Doug Stanhope on how drinking and poor life choices (but not Donald Trump) help improve his act
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
A conversation with Doug Stanhope is almost exactly what you'd expect if you've ever seen him perform live or on his successful stand-up specials.
The only difference, really, is the volume — softer on the phone, certainly, than the full-throated hollering on stage.
The cursing level is almost exactly the same.
Here's his description (edited for general audiences) of his most recent special, No Place Like Home, available now on Seeso: "It was filmed last November, but there was endless (graphic sexual act) with the network and the lawyers and my (expletive) agent. I was surprised to see it still held up, but we've still got plenty of ISIS and (expletive) to go around.
"They didn't cure crazy, so that part was still fresh."
If anything, Stanhope was sounding a bit more haggard than usual Wednesday.
"I just came back from LA after the premiere, so I've still got that post-Mardi Gras feeling. I need to make a cocktail, get in the mood," he said, wandering through his home in Brisbee, Ariz. "They threw a viewing party here while I was in LA, and they drank me out. Great (expletive) friends."
What's his cocktail of choice these days?
"Vodka and grapefruit — fresh squeezed if I feel fancy. Lots of whiskey sodas lately. Last year, I tried my annual (attempt) to quit smoking, so I started drinking only two drinks a night because after two drinks, it's oh (expletive) it, so I drank lots of Old Fashioneds, Rusty Nails. I got to branch out my alcoholism some.
"Gin fizzes are a lot of fun, too, but I ain't going to be drinking them in an Amarillo bar, that's for sure."
Oh yes, Amarillo — the reason we spoke.
Stanhope will be back in Amarillo for a 7 p.m. Tuesday show at Golden Light Cantina, 2908 S.W. Sixth Ave. Tickets are $30, plus fees, and are available here.
He chuckled when he heard what other high-profile comic would be performing in town next week — Carlos Mencia, who has long battled allegations of stealing jokes from his fellow comics. (I've got an interview with Mencia that will post early next week.)
"Oh hell, I didn't know he still works," Stanhope said, mock-sympathetically. "I guess we're both playing Amarillo for a reason. I'm starting with it, and that's all he has left."
Back to the alcohol. Stanhope makes no bones about performing under the influence.
"The bit that I did about it was very true: Drugs expanded my mind to come up with this (expletive), cigarettes gave me the patience to write it all down, and alcohol gives me the confidence to stand up in front of you judgmental (expletives) and say it out loud," he said. "I'm not really good at pretending to like people when I don't. So alcohol does as much for me as it does for others around me."
Also fueling his act? Hatred.
"Absolutely. It's like the old thing mothers say: 'If you keep making that face, it's going to stick like that.' That's what happened to my act," he said. "But every time I listen to myself, I think I should really try to work on yelling less. I'm really (expletive) annoying after an hour. But it's so ingrained in me now. Between yelling every night on stage and coughing from so many cigarettes, I don't know what's responsible for the hernia, but I just had another one flare up.
"The doctor said don't lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. I don't know what the weight of a good rant is, the stress that causes on the abdominal walls."
Our conversation flowed to current events, which Stanhope generally doesn't address in his act — the better to keep it somewhat evergreen until he polishes it up enough to record for a special.
"This Trump (expletive) is getting weirder," he said. "I'm a Gary Johnson guy, but I don't know that I'll get around to voting. ... About the only Trump material I have is that ... no president ever follows through on what they promise, so just because Trump is promising awful (expletive) like building a wall and deporting people, he still won't get around to it, just like you don't have a chicken in every pot. He could have a holocaust bill, but they'd still add amendments to it and filibuster it and no one gets anything done.
"Election year comedy is so hard. All you see on CNN is Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Trump, Clinton, Trump. I don't really give a (expletive) about politics. C'mon, give me some murders, some more riots — the fun stuff."
As Stanhope explained, he's going into his 26th year of comedy (he just celebrated his 25th anniversary at a Las Vegas gig in August, in fact), so finding subjects worthy of ranting about is getting a little hard.
"The subjects I am passionate about, I have worked and reworked and (expletive) from a different angle," he said. "There is just no way of saying any more. What else do I care about? Everyone is being pounded over the head by late night (comics) with (expletive) Clinton and Trump jokes. I just don't have any. It's entertaining to watch, not to write about."
He'd rather find subjects he thinks will still be relevant in a year, when he can record a new special.
"Trump, as soon as he loses, will be an afterthought within a month," he said. "That's why you can still listen to Bill Hicks and, to some extent, Lenny Bruce. But In some ways, it's even more depressing that they're still relevant, that all of those problems still exist.
"Hicks is great, but all the names stay the same — Iraq, Bush, Clinton. It was that way in 1991 and now, just a different Clinton and Bush."
Expect to hear more about the defamation lawsuit filed by Amber Heard, ex-wife of Johnny Depp, after Stanhope publicly accused her of lying about her allegations of abuse levied against Depp in their divorce. Heard dropped the case earlier this month.
"She dumped that, which we knew was going to happen," Stanhope said. "That summons should have come with a blank notebook for all the material I'm going to write about it. (Expletive), I should write that down."
Stanhope's looking for new material everywhere right now, following the Seeso special and his anniversary show.
"Generally, (the set) builds over the course of a year or so," he said. "You add a little bit, and it fits with that other thing that you could never get to work. It's a nightly growing (process).
"I could go out and do something incredibly stupid (while) drunk just to write about it — make a lot of choices, (expletive) a stripper on a cruise ship just so your wife is going to catch you just so you have 10 minutes of material."
"That's not an exaggeration. But I didn't actually do it for the material."