Doug Stanhope rants across City Stage
Comedian Doug Stanhope
City Stage • 21 North Front Street
9/23 • Doors: 7 p.m. Show: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 – $30
Ages 18 and up
No topic is off limits. Point blank. The easily offended, serious rogues, unwincingly staunch in the idea that funny shant be disrespectful, need not buy a ticket. An abrasive, almost-guaranteed drunk Doug Stanhope will take over the Masonic Temple Building on September 23rd, breathing animated honesty into the rafters. The thick-skinned will wallow in his crux.
Ex-pat Wilmingtonian Matt Ward, head of Super Cat Productions and comedian, has brought numerous shows to town since departing over a year ago. He continues by booking Stanhope to “disprove [the] theory that comedy doesn’t work near the beach.” In one of Stanhope’s gigs, he opens in New York claiming comedy is best watched along the Big Apple’s dirty streets because “everyone is so fucking miserable”
there. Though he’d rather be in Costa Rica doing stand-up, the fact of the matter is everyone’s already smiling—so what’s the point, really? Perhaps Wilmington can show the miser that funny is funny regardless of location or population of despair.
Stanhope’s views become his comedy—something inherent in his sinister outlook. After all, the world at large isn’t sunshine, sandy shores and blue-cresting waves. Among many things, he has a way with words—aggressive, loaded, heavy verbiage that has led to much name-calling, including “anti-Semitic” after the 2006 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Stanhope stated, “I hate Jews,” which a paper printed verbatim—and possibly out of context. In response, the comedian spouted an entire “Jew-hating bit” during a 2007 Showtime special, “No Refunds.”
To be fair, the comic doesn’t pigeon-hole his “hate” so to speak. He offers it up to everyone: Christians, Muslims, Athiests, Scientologists, doctors, lawyers, moms, dads and, yes, even children. In 2006 he authored the controversial “Fun with Pedophiles: The Best of Baiting.” Though on paper, it may raise a few eyebrows, his YouTube videos have far too much truth in them to not think about the brevity of his words:
“I was terrified when my doctor told me that I had a unique and interesting personality trait. But then he told me about the new Zoloft, Prozac, and I just take three pills a day and I blend into this horrible, inbred corporate landscape,” he spews.
Instead, Stanhope embraces the fact the he “has a head that won’t shut the fuck up!” Thus, his banter is never-ending.
While some laugh—of whom have a depreciation for an over-sensitive society—others, well, they react in precarious ways. During the 2009 Leeds Festival, unfavorable comments about the Royal Family and uptight English attitude didn’t fare well, so the Brits booed the American misanthrope.
Again, no one is safe—especially not the media. Along with Stanhope’s disdain for double questions—“like making 11 questions into 22,” he states during the encore interview (of course, only after I bait him on what he dislikes)—the worst he says is when he’s asked: “Where do you get your ideas?” or “What made you want to do comedy?” “They come into your head, just like any idea,” he quips. “You don’t get ‘em from a vending machine.”
Regardless the reaction, there is always one. And from both sides: audience and comedian. “My humor tends to lay in what would be considered ‘dark,’” he says, “or sometimes I just have some silliness.” Watching him beat himself in the head while spinning and humming carnival music is a pretty good indication of the latter.
Smoking cigarettes with constant beer in hand, he looks less like a clown and more like an everyday sour-puss neighbor who sits on his front porch complaining about anything that crosses his path. That makes Stanhope likeable. Though not necessary to be funny, his use of profanity adds to it.
“That’s just how I talk,” he explains. “A Mexican accent isn’t necessary either, but if you have one, you’ll look fake and stupid trying to hide it. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than someone who doesn’t use profanity, trying to jam it into their set like that will help them. Just as awkward.”
While absurdity of truth plays a role in many shticks, that’s not necessarily the case with this Arizonan. Yes, his truth is at the forefront of the show, but of the fodder, his revolves around animosity. “Hate is most of my show,” he admits. He calls the absurd a “dark-ages society that still hinges on fallacies like religion or leadership or greed.”
In 2008, the race between libertarian Ron Paul and liberal Barack Obama sparked much interest to the comic. After his favored politico, Ron Paul, dropped out, Stanhope wanted to pick up the pieces and run his own presidential election. It never amounted to anything because the Federal Election Commission wouldn’t allow him the use of his show’s funds for campaign money. What did he do instead? Voted for Barack Obama.
Inconsistencies—yes, they’re there. As they are in every human. Like many, he guffaws over society’s stupidity. He also welcomes any juvenile take on sexual crass. “I love to take a side of an argument that is roundly off-putting and not only get a laugh but have an inarguable defense for it,” he admits.
As a twentysomething, the comedian set his sights early on for stories about masturbation and getting-laid jokes to carry his show. Now at 44 some things have changed; others not so much.
“I’m [now] a miserable realist who spends most of my time complaining,” he notes—“even if it’s still about yanking off or getting laid. Maybe I havent changed at all, save for the delivery.”
Stanhope’s 20-year career has proven him far more educated in the knocks of life than some may credit the freshman high-school dropout. He has crossed media platforms, hosting radio shows on Sirius, and on TV, such as on “The Man Show” with Joe Rogan. Most recently, he made an appearance on FX’s “Louie.” Yet stand-up remains his addiction.
“I hate TV,” he admits. “It’s like having a job. If I could find anything easier than stand-up that paid the same, I’d do it. Including letting lepers masturbate on my sunburn.”
It makes one wonder if anything is sacred to the comedian. Among Stanhope’s top 20 best moments in life thus far, “probably 16 were drug-related,” he admits. Others include falling in love—which happened at Burning Man and included the use of lots of drugs. Still, he airs to the side of emotional sanction to some degree, noting how “nothing onstage compares to those things.”
Much of the same can be said for his adoration for football. In fact, the comedian has refrained from booking Saturday shows during his tour as to avoid Sunday travels. “I’ll be at the house from the first Bloody Mary at kick-off Sunday morning until the last beer on Monday night,” the Cardinals fan promises.
It’s something he once shared with his best friend, Russ, who died of a massive brain aneurysm in March. According to Stanhope, the upcoming season will be a bit less “gay” in some form or fashion. The two pals found as much to love about uniforms as a quarterback’s passing yards per game. “We’d root for a team just because they were wearing a cool throwback,” he says.
And then comes the moment of realism that isn’t off-putting or wrangled with boorish weight. We all share one human condition: grief. Stanhope has a lot of it when discussing life; he’s just a little more outspoken about it.
“Parents die, but those aren’t your social circle,” he says. “Comics die, but those were people you’d see once a year on the road but friends nonetheless. Russ was actually part of our lives, and home is still not the same without him. I’m sure that question, and answer, will drag people off the couch to the show.”
Somehow, it probably will.