Comedians on Comedians: The Truth About Doug Stanhope

If you only know Doug Stanhope from the second iteration of “The Man Show,” you don’t know Doug Stanhope.

“I’m glad – if only for the experience and the first-hand knowledge of how smothered the creative process gets when you deal with television and their lot,” Stanhope said. “I only wish that all the execs who called the shots were equally shamed publicly for the finished product.”

Stanhope is at his best when he’s uncensored and unrestricted, which is why he’s got such a huge cult following but you’ve never seen him on network television.

“I don’t know that it would be as challenging as it would be just not funny,” Stanhope said of that possibility. “My act cleaned up is like NASCAR running at 35 mph.”

While many other comedians shuck and jive to get TV appearances and fame, Doug Stanhope stubbornly remains Doug Stanhope, and relies on networks like Showtime to get his comedy out to the masses. Even Stanhope’s home address is contrary to the industry -he lives in Bisbee, Arizona – a town 10 miles from the Mexican border with a population of around 6,000.

“Nobody cares, there’s no problems. You can have dogs, paint your house whatever color you like,” Stanhope said about Bisbee. “It might not be the fertile breeding ground for stories about hookers and LSD but it’s home.”

On a recent episode of Louie, Stanhope played Eddie Mack, a comedian living in his car, playing seedy bars, and planning on killing himself. Stanhope’s performance was masterful, and a piece of Eddie really reminded me of Doug.

Stanhope is much more successful than Eddie, and much more at peace with the business and himself. While Stanhope plays seedy bars, he does it on purpose, and he’s clearly not planning on ending things any time soon. The part that reminded me of Eddie is Stanhope’s relentless belief that comedy should be about truth.

Stanhope’s brilliances comes from his egalitarian honesty. “I’m leading you into battle,” Stanhope’s album Deadbeat Hero aptly starts. “You’re not all going to be here at the end.”

My favorite bit of Stanhope’s (also one of his favorites) is a story he told about a one-night stand with a woman named Bobbie Barnett. He used her real name in the story, and when a born-again Barnett angrily wrote to him many years later, he used her real name on his website, too. The bit (and subsequent letter) is a magnificently frank exploration of the fleeting nature of beauty, and Stanhope does not come off as the bad guy for revealing her. Like it does in the rest of his act, his honesty makes him the hero.

And while you’ll never see Stanhope playing a president on Saturday Night Live or participating in a goofy cooking segment on the Today Show, you can see him at those seedy bars, seedier rock clubs, and other such venues around the world. When you do, it’s my honest opinion that you’ll enjoy it.

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