Too often, the body of work by a stand-up comedian is measured by how far he or she has gone with their public display. The basic wish to entertain with humor becomes riddled with goals of getting on a sitcom or landing a movie role. Doug Stanhope has no such aspirations.
Stanhope just wants to make people laugh in as personal a way as possible, and he has continued to do this time and again while staying under the radar of public opinion. That radar has resumed blipping, however, as The Man Show veteran and Louie phenom has released his 10th comedy album and 2nd CD/DVD set with Before Turning the Gun on Himself.., a live taping of his act in Salt Lake City. With an abrasive, yet down-to-earth persona, Stanhope shines not only in jokes, but his entire stage presence.
What makes him genuine, however, are his antics off the stage. Such real-life jokes as pretending to be John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols) in an accidental interview and setting up a public, online celebrity death pool are just some of the ways that Doug never shuts down his humorous view of the world, and his eagerness to share it.
We were able to speak to Doug Stanhope as he had just arrived in Denver, CO for a show, to affirm this. Here’s what happened.
Doug Stanhope: Aw f**k, I have an interview right now?
Patrick Emmel: Yes, you do.
Doug: F**k. I’m drunk as s#*t. I f**king turned on the garbage disposal looking for the light. I’m about to go do something bad. There’s a training seminar. I just checked into this hotel in Denver. I’m drunk as s#*t.
Patrick: Did you make it to the training seminar?
Doug: No no, I’ve just been sitting outside trying to listen in on what it is. I can’t hear, but it’s the AIARE training session.
Patrick: Oh, you want me to look it up for you, don’t you.
Doug: Yes! Because I’m gonna cook beef stroganoff, and I can’t do the interview and cook beef stroganoff when I’m trying to figure out if I should go in there. You know that scene in Fight Club where he puts a gun to the guy’s head, making him cry and then says, “Hey, tomorrow your life will be better”? I don’t want go that hardcore, but I want say, “Hey, you’re f**king wasting your time at these dumb self-help seminars on a Friday afternoon.” But I don’t know what AIARE is. If it’s the cops, I don’t want to f**k with them.
Remove outer carton and place in microwave. DO NOT PEEL OFF THE F**KING PLASTIC FILM. I already peeled it off! GODDAMMIT! Alright, I’m gonna have to set it back on. Heat on high for approximately 4 minutes. Remove from sheet lightly? Please hold. If I don’t eat, I’ll die.
Patrick: No problem.
Doug: Try to find out about AIARE. By the way, it’s Wildfire brand beef stroganoff. It looks nothing like the beef stroganoff I was built on. If I’m dead, it has nothing to do with the coke last night, it has nothing to do with the airplane cocktails, nothing to do with DELTA f**king me over. That’s my next call. I’m all worked up and angry, but I’m gonna take it out on the AIARE training session in Denver.
Patrick: It’s the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. How about that one?
Doug: Avalanche Research?
Patrick: They’re learning about snow. In Colorado. You’d figure they know enough about that.
Doug: Alright, we’ll talk about that at the end of the interview.
Patrick: Well, before we played the who’s who game, I was going to ask if this was John Lydon, because I heard that interview. Hilarious, dude, hilarious. How did you come up with that?
Doug: (laughs) You can chalk that up to being fresh out of bed, not knowing what the f**k I was doing. I took the initiative when it was way easier to go to sleep. I figured it would be way easier to wake up and pretend to be John Lydon to have something to put up on my website than go back to bed and have my website barren like an old woman’s vagina for another three months. I had to force myself to be vaguely fun again.
Patrick: Yeah, that last bit at the end of the interview where you say, “Yeah, just play the first cut” when they ask you what song you want to hear from the new album. That was great.
Doug: (laughs) “What was your favorite one?” “Oh, it was the first one!”
Patrick: So you’re in Denver now for a show, obviously. Where do you put Denver on the scale of cities you like to perform in?
Doug: Denver’s great. Denver sucks for routing. I love playing Boise. Portland. Salt Lake. I love all the Mid West s#*t you can drive to. That’s when it’s fun, when you can do three weeks and have your friends with you. Now it’s waking up at 6am for a 7:30 flight and then you’re flying with stops, it sucks. It’s boring, like those guys we’re going to go f**k with at the Avalanche Center. All the fun parts of comedy are f**king off, goofing around, hanging around with comics. Who gives a s#*t about jokes and other people’s happiness? It’s about us having fun.
Patrick: It’s funny that your voice mail is the happiest I’ve ever heard you, and it was as simple as “Hey, it’s me! Leave a message.” Was that a joke?
Doug: You know, I goofed on someone else the other day for their voice message. They did it once years ago, and they still don’t know what it says. I have no idea what my f**king voicemail says. I’ve had this number for twelve years.
Patrick: And you were happy that long ago, huh?
Doug: I was that day.
Patrick: Back to Denver… that city, and Colorado in general, must have crawled up the ranks of favorite gig spots because of the legalization of marijuana.
Doug: Yeah, but they better not get their hopes up. It’s like medicinal marijuana. They made that legal and then everyone in the world could get a card for a migraine or an eyesore or a pimple or herpes. And then the Feds started coming down. That’s why you have to vote Libertarian or anti Tea Party. It’s not legal federally, but everyone goes, “Oh, toddlers can smoke pot.” It doesn’t matter what the states say if the Fed can come f**k you. So what you need to do is start a d**k-slapping contest by saying “Oh, local cops and state police don’t have the balls to take on the Feds.” That’s how you get it going. It’s just like MMA. There’s a million ways you can do this rather than sitting in a park with a sign.
Patrick: Did you incorporate a few bits into your set because of this and the election?
Doug: Well, I just came from Washington to Colorado, so I guess I should put a couple jokes in the set. (laughs) I’m not a marijuana user, so I always feel kind of fraudulent. I applaud this, I do recreational drugs, but marijuana’s never one of those. People think because I talk about drugs, that I smoke pot. But I don’t. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to the legalization of marijuana, and I’ve talked about it, but they go, “Alcohol is so much worse” as if that’s going to make marijuana better. Don’t compare it to that. Compare it to, “It’s your f**king choice, it’s your body.” “But alcohol causes so many more problems and diseases and deaths.” “Oh, OK, you’re right! We’ll make alcohol illegal, too.”
Patrick: Well, back on the election… how about that Gary Johnson? I know he only got around 1% of the popular vote, but it must be a step in the right direction for the most jaded Libertarians.
Doug: First off, I’m not a party member. I stopped doing that. The Libertarian Party is a problem in and of itself, in that it’s a party that has a dogma. Ron Paul, he got a lot of heat when they start going to the party dogma. “Well, you wanna legalize all drugs.” You’re immediately curtailed by, “Did you ever do heroin? Alright, whatever.” What you need is an independent running under Libertarian principles. That’s the only way that’s going to work. Let’s say, years ago, Jesse Ventura before he went and did the most ridiculous conspiracy shows in the f**king world and ruined his credibility, but someone like that. Someone who has a strong personality. Gary Johnson doesn’t. He’s a sweet f**king guy. He’s way too honest and real. That will kill him. You need someone who’s naturally more vibrant that can pragmatically espouse the ideals that are important in the moment. It’s like asking Romney, “Hey, you’re a Mormon? Do you wear that weird underwear?” “I’m not that Mormon.” “Then you’re not really a Mormon, so you can’t run under the Mormon ticket.” As Joey Diaz would say, “I’m from the church of what’s happening now.” The Church of What’s Happening Now ticket with Libertarian principles would work.
Patrick: Did you like any of the 3rd Party candidates?
Doug: I f**king love Gary Johnson! I think he’s f**king brilliant! He needs to be Cyrano de Bergerac whispering in the earphone of the peppy guy. Slouched shoulders, looking hungover and defeated, that’s how Gary Johnson looks. The sad, sad fact is that the president is an extrapolation of a high school president or student council. People want an idol. They want royalty. They don’t want a public servant. Hell no. They want someone to clap for and go, “Oh, he touched my hand at the rally!”
Patrick: They want celebrity presidents, huh.
Doug: Yeah, that’s what they want. And it’s grotesque, but if you want to make changes you have to play into it.
Patrick: OK, we’re going to move away from politics for a bit. I noticed that New York City isn’t a stop on the tour for you. Don’t you like us?
Patrick: (laughs) Why not?
Doug: Haven’t I made that perfectly clear?
Patrick: Yeah, I think so, but I’m a New Yorker, I like to be tortured. We need you as an enema, Doug.