Hey Doug, make some damn effort

Ted Shiress is disappointed with Stanhope's latest DVD

Doug Stanhope is one of my favourite living comedians. It is seldom that I can really like an artist if I don’t agree with their politics but Doug is an exception.

He calls himself a libertarian, so I generally agree with his views on social policy and bits of foreign policy, but suspect a conflict if we were discussing economics at a dinner party

But he is an incredibly funny man who sees no problem in stating just what he feels in a way that is normally hilarious. However, having viewed his latest offering – Oslo: Burning The Bridge To Nowhere –  it seems to fall short.

The DVD opens with a message from Doug basically explaining that it was filmed within very short notice in a foreign country, and that he had to pad out his usual set to make it long enough. This and the fact there is no added canned laughter, which he uses as an excuse for the very muted response he gets, is why he humorously suggests it might not seem as funny as your average polished HBO special. But, he says, ‘at least it’s real.’

Is this really a valid excuse? This is something Stewart Lee does occasionally (although often with him it is tongue in cheek while he is actually trying hard to be at his best), and although I love both comics, this relaxed attitude to recording does annoy me.

If you’re going to film a show that the public can then buy and view then I consider it essential that the intended, buyers are considered the audience; otherwise you’re just going to be sending out bad messages to prospective fans.

Also, the excuse that small audiences don’t make much noise doesn’t stand. I have been to many modest comedy gigs and seen acts storm. When this happens even a small audience can make a mighty noise.

Doug repeatedly makes comments about the presence of the cameras, cheap and amateur though they are, being a ‘pain in the fucking ass’ and putting him off. This again makes me a bit uneasy as Doug is a professional who is exceptionally talented at his art, even if he likes to mask it, and I don’t for one minute believe the cameras put him off. So why he feels the need to say they do, without being funny with it, seems rather odd, but perhaps you just had to ‘be there’.

I am a massive advocate of bootlegging – but there needs to be a distinction between what I buy and what I can get for free. I own lots of bootlegs, some of better quality than others, but I don’t own any that I’d be happy paying for as a professional and official release.

Recording bootlegs is completely unofficial and often illegal, so to listen to them you are, without doubt, considered to be an unintended audience of the live show. However purchasing an officially produced live CD or DVD makes you a part of the intended audience.

I could compile you several CDs worth of low-quality feedback jams from bootlegs of my favourite guitarist Neil Young, and you may find them entertaining to listen to once or twice, and you’d almost certainly be excited if you were there.

However, the reality is you are not there, and you wouldn’t pay for something that sounds so harsh on the ear as a recording. I sincerely doubt Neil Young would expect you to buy such an album (at least not after 1991’s Arc). Which is why comics, and musicians, need to play their A-game when they’re being filmed, and not mess around.

There is an argument that you can’t create the fun and spontaneity of a great gig while still playing your safe A-game. But I just see this as a reason why you should persuade as many people as you can to see you live – which a good DVD will do.

Being filmed is restrictive; a fake plastic replication of the artform. But it needs to be suitable for a large number of people to watch on a small screen in the plastic environment of their own home. Stanhope’s DVD seems to be the prime example of just why you should differentiate between the gigs you mess around at and those you film for release, and leave the ‘moments of magic’ for the bootleggers.

Don’t worry Doug, despite your dubious politics and lack of care when joking about the lovely Mrs Palin and her infant with Down’s Syndrome, I still love you.

Just next time you film a DVD, please play your A-game. Just for me.

Published: 5 Dec 2011

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.