Doug Stanhope is vulgar, crude, honest to a fault (and then some), and has no qualms about pissing off his audiences. But what separates him from all those other jackoffs you’ve met before is the fact that he’s also quite brilliant. Stanhope plays in the fields of taboo with the recklessness of someone who’s too smart to care what you think. And though you’ll never hear him say it (in fact he’s completely self-effacing and void of smug pretence), Stanhope is a genius parading around the slums of failed ideology. Basically, he’s Charles Bukowski with dick jokes drunkenly fueled by Thomas Payne.
You’ve hilariously revealed much about yourself on and off stage: from being blown by a trannie, to discussing creative ways of jerking off, drug-fueled orgies, and showing your dick in public. Is there anything you’re actually ashamed about?
I spend almost every morning ashamed of things I’ve done, even when I don’t know that I’ve actually done anything. Sometimes I just assume I should be ashamed and feel like an asshole on faith. But not for any of the reasons you’ve listed. That stuff is just ridiculous.
Much of your act deals with themes that don’t seem to be addressed enough in other mediums — freedom, liberty, vice laws, sexual taboos, religion, political and social hypocrisies. How do you juggle communicating these ideas with making them funny while not coming across as preachy or arrogant?
I didn’t know that I wasn’t preachy and arrogant. In fact, I thought that’s exactly how I come across when it comes to those topics. If I’m trying to make a point that I think is important, it isn’t going to get lost because I was trying too hard to be clever. It will be snotty, vulgar, rude, and abrasive. And I’ll feel ashamed about it in the morning.
You’re selling out large theaters across Europe; is there a noticeable cultural barrier for some of your material? If so, how have you adapted?
A lot of my stuff that works here won’t translate over there. They won’t understand the reference or the subject if it’s something that doesn’t affect them. So you just write more, try to pull anything new out of your ass.
Louis C.K. is writing you into his show on FX; any idea what you’ll be doing?
It’s sort of a guy like me if I were still living out of my car doing one-nighters this many years later. Let’s just say it won’t be a recurring role.
Your new CD is out, recorded in Oslo, Norway, for rock label Roadrunner Records. It retains many themes you are known for, but there seems to be a larger element of relationship material towards the end. Do you feel in that aspect of your life you are starting to settle down?
I’m settled as shit. I’m amazed at how comfortable I am doing absolutely nothing. I could just sit on a couch or slumped over a bar watching football or bullshitting for the rest of my days without noticing the time going by. I’m sure I’ll find something to re-stoke my interest in life, fist-fuck some passion back into me, but for today I’m good watching Always Sunny in Philadelphia and day-drinking.
The owners of the club `Laugh Out Loud` still bring up the “penis incident” in Austin `in which Stanhope had a waitress shave his scrotum during a performance`. Was there a specific bit that led into balls being shaved live on stage? Like in an “I can’t do this joke unless someone physically does this to my sac” kind of thing? Was there any fear of it becoming your signature bit?
There was no bit. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Doug Stanhope will perform one show only at 10pm this Sunday, May 22 at Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club. Visit lolsanantonio.com or call (210) 541-8805 for tickets and show information.