Doug Stanhope – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Doug Stanhope – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

No one can explain Doug Stanhope’s appeal as well as the man himself. He calls his act ‘fetish comedy’ – a hardcore taste that’s not for everyone; but if this is your scene, you’ll travel great distances to get it.

It’s certainly a taste worth acquiring: his shambolic, drunken, savage, fatalistic act proves the perfect antidote to the slick-but-soulless mainstream. Though he paints himself as an everyday beer-swigging dumb-ass American, he has a unique way of thinking – and a heartfelt, if messy, passion with which to get those opinions across.

His fans, or fellow fetishists, love his unpredictability. You’re never quite sure just how sober he’ll be, or what particular bee will be in his bonnet. His screwed-up mind, and life, is what creates such funny, hard-hitting material – but the cruel irony is that his show is so much better when he focuses; when his genius isn’t obscured by a scrambled train of thought.

In his current London run – or at least in tonight’s show – he has the balance about right, ranting with a drunk’s unshakeable conviction to get his point across, but sharp enough to nail the uncompromisingly harsh gags. The delivery might sometimes be faltering, as he frequently stumbles mid-sentence, trying to jump-start those booze-damaged synapses, but the bilious material is intact.

He splutters out his distain for critics, makes a brilliant case for the futility of the Olympics, and dismisses those who claim sex is the ultimate expression of emotional intimacy, reducing each act to a perfunctory ‘blourt’.

Even when his targets are the usual suspects of religion, right-wing politicians and waste-of-oxygen rednecks, he brings a fresh perspective, original gags and an ever-escalating brutality to the material. He targets the religious moderates, not the all-too-easy fundamentalists, while his ultra-topical, and ultra-vicious, attacks on Sarah Palin are unlikely to feature in any campaign advertisement. But each routine is as funny as it is audacious. Or maybe they’re funny because they are so audacious.

The perpetually bitter Stanhope doesn’t just reserve his cruel scorn for hardcore gun-toting, fag-hating, book-banning, Alaskan-dwelling, environment-raping Republicans. He takes issue with Palin for being pro-life, but he’s anti it. He hates all of humanity, himself included, and concludes it’s time for a cull. His hold on his devotees means he can even call for a genocide in Sudan, promote the plus side of domestic violence, or cheerlead for a revival of the much-maligned ‘art form’ of eugenics, and give every argument a lot of logic, if not a lot of compassion. Thank god he’s a comedian, not a despot.

With topics and opinions like this, it’s no wonder controversy follows him everywhere; and this relentlessly ferocious show is certainly not for delicate sensibilities. Even if you don’t count yourself among the ranks of the easily offended, you might still be shocked at the vicious extremes of a very sick man.

But accept that – and the fact that his delivery is unlikely to be note perfect – and you’ll be in for a guilty pleasure.

Reviewed by:Steve Bennett
September 2008

Review date: 16 Sep 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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