date night

Doug Stanhope performed at New City in Edmonton on the 22nd. He’s a comic.Apparently hosted The Man Show at one time and hangs on the radio waves with the likes of Howard Stern and Alex Jones, the former a career douchebag and the latter a charming leftie conspiracy theorist who, among other things, believes that 9/11 was an inside job and that detention camps are being secretly built all over the U.S. for the coming New World Order.

I came to know Stanhope via my husband, who discovered him inadvertently through Charlie Brooker and Newswipe.

As is often the case with Internet finds, one click leads to another and soon Rob had “liked” Stanhope’s Facebook page – his only nod to that particular function – and found that Stanhope would be touring Canada over the summer.

“Do you want to go see Doug Stanhope?” he asked.

The answer was – not really so much. The clips I’d see of the guy were clever, spot-on and funny, but revealed a man who was teetering on the edge of Kurt Cobain-like self-absorbed disillusionment with life. It makes for poignant poetry whatever the artistic medium of choice, but it’s painful to submit to being a witness to.

“Sure,” I said.

Because it meant a night out and as Rob still has the soul-sucking job while I live a comparatively bliss-driven life, I like to do things that add joy to his life.

New City is a dump. Both my step-daughters and Rob apologized for the venue up and down as we stood in line, wandered the floor searching vainly for a table, lined up in hurriedly procured bar stools along a side wall and surveyed the mainly male, increasing drunk as the minutes ticked by crowd.

“Will took me to worse places than this, ” I assured Rob.

And he did. My late husband’s passion for pool dragged me through a tour of some of the skankiest  dive-ish small town southern Iowa bars in existence. Women without front teeth exposing postpartum goose-flesh via midriff tee-shirts pilfered from their teenage daughter’s laundry baskets and men in flannel – and not the Abercrombie and Fitch devil-may-care kind of nonchalant faux working man look either. These guys actually worked and no amount of Lava soap could erase the caked crud under their nails or the cigarette stains between their fingers.

The New City crowd was not nearly as authentic working class as they probably thought they appeared. Mostly just a bunch of drifting 20 somethings who worked dead end service gigs, still shared housing with at least five other equally aimless people and thought the meaning of life was being able to claim they were in a band and had enough money to alter their consciousness on a regular basis. That last part is probably a prerequisite to being able to live an existence that can’t help but lead to waking up at 35, looking 40-ish and wondering why 19 year olds suddenly think you are so very, very lame.

Opening acts?


The combined pair spewed enough self-loathing into the atmosphere, it’s a wonder Stanhope took the stage at all.

Rob Mailloux mc’d and opened. His schtick is adoption, abortion and hating himself. Paced a lot. The pregnant woman at the table in front of us threw the Queen Victoria stink-eye at him from the get-go. Hard not to sympathize with her when the man’s opening line was something along the lines of “adoptee’s are merely abortion survivors” and his act culminated with a long rant on how most adoptee’s had whores for mothers. Somewhere in the middle was a bit about George Tiller, the murdered abortion provider, which fell flat because I doubt that many Canadians know that story and because it simply wasn’t funny.

Next up was someone who apparently is the world’s fattest contortionist – which he demonstrated for his finale by exposing his belly, remarking that his belly button looked like a clit and then proceeded to fist himself. Leading up to that however was a long ramble about how women wouldn’t “fuck” with him. Because he’s fat. Which I suspect is the least of the reasons women resist his overtures, the rejection owing more to the fact that he doesn’t like himself much and that he makes a living off his own self-loathing. But that’s just my opinion.

And then came Stanhope.

I hadn’t laughed up to this point, so I was glad to see him.

He was drunk and would proceed to get a lot more so as the hour wore on.

And I wondered why a person would do something for a living that they needed to drink their way through.

I didn’t wonder it for very long because it soon became clear that Stanhope really isn’t all that into what he does anymore. I could relate. The last two or three years I taught, I alternated between brilliance and phoning it in. I could pull rabbits from anywhere if a kid really needed me to do it, but mostly, I’d left the building.

Doug Stanhope has left the building. What’s up on the stage is ghostly energy. A haunting if you will.

But the audience was either too awed by the man’s legend or too inebriated and full of their own imagined cleverness to notice.

Hecklers, I am guessing, are part of the Stanhope act though I don’t think it’s by his design. He’s inadvertently cultivated this idea that he’s all about “partying” when he’s really all about numbing himself. His mostly dumb young and full of cum white trash followers don’t know the difference.

They also don’t realize that much of what Stanhope mocks, they embody heart and soul.

At various times, Stanhope was brilliant. He’s often compared to George Carlin or Bill Hicks, but unlike them, he’s very close to moving beyond caring. Mostly I think because he doesn’t believe he can make a difference.

Not that comics – or any artist really – should have to bear the burden of “making a difference”. The world really shouldn’t rely so heavily on being “inspired” before doing something about all its glaring and, mostly, self-inflicted ills.

One heckler in particular was desperate to be part of the act. I later discovered that he is a Facebook friend of a friend of one of my step-daughters. Very Kevin Bacon is Facebook.

Decked in the obligatory uniform of a rapidly exiting his twenties but refusing to get his shit together because that would be knuckling to the man, he wooted and echoed and drove Stanhope to at least three rants, one of which basically labeled the guy – Jochum – a douchebag loser.

A couple of days later, Rob creeped him on Facebook and discovered that Jochum was a cliché on top of it. A drummer in a band – isn’t everyone? – he had an event notice on his page for a pot smoking event in an Edmonton park where his band would be supplying music. Edmontonians like to pretend they have the balls to smoke pot openly every now and again. It makes them feel equal or superior to the folks in Vancouver, who actually do partake in the open.

At the three-fourths mark, Stanhope gave up all pretense of brilliance and went back to The Man Show and I stopped listening and began watching his very young girlfriend act up. She tried to break into his act a few times when he was basically disparaging the idea that love is meaningful and by the end was so angry with him, she brought his snack tray down from the “green room” and began sharing it with the daughters and their friends.

After the show, the club cleared quickly. Due to the male heaviness of the audience the usually clusterfuck at the women’s washroom consisted of me and three others waiting for a stall to open. Behind me a young lady gushed about her fortune.

“I can’t believe I got to see Doug Stanhope,” she told the equally young women behind her. “I just found out about it two days ago and I was so excited. Doug Stanhope is like the new George Carlin.”

Oh, sweetie, you need to listen to much, much more Carlin – and watch way less television.

Doug Stanhope has his moments but Carlin he ain’t.*

*Stanhope’s blog has a bit in a post about trolling the blogosphere and stumbling across reviews that talk about how he sucks and the impact on his feelings. He doesn’t suck, but he does appear to be in the backcountry descent in terms of his own involvement in his career. Catch him while you can.

As many of you know, Rob and I frequently cuddle up in bed with his laptop and a DVD from our public library. The library has quite an impressive collection. We have seldom been unable to find a film that strikes our fancy and often we choose movies from the sneak peaks that are provided on the DVD’s we have seen.

Dan in Real Life though was something I read about on MSN. We are Steve Carell fans and investigate his movies even if we don’t end up checking them out of the library.

I warned Rob upfront that it was a chick flick and he lamented the fact that all the really funny actors eventually succumb to the dreaded genre. It wasn’t until he was firing up the computer and inserting the disc that I mentioned the storyline was that of a widower falling in love again.

“Just had to keep the streak alive, didn’t you?” was his arched eyebrow comment*.

The main character Dan, played by Carell, is an advice columnist on the verge of syndication and raising his three daughters somewhere in Jersey. During a trip to his family’s summer home for their annual get together, he meets a woman by chance in a bookstore and they click. However the woman turns out to be his brother’s new girlfriend. Romantic comedy ensues.

The supporting cast is great**. The subplots are humorous but realistic. Dan’s widowhood is central to the story, not in a “in your face way”, but merely as just another circumstance of his life that makes him who he is and explains the way he deals with many of the issues that come up.

And it made us laugh. Both of us. Despite the mediocre reviews the film got when it came out, it is worth a viewing in the privacy of one’s living room, den or bedroom – as is our wont mostly because of the lack of living room furniture thing.

Being widowed, I was especially touched by the tiny details. For example, the opening scene is early in the morning with the alarm going off. Dan reaches out to the empty side of the bed and you can see he is clearly lonely. The camera pulls back to reveal that his late wife’s side of the bed is made and covered with papers and books and whatnot. Another scene at his parent’s home finds Dan being set up for the stay in the laundry room. Rob thought that was funny until I pointed out that naturally he wouldn’t get a real bedroom like his married siblings. It’s not as if he had a wife to consider. And of course there is the constant but well-meaning advice of his parents and siblings to “get back out there already”***.

Of course movie nights mean being tired the next day. We always end up staying up way too late regardless of how early we get started. Isn’t that the way of “dates”?

Dan in Real Life is a good flick. You should give it a look if the opportunity presents.

*Anyone who has been reading here a while knows that Rob and I have a habit of picking/watching movies with death and widowhood themes even when we try not to pick them out.

**The brother is played by Dane Cook who is a comedian Rob often hears on XM and had been on that very day with a bit about his first blow-job and and car door handles. It’s here on YouTube.

***There is a great subplot with one of his teen daughters falling in love that is the perfect metaphor for the newly minted adult single back “out there”. The compare/contrast is great.

Rob and I went out on a date last evening. A real one. Hired a sitter and everything. I think this might be about the fifth date we have been on ever. It’s interesting to me that even those rituals of courtship and coupledom that are entirely ordinary don’t feel that way at all.

We went to see Ocean’s 13. It wasn’t bad. Of course, I haven’t seen the previous two films, so I have no basis for comparison. A few things struck me however. First that the film has a 1960’s feel to the cinematography in places. Second, Ellen Barkin’s boob job was kinda scary looking, and there isn’t enough of an age gap between she and Matt Damon for the COUGAR rule to apply. Finally, Brad Pitt looked old. Not old man old. But, old like me. Which he should I guess as he and I are the same age. The last thing I noticed was that Rob and I were the only couple, of any age, in the theater who were snuggled up to enjoy the movie. The seating these days makes it possible for a couple to sit close, curl up even, but we were the only ones to avail ourselves of these modern improvements in cinematic enjoyment. Which brings me back to my earlier point, even the ordinary relationship things seem worthy of going the extra mile. Indeed, if there is a mile beyond the extra, I kinda want to go there too.