Doug Stanhope named his newest standup comedy DVD Beer Hall Putsch after a failed attempt by Hitler to seize power in 1923.
“Back then, they would all meet in beer halls and yell about politics. … Hitler was a bit of a headliner,” Stanhope said. “He’d get everyone lathered up; they’d go riot in the street and get shot. Hitler would stay back.”
Stanhope isn’t comparing himself to history’s most evil man — just his tactics.
“I get everyone all fired up in a f-ing beer hall and then I do nothing about it,” he said. “When push comes to shove … I’m sitting on my [expletive] watching Ray Donovan and Breaking Bad.”
He knows just enough to be dangerous — and hilarious. In one of his best bits, prostitutes compete with citizens forced to do anything for money as the economy melts down and a street hooker waxes wise about Milton Friedman and the gold standard. But the comic’s no expert.
“That’s all just surface knowledge,” Stanhope said. “Stuff that I didn’t even want to know that I learned by blowback of other stuff that I do believe in.”
Stanhope flirted with wonkiness in 2008, almost running for president as a Libertarian.
“I stopped, because I hate politics,” he said. “I even tried to learn them on some level but it’s boring. … I have opinions that have some social relevance occasionally, but not enough to base a campaign on.”
Though the interview took place as the U.S. government was shutting down, Stanhope remained apathetic.
“I’ve been watching ESPN football all day and then I put on CNN and I don’t f-ing care. What are they going to shut down that I’m going to need, the TSA? We’ve seen it all before and nothing ever happens. If they shut their doors like Crazy Eddie and had a blowout sale, I’d say, ‘Great.’”
Protests notwithstanding, Stanhope routinely tackles serious subjects, from drug legalization to assisted suicide. The latter is personal — his pain-ravaged mother took her own life, and he talks about it in often-uncomfortable detail.
“It’s important. Suicide has always been in my act,” he said. “On an earlier album I was talking about how my mother would eventually kill herself … four years later I was right.”
On stage, he talks about guiding her through the process, acquiring drugs and staying with her until the end. Is he worried about legal problems?
“Yeah,” he said, pausing with nervous laughter. “Obviously, I was kidding about the whole thing — I’m a comedian.”
His set frequently begins with these cautious words: “You may not like this show; it’s not for everybody.” Stanhope tears into favorite topics. Children? He can’t stand them, and wonders aloud if registering as a pedophile might deter his parent friends from bringing theirs to his football parties.
Stanhope is a big fan of drugs; on his 2012 Showtime special Before Turning the Gun On Himself he described his favorite cocktail of Adderall and Ex-Lax: “I like to take it, go to sleep and play chicken in my dreams.”
With often-coarse sexual imagery and liberal doses of the F-bomb, Stanhope is R with a capital “Remove the easily offended.” After all, his biggest star turn, apart from a riveting role as a suicidal acquaintance of comic Louis CK on his TV show on Louie, was telling the joke at the center of The Aristocrats to a diaper-clad baby.
So yeah, he’s not for everyone. But neither were Bill Hicks or Sam Kinison. Those who soldier past the shock and awful, however, will be rewarded with one of the most intelligent comics working today. Local comedy fans get it, apparently. At press time, Stanhope’s Manchester show was nearly sold out.