Doug Stanhope: The Dying Of A Last Breed | Review by Steve Bennett
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Doug Stanhope: The Dying Of A Last Breed

Review by Steve Bennett

‘Brutal’ is probably an over-used adjective to describe edgelord comedy, but if any stand-up can lay claim to it, Doug Stanhope can.

 The Dying of a Last Breed is another typically relentless, vicious assault on polite sensibilities from the embittered, eloquent and emphatic nihilist.

 A routine in his new self-released special that will definitely leave an impact is an out-and-out racist rant against weak, effete Indian men that is designed to be as horribly uncomfortable as possible. Stanhope frames his bigotry as valid in the context of emancipating gang-rapists, which might be intellectually justifiable, but only serves to pour more petrol on the flames of outrage. 

He revels in the mixed reactions. Some release the tension through gallows laughter, others will find it too problematic to enjoy, and a third group yet might even agree - to the extent he has to distance himself from any racists who might mistake him for a fellow traveller. The defence that ‘just because bigots like my stuff unironically doesn’t make me a bigot’ is morally thin ice, but Stanhope likes the thrill of dancing there.

Indeed, prepared statements of crocodile-tear, sorry-not-sorry apologies for any offence caused are a running joke, a commentary on the cultural tug-of-war that comedy finds itself caught in the middle of. Like many comedians of his ilk, defending bad-taste comedy is now an essential part of his set, justifying why ‘making fun of’ something grim can never be bad.

He doesn’t build incrementally to the bleak stuff, either: the very first routine is about dead children, throwing in some abortion material for good measure. His uncharitable response to tragic stories amplifies a split-second of hard-hearted thought many people might have, and serves as a catharsis for the guilt that engenders.

Any lack of charity seems justified by his ultra-low status. He vividly describes the seedy life of a road comic, flitting from one drab motel room to the next. In fact, as a proud scuzzball, he appreciates hanging out in lowlife dives that are at least honest about themselves over disappointing beige two-and-a-half-star off-freeway chains.

This is depicted in a breathless stream-of-consciousness diatribe that draws laughs from its relentless stream of bluntly unforgiving descriptions. It’s a technique he uses again later in a grim portrait of old age, the rhythms of his delivery and his sheer determination to batter the Las Vegas audience with the imagery overwhelm any sympathy for the poor saps he describes in what’s another darkly funny chunk.

There are some lulls over the course of the special, especially in some of the tales that have a ‘lads on tour’ banter vibe with more frat-boy swagger than content - despite Stanhope’s bid to put a #MeToo spin on it. And even some quite robust sensibilities might be challenged by some of the more line-crossing material, however much you have to admire his cojones in pushing ahead so determinedly.

Yes, he might be brutal, but so, he would argue, is life. Might as well try to make fun of it.

Doug Stanhope: The Dying Of A Last Breed was released this week via  Vimeo, where it is available for £8.05.

Review date: 27 May 2020
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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