Doug Stanhope on the evolution of jokes and why Breast Cancer Awareness is a scam
For every parent out there worried about pedophilia, Doug Stanhope offers a reassurance: In all likelihood, nobody wants to fuck your kid. That bit is up there on the list of incredibly offensive Stanhope material, but it's by no means all there is; over the course of his twenty-year career, Stanhope has developed himself into something of a Bill Hicks torch-bearer, a socially conscious, obscenely ranting curmudgeon obsessed with deviant pornography and humanity's shocking dark side, but not without some excellent points to make along the way -- and a lot of laughs. He's one of the most compelling comedians working today, and in advance of his stop through Denver
tonight Friday, November 4, we caught up with him to talk about Oslo, developing a bit and "Cunt Cancer Awareness."
Westword: I wanted to talk about your DVD Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere and how you just kind of showed up to an empty club and taped it. And I was thinking about Louis CK and how, on Louie, you'll see him performing to an empty club with like two sleeping people, and I was wondering if that was something you were inspired by, or if that's part of like a hyper-realist comedic philosophy or something?
Doug Stanhope: Oh man, you're reading way too much into it. I had a photographer who was shooting the cover for a CD that I was about to release, and he said, hey, you know, I can also get TV cameras if you want to film the show. I hadn't even released the CD when we filmed the DVD. I wish I'd never put it out. It was way too soon. Those bits were all in their toddler stages, and they became way better bits. When you look at the long run of life, that was a piece of shit. But yeah, you're right, it was true to what we do -- that's the show that I would have done in Norway. But the thing is, you keep doing those bits, they become way better, so it was almost like releasing an open mic. But that's how comedy goes. You work on stuff for nine months or a year and a half, and then you're sick of doing it, but it was what it was.
We're actually putting out another one out for Christmas, and it had a bit that I opened with that I had just written that day -- it was just a joke, and it's since turned into a way better bit. So I cut the whole opening out. I don't want to fucking waste a joke that's turned into a fun piece to do. The tough thing is it's the opener of the show, so if we cut that out, there's no way to edit around it. But fuck it. No one sees my show for professionalism.
True enough. Most of your stuff comes off really honest and off-the-cuff. Have you always performed like that, or is that something that's evolved?
Of course. I mean, it's been 21 years I've been doing this. I've gone through a lot of phases. When I was starting out I just said things that would elicit a laugh, and then I started doing like true stories, and then I got opinionated, and I thought, "Oh shit, I don't ever want to be Bill Maher." I don't know what I do anymore. I don't know why people keep showing up.
Have you stopped caring?
I've stopped caring for sure, but at the same time I still work on it. Once you've talked about the things you're passionate about so many times, and you're looking for new material, you're like, "well, I've already talked about the stuff I'm passionate about. I guess I'll talk about the stuff I don't really give a fuck about and pretend to care about it more. Right now I'm walking around now with a shirt that says Cunt Cancer Awareness on it, just a little logo right there in the upper corner, like a Polo symbol on this Miami Dolphins-blue fucking polo shit, and no one has noticed. Nobody's noticed it says Cunt Cancer Awareness.
Why are you wearing a shirt that says Cunt Cancer Awareness?
The idea came from hanging around with...