Velvet Laugher Master Series
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2002
Strictly limited runs from four of comedy's most happening stand-up acts:
In these days when the word controversial clings like a limpet to any hack comic who dares to use the F-word or admits to dabbling in drugs, it's a blast of fresh air to witness the real deal.
Yes, Doug Stanhope is sweary, filthy and full of bile. But he's not just fierce, he's fiercely intelligent - and fiercely funny.
Every passionate outburst makes a point, as he savages social, sexual and Washington politics with an astounding fervour.
As he says, if you want straightforward gags about a dumb-ass president who chokes on pretzels, go elsewhere (and there's plenty of shows like this to choose from this festival). But if you want someone to give the very foundations of American beliefs a brutal kicking, from drink-driving to abortion, Stanhope's your man.
It's an aggressive, even nasty, routine, which does elicit a certain shock reaction. But it's not gratuitous, on the whole, instead using heady material in the context of advancing his powerful arguments. So you get buggery gags linked to his opinions on global overpopulation.
Well, OK, some of the sex stuff is apropos of nothing - including the base, but funny, money shot which brings his routine to a literal climax - but a lot of it isn't. The disparate gags - memorable as they are - also help him out of a narrative hole on more than one occasion.
This was Stanhope's first British appearance, and he did fumble a little with which references and routines would translate, and then trying rearranging the material that was left into something like a coherent show.
His stay is pitifully short - but if you're within travelling distance of Edinburgh this week, grasp any chance you can to see a genuinely outrageous, angry and above all funny comedian on brutal form.