Doug Stanhope is one of the most underrated standup comics today. His beer-drinking, chain-smoking, sexually perverse persona might seem like a gimmick, but it’s not. He’s simply being himself on stage, venting in a “comedy-friendly format.”
The Comedy Network aired an edited version of No Refunds last night. For instance, his “fuck the Jews” bit was cut down by The Comedy Network. His special could have easily gone its full sixty-one minutes, but whatever.
Doug Stanhope is most compared to Bill Hicks. It’s not an unfair comparison – Hicks is a Stanhope influence, and both have an aversion to organized religion. Frankly, I judge Stanhope on how good he is compared to the other leading “honest” comics of his era – Lewis Black, Patton Oswalt, David Cross et al.
I prefer Stanhope to everyone else. Stanhope has biting observations and a lack of caring whether anyone is offended by his comedy routine. I don’t agree with a lot of what Stanhope says, but damned if he isn’t more genuinely insightful than a thousand Brian Regans.
Take that aforementioned “fuck the Jews” bit. He’s more offended by people who define themselves by religious preference and/or nationality than anything. The bit comes after Stanhope mentions being quoted out of context by the London Times while playing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Stanhope’s just filling a void he’s neglected for so long after offending Christians, Muslims and other religious types.
What I like about Stanhope is that he doesn’t mince words about his chosen lifestyle. His “all religions are mind control” stance is in the tradition of George Carlin and Bill Hicks, but he has the talent to pull this stance off. Stanhope might be an asshole, but he’s a funny asshole with valid points.
I’ll stop short of saying Doug Stanhope is the best standup comic of his generation. On No Refunds, Stanhope openly wonders if he’s “out of shit.” Since his standup hasn’t tanked on the level of Denis Leary and Dennis Miller, I doubt he is. Stanhope could easily go another decade without losing his edge, he’s that in control of his discipline. If No Refunds is any indication, he’s the most functional drunk since Robert Goulet.