An interview with comedian Doug Stanhope
By Jeff Allen, Contributor
Comedian Doug Stanhope has been slaying audiences for years with his brutal honesty and caustic wit. He probably won’t be lending his voice to any adorable Pixar characters in the foreseeable future, but his comedy has amassed a loyal international following. He’s a genuine comedic talent, recognized as such by his contemporaries like Louis C.K., who featured Stanhope in an episode of his series Louie on FX. Last month, we contacted Mr. Stanhope via email to find out where his mind was at prior to his upcoming Canadian tour.
“I just finished Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, by Radley Balko, so rogue cops are making me consider starting to drink at 10 a.m.”
Stanhope’s bread and butter is his sardonic take on American culture; that and dick jokes, of course. He’s clever enough to make you think he’s apathetic about our crazy modern age, and he’s also funny enough to put it in perspective.
This past May, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer questioned tornado survivor Rebecca Vitsmun about her near-death experience, following the devastation of her home in Moore, Oklahoma. When he prompted her for an answer to his question, “Do you thank the lord?” She responded politely with a nervous laugh: “I’m actually an atheist.”
While many celebrities offered prayers for the people of Moore, Stanhope spearheaded an online campaign on Indiegogo asking his fellow atheists for monetary help. The goal: to put a secular family back in their home. In exchange for donations, Stanhope offered several incentives. A $10 donation got you a prayer from Stanhope himself on your behalf, while $50 got you a “Get out of Hell Free” card.
“It just started as a drunken idea, sometimes those are the best ones…the video had gone viral and I knew my audience would get behind it…we hit the $50,000 mark in the first 17 hours. Atheists doing the lord’s work.”
The campaign officially concluded on July 22, and Stanhope and his godless supporters were able to raise $125,760.
In addition to his charitable efforts, Stanhope is busy with another interesting endeavor, one equally telling of his character: his celebrity death pool.
“I really don’t follow a lot of pop culture. I just front-loaded a bunch of celebrity rehab names the first year. But as the year played out, I started to research for the next year. By now, you wouldn’t recognize most names on my list; New Zealand cricketers or Guinness Book people. Once you know how to research, you get pretty obscure, but a lot more accurate, and I’m still languishing in seventh place. The leader already has nine deaths of her 20 picks and it’s only July. It’s become an obsession.”
Stanhope will be bringing that dark comedic view to the Rickshaw Theatre at the end of August, perhaps the most suitable venue to showcase his talent. The Rickshaw typically plays host to heavy metal and alternative music acts, while the East Side location itself is a showcase for the many unpleasant realities of urban living. Of course, most people showing up for a Doug Stanhope show are not your typical comedy club patrons.
“It’s a very eclectic grouping and most of them seem to think the rest of them are assholes and they’re probably right. But they’re good-hearted assholes for the most part.”
As a veteran comic of 23 years with an avid and steadily growing fan base, it’s tough to imagine that he would have to deal with any “asshole” hecklers at his show. Does that problem still exist?
“Probably the last time I performed, and I probably said something back. I think the thought of a heckler is far scarier to you than it is to a comedian. Especially at my shows.”
And just how does he feel about performing in Canada?
“It’s getting to be one of the few countries worth crossing a border to play. I don’t like borders but I love Canada…even the shitholes like Winnipeg. It’s murderous and scabby but it still manages ‘quaint’ on some level. I do remember hating Kamloops for some reason… I don’t remember why but it doesn’t matter, I don’t have to go back.”
So is he intending to stick around Vancouver for any length of time after the show?
“About as long as I would stay around the scene of a murder I’d committed.”
Doug Stanhope performs at The Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver on August 31.