more fun." So, for the record, Stanhope's favourite movie is 50/50, he's got chronic tuberculosis and his favourite tipple is Buckfast.
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