Doug Stanhope is a hero to a certain breed of comedy fans—the breed that likes to hear unfettered honesty, from-the-heart raunchiness, and social substance in a stand-up act. He’s coming to Georgia Theatre tomorrow evening, so we carefully crafted some questions and asked them of Stanhope. The result (a Q&A session) lurks below this introduction.
Flagpole: What led you into comedy?
Doug Stanhope: It was just popular. There was a lot of comedy around, so I guess I probably just did it for the same reason some would do karaoke—just trying to get laid [laughs]. I didn’t start out with any angles on having a career in it, but it worked out that way.
FP: Did you come right out of the gate with social commentary?
DS: No. It was all jerk-off jokes. Just a series of masturbation jokes, pretty much. That kind of grew into something more—there’s still plenty of jerk-off jokes though, don’t get me wrong. But the social relevance, I guess, comes with age, and any cranky old man starts noticing the world around him. Once you’ve blown a load off your chest, you’ve got to figure out what else is important in life.
FP: I’ve always thought of you as a social commentator, but on your latest album, *Before Turning The Gun On Himself*, you spend the last ten minutes talking about not giving a shit anymore.
DS: Yeah, I’m trying to get a lot more of that into my life and my act.
FP: So you’d say that attitude has, for lack of a better term, become more severe, but in a good way?
DS: Yeah. When you spend so much time yelling, you start taking it seriously. And if you don’t watch yourself, none of it comes out fun. And that’ll make you crazy. I went through a period, thinking that what I said really mattered [laughs]. That’s death right there.
FP: So you don’t think that comedy and art really have that ability to make any kind of social change?
DS: Not on any detectable level. I really don’t. People come, and they laugh. It’s not like I’m leading these people into the streets to do anything. I’m trying to find more solutions, rather than just screaming about problems. I’m such a fan of groups like Anonymous and Wikileaks—people who seem to be doing stuff rather than just hanging around with a sign at a protest, and a bumper sticker, and a t-shirt… and a quilt.
FP: Do you, as George Carlin did, see yourself as a spectator and commentator, rather than a participant, in the social structure? Are you moving toward that type of apathy, or is it something different?
DS: I want to move toward more somewhat proactive hijinks. I just don’t know how to do it. I want to do more than just lay back and watch. I want to fuck with the system a bit, but not in any way that’s revolutionary. Just more prankster kind of things. My audience isn’t a Daniel Tosh sized audience, but they’re loyal and they can be stirred into trouble easily. And I think I’m squandering that power to fuck with stuff.
There was this guy online who was taking all of my act or writing from my website, just taking bits verbatim off my CDs and writing them as his own. Word-for-word, just changing the name, and trying to promote it as, “Hey, come read my life of true stories of drugs, sex, whatever”—and it’s all my shit. He had an entire blog like he’s trying to be Tucker Max or something. So I just put out one tweet: “This guy’s stealing my life and identity. Fuck with him.” And people just came out of the woodworks. By the next morning, his Facebook was down, his Twitter account was gone, his Myspace was set to private—which is redundant. Just knowing that the small amount of people I have are willing to go and tear someone down like that—that’s a powerful force. We could use that for something that’s either funny or has some kind of social relevance other than just my own personal needs. That what’s driving me right now, but not so much that I’m doing anything about it.
FP: Can we expect a lot of new material at this next show?
DS: I don’t do any of that [material from the last release]. Once I put it out, I don’t do it anymore… especially if I'm selling shit at the show, I don’t want to sell them shit they just saw.
I want to start the fetish of opting-off. It’s a huge gay fetish where people opt out of body scanners at TSA and get frisked on purpose as a prelude to anonymous gay sex at airports. I’ll start opting-off websites, trading off pictures of different TSA agents, the idea being that there will be some kind of internal TSA where they don’t want to do pat-downs because they think they’re inadvertently and unwillingly participating in homosexual acts. *That* would be a prank. It’s not going to change the world, it probably wouldn’t work, and it probably wouldn’t even make it to TSA—but if it did, it would be hilarious. I want to start trolling life more.
FP: What can Athenians expect to experience at a Doug Stanhope show?
DS: I’ll be drunk and yelling. I have other comics with me who are very funny. I expect you’ll need to take the day off the next day. Expect a hangover—like, a violent one.
FP: Anything else you’d like to add?
DS: Come out and enjoy yourself. You die at the end. Life’s boring. Come out and get fucked up.
Stanhope’s new release *Before Turning The Gun On Himself* is available on Amazon and will be released on DVD in November.
He will perform on Tuesday, August 21 at the Georgia Theatre. Doors are at 8 PM. Tickets are $20.