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Stanhope, the Last of a Dead Breed

Getting on with the over extended torturous life lesson that is existence is no easy feat. I’m in receipt of a strange feeling that hinges on a novel brand of moral insecurity, and largely perpetrated by having to be awake.

The worst of these sentiments has to be getting out of bed when you don’t want to. It’s difficult to dismiss the possibility that we have collectively missed the point of existence and that is beginning to make me anxious. To unfuck something as incrementally fucked as the average, modern routine seems nearly impossible. The reason I’m aware of this is because Doug Stanhope is aware of this. I always feel like this whenever I’ve listened to one of his albums, libertine gonzo type apologia meets funny. A caustic mix that I’ve grown quite fond of.



Stanhope seems to be the only one of his kind, I’ve encountered work similar to his and know comedians who hold him in high esteem but no one seems to confront contemporary existential commentary with quite the same balls deep approach. It’s the nearest thing to ideological violence that I know.


He barges through all things sacred and secular with a vicious self loathing manifest at every drunken step. I think it might be why he’s been able to blaspheme and socially transgress as much as he has, his transparent misery and deadbeat honesty qualifies him. Not in an Eyore emotionally needy way, but rather a, step back in case the blood splatter from this suicide attempt ruins your Banana Republic Khaki’s, sort of way. Gusto.


The reason I find him important as a comedian and thinker is twofold. He seems to pursue his craft wholeheartedly. Shit, side note, capturing the essence of Stanhope in a piece of writing is difficult, you need to spend some time encountering his material first hand, because it’s really big and so very different to what the rest of the stand up world is doing. It’s the size of his ideological blueprint that impresses me, he attacks his material in a rare, Hicks-esque over committed tone. Yet doesn’t take himself seriously at all.


That’s my next point, alongside his authenticity is a professionally suicidal novelty. Sure he massacres political correctness, taste and charm whole sale. I mean really excessively, but he does it with a supercharged meta-liberal wildness that is nearly impossible to anticipate. Part of my obsession with comedy has to do with how much room the artform makes for the unexpected, entire routines swivel on the very fact. The unexpected, loosely speaking, is a surprise, an unexpected gift and that is nearly impossible to hate.


Being surprised is what kept my childhood afloat, from ice cream to whatever Heman might do next, to hearing my dog fart, it made everything that much more exciting. Comedy keeps that primal child like appetite whetted and that makes it blisteringly cool.


Now, with some years on, my faculty for absorbing surprise has grown complex and considerably larger. It needs expert catering, something Stanhope is in receipt of. Fluent in misdirection and laterally flexible. His punchlines and angled observations bounce unrestrained around everything you thought you’d never laugh at.


This guy is no slouch; a weapon’s grade shitty attitude encased in a meticulously crafted disregard for authority. It’s the upper case approach that my wonder bathes in. The sheer spectacle of a guy on fire.


I’ve sent off a request for an interview so watch this space.

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July 8, 2012 Early Tilt