Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2006
So, what to make of an American stand-up comic whose sexual experiences include screwing a midget 'ust to find out what it was like? ' A man who videoed his own vasectomy and posted the film on his website? A man who on the name-dropping side - partied for three days with Johnny Depp and Bill Murray after Hunter S.Thompson's funeral? And who had a boxing match with disgraced ice-skater Tonya Harding?
Doug Stanhope is less than run-of-the-mill and something of
Being billed as the natural successor to Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor can put a heavy burden of expectation on a man. Especially as that man is a rather shambolic performer, ill at ease in his environment.
Doug Stanhope spent the first week in his natural habitat: the underground, raw and claustrophobic confines of the Tron pub. Now he's gone from playing to several dozen people a night to several hundred, in this brutally functional space. 'Ideal for a world hunger symposium,' he accurately surmises, 'but not for deranged tales.'
He's made an effort and put on a suit, which he doesn't wear well. And as he shuffles to this utilitarian stage, beer in hand, he resembles nothing more than a drunken uncle behaving boorishly and inappropriately at a wedding in some soulless civic centre.
Stanhope has been a road comic for 16 years, and much of his act comprises war tales from that rootless life. It's a hedonistic and horrible catalogue of abuses, both narcotic and sexual aimed squarely at those who want a vicarious life of drunken abandon, hallucinogen-induced escapades and frequent, meaningless and often depraved sex.
It's brutal, fratboy humour taken to its extreme. There's no humanity in this just empty shock. Is this really the future of comedy?
He's happy to twist any opinions to fit this nihilistic viewpoint. Drugs, of course, are great. But not drugs like Prozac that deaden the mind to the bleakness of tedious jobs and tedious lives, only things like cocaine, because that's a completely different oblivion, clearly.
Occasionally, these tales flare up into absolutely brilliant lines, all the more amazing because Stanhope seems so unfocussed, seeming to struggle for words and ideas. With his lifestyle, the synapses probably aren't what they once were. But then he claims to be funnier when he's drunk. And the venue is definitely distracting him.
The harsh fact is that for first 45 minutes of the show, he's nothing special. He's got a lot of attitude, can be sporadically hilarious, and the cheap shock he employs can still be damn effective but that doesn't place him among comedy's highest elite.
Then, in the last 10 minutes or so, he suddenly soars a symphony of incisive, edgy, hilarious stand-up, performed with the skill of a virtuouso. The shocks are to make a point, the thinking depraved but inspired. This is what all the fuss was about.
He bemoans those who blame everything in their shitty lives on the most minor sexual abuse as a child, yet physical abuse is considered a badge of honour. It's saying the unsayable, but in order to challenge an accepted way of thinking, not just because it's naughty to do so.
Similarly his answer to the anti-abortion campaigner flyering with images of terminated foetuses is sick, excessive, callous and absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious because it so expertly fights extremism with extremism.
If only the whole show has been as excoriatingly, viscerally brilliant as this, every ounce of praise he's ever received would have been vindicated tenfold. As it was, it only served as an indication of how much he was treading water for the rest of the hour.
Barry Barcrest - 30/10/2007
Didn't any of you guys actually listen to his stuff prior to going to see him? It seems you only went to see him based on an expectation that you were going to see something else, then you got upset that it wasn't the something else you expected. You wouldn't eat shit just because somebody told you it was just like chocolate? Yeah there are simularities in that they are both brown and get runny when they are warm but that doesn't make them the same. He has a shock value to his show and he has taken drugs but that doesn't make him bill hicks, there are similarities that is all. If this guy ever comes to the U.K. again i will go out of my way to go and see him.
John - 30/08/2006
I saw Doug in Kilkenny this year and like my friend below I went in anticipation having heard a lot about his reputation and comparisons to the "great" Bill Hicks. To be honest I was really let down. Stanhope should never again be mentioned in the same scentence as Bill. The gig I seen was to be honest just plain shit. He just ranted on about his drug taking days and how pissed off in general he is with mates for not wanting to hang out with him anymore. Maybe Doug its' because you're a moaning whinging little bitch. Now dont get me wrong I moan a lot myself and lots of comics do but Stanhope just wasn't funny doing it. He spent his entire show giving out about stuff in general, however again it just wasn't funny. He just came out with statements for their shock value. 'All Irish women are ugly from what I can see"' That was really smart Doug, it got him booed off the main stage and moved into a smaller venue where he was supposed to excel. Well the only thing that excelled was my ass out of his gig before I ended up strangling this annoying pain in the arse American. So Doug please stop it with the Bill Hicks cover act, you're really bad at it
A - 30/08/2006
So what this review is saying that he's getting a 4-star review for a 10 minute spot? Odd!
Mark - 09/08/2006
I was up for some cutting edge comedy, as promised by Stanhope's reputation. Although it was clear he has talent, I found the set unsatisfying. He said early on that he was going to ad-lib and not do his written set, which I found an exciting prospect. However, he never gained any momentum, possibly due to the idiot sitting near the front heckling nonsense all night. It is however the comic's job to put someone like this in their place and get on with the laughs. I also was stunned when he accepted and consumed a tablet he was offered by said idiot, about which he later claimed wasn't aspirin. Unless this was a plant (which I am convinced it wasn't) this was reckless to say the least. Excessive living is often used to comic effect (see the amazing Brendon Burns), but I didn't feel comfortable someone taking that kind of risk for our 'enjoyment'. At the end of the day, whatever you think of this incident, whether you think I am too prudish or not, the comedy was not good enough and I felt most the laughs were gained through his reputation and not through his act on the night. I'm sure there will be some great gigs in his run, but I don't want to take that kind of chance with my money.