Doug Stanhope is a terrible person. Whether through his well chronicled experimentation with drugs or his brazenly crude and crass sense of humor and use of language, he's not someone I'd likely loan 20 dollars to with any expectation of getting it back. Having said that, of course, this terrible person is a f**king brilliant comedian.
Playing the detached and depraved everyman in his comedy—perhaps because he is a detached and depraved everyman—Stanhope's comedic point of view seems to grow more poignant as his career advances. The album this review covers is his 12th since 1998, despite the offal it seemingly is camouflaged in. Mind you, as a Louisiana son I am no stranger to speech laced with enough colorful images to make even the most die hard sailor blush like a nun. Maybe that's why I like Stanhope so much.
Some of my favorite comedians take the everyday ignorance and idiocy they see and turn it on the audience in a smart way that makes them laugh without realizing that they are laughing at themselves—that I am laughing at myself.
George Carlin did it with blinding wordplay and verve. Lenny Bruce did it with a coy deliberateness that cut through excuses like a knife. Doug Stanhope does it… with dick jokes and 10-minute monologues on anal fisting.
They all got to the same places, eventually. Carlin, Bruce and Stanhope, especially on Before Turning The Gun On Myself—his most relaxed and fully realized album in many years (as opposed to just taping himself doing a set), all drive the audience to a place of awareness.
At their best, comedians make us see how absurd we are, how absurd life and existence itself is, and let us laugh at it instead of getting a hellacious case of anxiety. Though Stanhope is all for that too.
Before Turning the Gun on Myself is a nice hour or so of Stanhope just pacing the stage in jeans, white t-shirt and a fairly ridiculous jacket while drinking many glasses of adult beverage while simply talking. What he says are, ostensibly, jokes but they are also simple observations on human nature, the feral idiocy of most people, and coming to terms with how small and ineffectual most of us are in our lives.