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.
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.