Doug Stanhope in London 2011

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Julia Chamberlain

How lovely  to see Doug Stanhope back in Leicester Square Theatre, even if he clearly feels he’s slumming it after doing a night at the Hammersmith Apollo back in April. He made several references to ‘slinking back’ and being  mystified that we all come back as well.  

This was the second show in a month’s run and he’s still clearly finding his sea-legs, it took him a few minutes and a couple of vodkas to relax into fluency.  Initially there were some pauses, with expectant silence, as he adjusted himself into the set, enjoying the awkwardness. This wasn’t all new, but it felt as fresh as paint, and I think the show will evolve as he’s looking to have a new hour by the end, for DVD purposes.  

He’s great with the drunken anecdote, describing a woozy arrival at Halifax, Canada, in the middle of the night, where his fancy-dress jacket and girlfriend’s pyjama’d appearance got them picked for drug carriers, painting a vivid picture of her sleepy contribution impeding proceedings as they were politely interrogated by mild Canadian border security.   

Not currently a drug user, he warned against advertising that you were, by bombing around in a flower-power decorated VW camper van or as a biker, where the smart thing to do would be to appear ultra conservative and straight, as a cover, leading to some entertaining speculation about Mormons and Amish folk. From the drug dress code, to the Muslim dress code to extremism and the contradictory nature of having a hierarchical approach to becoming a terrorist instead of just independently  ‘blowing shit up’.  He makes Al Qaeda hilarious, which is properly subversive.  

And then he moves into a dissection of  organisations, charities, philosphies, the futility of rehab – every 12-step programme is  all about a God, and the disgrace that medical profession gives up on science and turns to ‘a higher power’ to treat addiction.  There’s a beautiful bit about celebrity rehab shows, where the actual rehabiliation is always off camera, what we enjoy is watching some bloke stumbling around bashing into the furniture before he’s whisked away to be rescued.  

He’s not an advocate for drugs and alcohol, but he’s all for honesty, so he doesn’t hesitate to keep us apprised of his physical and mental decline, the constant need for sleeping tablets, the consistency of his faeces, his faltering memory and utter lack of libido, but this isn’t plaintive and whinging, it’s a factual , comical and vulnerable all once.

Because he’s so brutal on himself, he’s equally outspoken about Amy Winehouse – ‘not a genius’ – and Russell Brand and other subjects popularly held dear without examination.

At the same time as commentating on   atheism, the economy and addiction, he literally brings it right home, talking about small town life in Bisby, Arizona, (pop. 6,000) and the etiquette of living among  a community of artists and what being an artist means – making stuff other people don’t want to see or hear, pretty much like the children they want to bring to his parties.  

He was on great curmudgeonly form and concluded with a wonderful and disgusting soliloquy about the true indicator of a poor economy can be measured by the degradation of prostitution.  He doesn’t shy away from difficult areas, but makes them vivid and grotesque and above all funny, fuelled by an angry sense of a world that has skewed priorities.  

Anyone who had seen Stanhope before will have relished this performance as covering some favourite topics and on top form – not yet exhausted by his loathing for London and being away from home. Any newcomers will have seen why his brand of filthy, angry, half drunk utterance is so popular. If current form is anything to go by, and your curiosity is piqued, make sure you see him this month.

Review date: 5 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Julia Chamberlain
Reviewed at: Leicester Square Theatre

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

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.