By Spencer Dobson
Those who watch the critically acclaimed show “Louie” on FX might recognize Doug Stanhope from his portrayal of Eddie, the Road comic that’s been on the road too long and wants to end his life.
“Louie called me to ask me if I acted at all and I said, ‘I don’t, I suck at it, I’m probably a poor choice.’ [Louie] said, ‘would you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I would, but I’m just warning you up front.’” Stanhope recalls.
Stanhope could relate to Eddie. “I did live like that, from piece of s—- car to piece of s—- car.”
His days of living in crappy cars ended when he won the San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1995. “After I won, I turned to Wavey Gravey [legendary hippie who was judging the competition], gave him the title and said, ‘give this to the first homeless person you see.’ But he didn’t take it, and it got busted into and they took my bag with everything I had in it. So It was me, with the thrift store suit I had on, an olds Cutlass with the window broken out and a check for $10,000. It was great.” Stanhope recounts.
By the way, Stanhope beat a little known comic named Dane Cook at that particular competition.
If you missed the “Louie” Episode, you might have seen Stanhope’s new special, “Before Turning the Gun on Himself,” on Showtime or picked up the CD of the same name.
The emerging theme of suicide led me to ask Stanhope, “You got something you want to talk about? ” But he cut me off before the words got out of my mouth.
“I’ve had that f—- title forever. I wanted to use it on ‘Dead Beat Hero’ and ‘No Refund,’ but for the first one, they thought it wouldn’t be able to get into ‘box’ stores,” Stanhope explained. “And the second time it was going to be that, and then the f—- Virginia Tech shooting came out, so I had to scramble for another title at the last minute.”
The title alone is enough to get most comics in trouble in the U.S. Not this comedian. He has to go overseas for that. In the U.K., Stanhope was part of a recent scandal involving a journalist who had shamed a stroke victim for fighting for the right to die. Stanhope, who had helped his mother commit assisted suicide while she was suffering from emphysema, tweeted, “I just went Christian just to pray you get a fetid ovarian cyst. Let me know if it works.” This generated a huge controversy that got a lot of ink, outrage and calls for Stanhope to be banned from the BBC. “That worked great. I got a great 15 minutes of new material out of her. But it’s so easy to cause controversy over there, especially because you are an American.”
Stanhope’s U.K. scandals do draw a comparison to Daniel Tosh’s scandals, stateside. “It’s like when people say, ‘Oh, you got in trouble, it’s like when Dan Tosh got in trouble,’” Stanhope said. “Dan Tosh got in trouble? Dan Tosh got f—- noticed. It’s money in the bank.”
I ask him why he thinks he has not been the center of such a cell phone video freak out. “They only freak out on people where they think they can catch them, or embarrass them, or hurt them. That’s why Howard Stern isn’t in the news every day, for saying something racy or offensive. Because they know he does that, and they know he doesn’t give a s—- and people don’t give a s—-. If you can catch Hugh Grant with a hooker, he’s going to blush and hem and haw and back peddle and then you have a story. But if a Charlie Sheen gets a hooker, he’s just going to go, ‘Yeah, I get hookers.’ Then there’s no story, there’s no shame, no outrage.”
Stanhope is getting good press as well. “The Office” creator, Ricky Gervais, who recently tweeted, “[Stanhope] might be the most important stand-up working today. Just saying. Please tell him that if you know him.” Sarah Silverman tweeted, “Dear Jews who run show business, Please give @dougstanhope a television show. Thanks, S. Silverman” after watching a bit Stanhope does about disliking nationalism. That’s pretty high praise from people who know comedy.
Consisting of harsh, vulgar, ugly material, Stanhope’s act is simultaneously smart, insightful and truthful. That’s where the secret lies. He is vulgar, but not in a dumb Andrew Dice Clay sort of way. And he’s smart, but in an accessible way that doesn’t require people to have a lot background info to get his references. This is probably why his name is starting to pop up in sentences alongside names like Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, Bill Hicks and Lenny Bruce.
When I asked him to comment on the phenomenon, he chuckled dismissively and said, “If you want to print that, I’ll deal with the backlash. I may have taken myself too seriously for a minute when people started to say things like that, but then I just up the amount of fist f—- jokes in my act.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Doug Stanhope’s “The Big Stink Tour” w/ Brett Erickson and Geoff Tate
WHEN: Sept. 22, 9 p.m.
WHERE: The Nestor Tavern, 1001 NP Ave, FARGO
HOW MUCH: $20; tiny.cc/7ktfkw
- Members only features
- Members can email articles, add articles as favorites, add tags to articles and more. Register now to unlock additional features.