There are people who seem like they don’t give a shit. And then there are people who genuinely don’t give a shit. That’s Doug Stanhope. If you’re wondering what I mean by this, give him a chance to show you while he makes you laugh your ass off Tuesday night at Lindsay Street Hall.
A comic’s comic, Stanhope cut his chops on small stages from coast to coast rather than one coast or another hoping to land a TV show.
“I was talking to Dave Attell last night,” said Stanhope in a recent phone interview, “and he was complaining that he’d picked up a set at the Comedy Cellar in New York and the first time he mentioned the word ‘abortion’ the crowd just moaned. I prefer playing in some small town in Kansas where the people came there to see me and know what to expect, rather than New York or L.A. where they just come out to see what’s new in comedy.”
Stanhope drove home his point of continually driving cross country in an episode last season of the FX show “Louie,” playing the character of Eddie, a fictional childhood friend of star Louis C.K. who took an alternate route in his comedy career only to come up empty handed and suicidal in the end.
“I’m very proud of the way Louis C.K. has made it big on his own terms, using his own voice,” said Stanhope. “The days of getting discovered for ‘SNL’ or a television series and then cutting your chops as a stand up are over. Besides, that’s why the ’90s sucked so bad for stand up.”
It’s his mantra for making it on stage and not on screen that keeps Stanhope fresh—and driven. Preferring to entertain in person, he hates cameras, TVs, DVDs and recorded versions of himself—despite a career which includes 10 CDs, five DVDs and several cable specials such as his latest, “Before Turning The Gun on Himself,” which airs on Showtime on Friday, Aug. 3. A live CD/DVD will be released on Nov. 6.
Much in the vein of peers like Louis C.K., Stanhope’s comedy takes daily observations and self-deprecation to an extreme that makes Jerry Seinfeld look like Mickey Mouse. Just as you think the envelope has been pushed far enough, Stanhope finds a little more room in it to stuff a few jabs at himself, or any subject that annoys him to the point of laughter.
“There are a few subjects, not many, but a few that are off limits,” said Stanhope. “If a subject makes me more angry than annoyed—like the prison system in this country for example—I find myself so disgusted at it that my observations are more of a bitch session that’s not very funny. Other than that, anything goes!”
Unapologetically, Stanhope unleashes his sharp opinions with a type of reckless abandon that generates as many winces as laughs. In fact, his bitter but comical observation of Britain’s Royal Family at a 2009 Leeds Festival performance inspired many in the crowd to throw bottles at him or leave. But despite the reaction, Stanhope reportedly continued to jeer and taunt those who chose to remain in attendance.
Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of traditions we all accept without question—the daily trials and tribulations that merit a moment of comic relief or just an adolescent perception of those “adult” situations we all have to endure—but Stanhope can find comedy in anything, from the confusion of foreign languages to how hookers are cheating straight women out of dinners and diamond rings.
Those in Stanhope’s graduating class of comedy were all born in the mid-1960s, endured the ’80s, tried to make their way in the ’90s and have settled down now in their forties with contempt in their minds and opinions in their mouths that might seem bitter if they weren’t insightfully funny.