It takes a lot of courage for a person to get up on stage – to speak their mind, sometimes challenge or defy the audience and/or make an ass out of themselves all in an attempt to make people laugh.
“Not if you drink,” joked veteran comedian Doug Stanhope. “It doesn’t take much courage at all. Just have something in the bag, wander out on stage and start hurling insults and objections to society into a microphone. And people are drunk and they clap.”
So goes Stanhope’s perspective on what it takes to at least attempt stand-up. Although that formula doesn’t work for everyone, it works for Stanhope, who’s been charming and challenging crowds across the globe with his brash but warm, defiant but friendly attitude.
He’s been doing tour dates here and there, working on new material for the past year since releasing Beer Hall Putsch in September 2013. Stanhope will be at The State Theatre this Saturday, Sept. 13, but he’s so unpredictable that he couldn’t forecast what he might talk about.
“It changes on any given night. I have no idea what I’ll be talking about. It will be loud and angry and obscene, just like everything else I’ve done,” Stanhope said. “Who knows what kind of war will break out or typhoon or Ebola plague will hit? By then my ALS ice bucket challenge jokes will be dead.”
Stanhope said he prefers his material like he prefers his anger – fresh. “The material I do, you don’t want to watch it twice. It’s not like these pre-written jokes where you put immense thought and anger into a subject,” Stanhope said. “And then you talk about it for too long and then you’re just faking the anger. It’s gotta be fresh.”
His small, but devoted following comes to see him often and so he likes to keep his material and act new for them, as well. He’s been producing a new special, like clockwork, about every 18 months for the past few years and he said he expects to have a new special ready by the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015.
It will be Stanhope’s 14th comedy special. Many of his contemporaries, like Louis C.K., Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman and Aisha Tyler, have praised Stanhope’s fearless, controversial and quick-witted comedy.
But before he started what has become a legendary career over the last 25 years, Stanhope worked for a shady telemarketing firm and almost went to jail for it.
“We would call up to businesses and tell them that they won a prize and all they had to do get that prize was buy some stuff from us,” Stanhope said. “It was only legal if you worded it right.”
He said he would go around the office reciting the stand-up routine of Andrew Dice Clay, who, not surprisingly, Stanhope claims as one of his biggest influences. “Then I decided that I should try this out. I should write my own stuff,” he said.
Stanhope left the telemarketing firm only weeks before they were raided. He said a co-worker and buddy of his at the firm did time as a result.
So it’s also not surprising that Stanhope admitted to some graciousness that his life has turned out the way it has. “I don’t live in a mansion or anything, but I’ve got people over here doing some work,” Stanhope said. “And I can’t even bring myself to put on pants. I’ve been able to sit in the house and be disgusting all day.”
• For more information about Doug Stanhope, visit dougstanhope.com.