Doug Stanhope

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.

We went into Edmonton Thursday night to see Doug Stanhope at New City.

Due to the continuing medical restrictions on Rob’s activities, I drove, which makes for tense travel under optimal conditions, but as I was driving his vehicle instead of my Avalanche and negotiating an area of the city I’ve never driven, it was particular fun.

And by “fun”, I mean not in the least bit.

Earlier in the day I caught the tail end of a conversation between two of the NOW radio deejays about a recent survey on men’s perceptions of female driving. The female they live with specifically. The results revealed that one in three actually feared for their safety, if not lives, when their women were behind the wheel.

The survey included 3,000 men and in addition to their uncontrollable fright, they shared the following hard to completely believe tidbits:

  • 1 in 10 has grabbed the wheel to prevent an accident
  • 1 in 5 find it impossible to fully relax
  • nearly all considered their driving abilities superior
  • 1 in 5 couples have argued over her driving skills
  • 1 in 10 men have asked their wives to pull over so they can drive

What specifically do men object to or feel may contribute to their premature death and/or dismemberment?

They believe that women don’t concentrate and are easily distracted from the task of driving by … everything. They also are sure that they possess a superior ability to assess conditions and react in a more timely manner.

And what are women drivers’ chief offenses?


1. Lack of concentration

2. Braking too late

3. Flicking the accelerator

4. Not avoiding rumble strips

5. Getting too close to other cars

6. Braking too hard

7. Fiddling with the stereo

8. Failure to indicate

9. Going too fast

10. Sticking in the middle lane

Four and ten I found particularly ridiculous.

I have never encountered a rumble strip that it was possible to avoid without driving on the shoulder, which in Alberta – don’t exist generally – and back in Iowa were gravel.

And the middle lane? That I don’t get. On the interstate I drove regularly back in the commuter days, the far right lane was for exiting and entrancing. People who rode that lane basically gummed up the works, making it harder to get on and impossible to exit during rush hour because no one will let you in as they inch towards work or home.

The far left was considered the “fast lane” though how there can be such a thing when the maximum speed limit is the same regardless of lane, I never understood.

What I discovered is that no matter what lane you are in, somebody – usually a guy – will get cheesed off because … he has entitlement issues and/or disillusions of superior driving skills.

I’ve had two husbands now (and a father), who have all held my driving skills in low esteem, and I’ll admit that I don’t/didn’t drive well with any one of them riding shotgun – mostly because I know I am being evaluated and found wanting, which unsurprisingly makes the whole driving process even more joyless.

In the Jalopnik article referring to the poll, one of the commenters made an excellent point. Driving skill is often related to the level of love the driver holds for driving.

Certainly I have rarely loved driving.

Rob regards it as a game and began driving at age eleven. At one point he drove semi when he was working the oil fields and driving was part of his job later on as a field operator.

My late husband took great pride in his ability to drive and his vehicles and was devastated when his illness effectively grounded him. Before he lost his sight however, he drove a cube van on a delivery route.

My father (and my mother too) grew up on a farm. He mastered all modes of transport at a young age and during his years after being discharged from the Navy in the late forties, road-tripped with his brother all over the west.

Since first getting my license, an arduous process that involved put myself under the microscope of my father to a point where I would actively avoid opportunities to practice driving, I was a chauffeur.

First among my friends with a license and liberal access to wheels, I ferried us about on weekends and over the summer. My new skill freed my parents to dump as many of their transportation duties on me as they could get away with as I became a taxi service for my siblings.

In university though I lived a blissful three years without driving, bumming rides if I needed them but mainly walking. I avoided even the college transit system for the most part. But student teaching and living off campus eventually put an end to my carefree days and when I moved away for my first teaching job to a city where cars were a necessary evil, I spent the next decade or so commuting with the masses.

Driving has always been a task. No different from recycling and or mowing the lawn. I happily abandon the driver’s seat to anyone who wants it more, so I think the “love of driving” comment makes a lot of sense.

Rob isn’t allowed to drive for another three weeks. Precaution and also provincial regulation. Not any different in the states really. Will’s best friend’s wife is an epileptic and she was forever being put on driving restrictions after seizures though she seldom abided by them for long.

The ride home after Doug Stanhope (which was an experience) was a bit harrowing. I am very light-sensitive. Headlights dang near blind me – more now than when I was younger though. So between the glare, the rain and the unfamiliar dash, I white-knuckled to the point where Rob suggested that I pull over and let him drive.

When we got home, I switched back to my truck to drive the babysitter home and all was well again, and a lesson was learned by all.

Well, I learned a lesson at any rate – and I made an appointment with the eye doctor. According to Rob you can get tinted glasses to deal with glare for night driving, who knew? I’ve been complaining to eye docs for years about the glare and halo effect I get at night*.

Heart attacks are growth experiences even when you didn’t have one yourself.

* No, I don’t have glaucoma. My pressure is fine. I have always seen halos and am just incredibly photosensitive. It’s worse at night only because the general darkness means my pupil is open wider and reacts more strongly to the spotlight effect of headlights and sudden changes from very dark to bright lights.