Q&A: Doug Stanhope on Pre-Show Acid Trips, Bristol Palin's Abortion Fund, and Baiting Pedophiles
Don't expect a PG-rated stand-up act from Doug Stanhope. He'll drink, he'll smoke, and he'll curse, and if you push his buttons, you'll be next on his chopping block. He's not sweet. He's unapologetic. And that's why his fans love him. "They put up with me," Stanhope says, laughing. "They expect unprofessionalism from me. I've kind of built a perfect career to be a fuck off."
Ahead of his appearance at Culture Room Saturday, New Times caught up with Stanhope to hear his thoughts on why he ran for President in '08, creating a fundraising site to help Bristol Palin get an abortion, and why he has so much fun with pedophiles. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
New Times: So every video I've ever seen of one of your stand-up routines, you're always drinking, smoking, or a combo of both. Is that just for show? Or are you drinking right now?
Doug Stanhope: Yeah. You know what? I kind of am now. I'm drinking Baileys [Irish Cream] and coffee. But I just didn't have any creamer for my coffee, so I'm just using Baileys. But normally I wouldn't start drinking until at least a couple of hours from now.
So then it's a lifestyle [laughs].
Oh yeah. I drink regularly. I can't remember the last time I did a show sober. I don't smoke on stage anymore. It irritates people. Not the nonsmokers. Fuck them. But the smokers see you smoke and then they're just staring at your cigarette and not listening to the words. When you go to the movies and someone lights up on screen, you think, "I could give a shit less about this now. I just wanna go outside and light up and smoke."
Do you feel like it adds anything to your routine? I think it does.
It does in a sense because it's calming and gives me something to do with my hands [laughs]. There's no doubt that there's a romance to smoking. If you watch Mad Men, everyone's having a cocktail and lighting up cigarettes. I remember being a kid and smoking in a hospital. It was the smoking area outside near my high school.
Yeah, but from your routines that I've seen, you don't really romanticize smoking. You make it feel more gritty and down-and-dirty than anything else.
Yeah, yeah. But it looks good [laughs]. Everytime I go to a photo shoot, they're like, "If you want to smoke, it's cool." But I dunno what it is. Maybe I should quit because my lungs gurgle like a coffee maker.
What made you come up with the idea for your book Fun with Pedophiles?
Yeah the original website that I found was called baiting.org, and that was all that they did. The original guys that did all of the baiting had to quit doing it because it kind of runs its course after a while. It's a pretty one note thing [laughs]. But they weren't doing it anymore, so I wrote to them and asked, "If I do a few, will you post them?" Sort of like Tom Sawyer painting the fence and then everyone else started doing it for him. It's the only stuff that I've ever done that I'll go back and just laugh at my own shit.
It was really creepy. I saw one of the first characters you played, which was a teenage girl amputee in a wheelchair. Talk about specific. And he was like trying to figure out how to get out of it, yet he seemed like he still wanted to be in it.
[Laughs]. Yeah. I remember laughing incredibly at the computer and just like in tears at these people. Fuck. I would say the most repulsive things that the human imagination could come up with. The Saw movie of cyber sex, and I'd just stay there. But then it also made me wonder, "How did I have that kind of time?" 'Cause I would spend like 14-hour days -- it would take that long until you'd snag one that was print-worthy. You'd get some that you'd get halfway in and they'd just bail on you. But how would I have so much time to kill?
To me baiting seems like it can't have a good ending... or even a "happy" one. Like what do you do after having that kind of a creepy convo, and then the guy wants to step it up a notch and wants to talk to what he thinks is a 12-year-old girl on the phone?
Yeah. I was thinking about trying... but there's no way to disguise my voice. It would be funny to do phone pranks the same way. We even tried those voice synthesizers, but I sounded more like Stephen Hawking. I should just get a girl to do it, then I jump on the line and say, "I am a dick." [Laughs]. I dunno. But that was a long time ago.
You seem to love "baiting" not just with pedophiles. From what we've heard, you have a tendency to bait and taunt people in your audience and hecklers.
You think with your questions. I love your preparation. Yeah, when I can. It's a lot different now that I have my own audience and I'm not playing comedy clubs or rarely play them. At comedy clubs you have that added feature of people walking in from the street having no idea.
Yeah, like PG-13 comedy shows.
Yeah, so you get bachelorette parties and people who have no idea what they're gonna see. It's the equivalent of walking into a movie theater and, "Uh-oh! It's porn!" So I don't get as much of the people freaking out because of the material. But my audience -- now there's a group to be fucking afraid of!
It's so funny because though you seem to get hated on because of how you portray yourself in your comedy acts live and your history with getting kicked out of a bunch of comedy festivals, you still manage to reach top five and top ten lists for your recorded and video taped shows.
Yeah. I have a very underground fan base. They're a small group, but they're tenacious and they're loyal. They put up with me. They expect unprofessionalism from me. I've kind of built a perfect career to be a fuck off.
Do you think it has more to do with the people running the show than the actual fans?
No, because the people running the show now when I'm playing rock and roll venues... as long as you put asses in seats and they drink a lot, they don't care. As long as people are there drinking, they don't give a shit if you're snake handling or hypnotizing people. They're like, "Okay, we're gonna do comedy tonight. I dunno what that's gonna be like, but I heard this crowd drinks." My crowd drinks a lot. Actually I get less bachelorette parties for fun, and more people vomiting on their shoes in the middle of the show... Girl fights breaking out. Yeah, it's a lot of fun.
It sounds like a Girls Gone Wild DVD.
Yeah, no, it's not like Girls Gone Wild at all. Those are the types of people who hang outside of velvet ropes and wait all night to get into popular places. My audience is down trottin' and ugly, and they just didn't have bullets that day.
Speaking of people who play with guns... I saw the site SavingBristol.com and couldn't help but crack up.
Yeah. That was just a cheap for fun prank/publicity stunt. But I meant every word of it.
But I heard that it got so much publicity that now you have a Sarah Palin Abortion fund, where it actually donates money to people trying to have abortions?
Yeah. Every year I donate to the Lilith Fund, but I encourage people to donate either there or to Planned Parenthood. I always donate under a different name. This year it was in the name of that murderer's name. So yeah, I always pay for one abortion a year, under whoever stands out. [Laughs].
And you were going to run for President in 2008, too?
Yeah. We tried that. It was un-fun for a million reasons.
Do you have any thoughts about running in 2012?
No, no, no. It was a complete nightmare. It was supposed to be fun and funny, but with a legitimate point of view and a message. There was just a bureaucracy involved and the whole paperwork and going on stage to talk about your campaign during your acts. The admission price would have to be considered campaign contributions instead of income. You can't pay your mortgage with campaign contributions.
So then they weren't letting you perform, then? You couldn't do your day job.
I couldn't talk about my campaign in my act, and if I can't talk about it, then I don't have a campaign. It was pointless and it just became this drudgery. We were just like, "This isn't even funny anymore," so we bailed out. It's sad, because I'm pretty sure I would've gotten elected. I'm almost certain I would've won. But thank goodness I have this Powerball thing on Saturday. Now that I'm not President, I'm pretty sure these numbers are a sure thing.
Yeah, plus you don't want all the headaches of all the serious people you'd have to deal with.
Yeah, and my biggest mistake was running for a party. I ran under the Libertarian party. If I would've just done it as an Independent... 'cause those people as much as I agree in principle with a lot of their issues, there's a lot of frickin' nutbags with no sense of humor. Libertarians aren't just to legalize drugs. They're also the crazy bible hammering home schooler, live in a mountain, keep off the grid with a shot gun and hope that someone knocks on your door randomly so you can say it was an intruder types.
Well you could also invent your own party like that guy that created the "My rent is too damn high" party.
Yeah. I didn't want it to be too goofy. That's been done. I didn't wanna do what that comedian who just ran on jokes did. I didn't wanna do that. That's kind of easy.
Yeah. Musicians have done that as well. Jello Biafra ran in San Fancisco in the '80s, and he said he wanted to outlaw cars and make politicians dress up in clown suits and stuff like that.
That guy is kooky. A comedian in Iceland has just been elected mayor. He had some very funny things, and he actually got elected. 'Cause Iceland is in such a fuckin' condition. I haven't followed up on it, but he actually won. It's fantastic, but scary at the same time because people like Sarah Palin are taken seriously. If they were treated like the cartoons that they are, it wouldn't be nearly as frightening. But when they're taken seriously by the masses, it's like, "What the fuck is going on?!" You start to feel so alone. I'm not even a smart person, and I'm probably in the top five percent of smart people on this planet. And I'm fairly dumb. [Laughs]. It's frightening. It makes you feel so very alone. That's one of the reasons I keep doing stand-up comedy. In any town, it's almost like AA... I can find a couple hundred people that get it and agree with me.
I'm pretty sure more than a couple hundred people, they just probably are cheap and don't wanna pay admission costs 'cause of the recession.
The recession doesn't really hurt my audience. It hurts the people with minivans full of kids and 401-K's and stock portfolios. Those are the people who are having trouble and over their heads in their mortgages. My fan base probably traded pot for tickets. They live in a permanent recession and know how to work around it.
So what do you have planned for your show in South Florida (Culture Room) on November 13? Are you going to mock our beaches? Our old people? LeBron?
I don't even have plans for this evening. We'll see what's going on by then. If I have something funny about it, but you never know. Between then and now there could be another 9-11 and I could just do a double album [laughs].
So then do you change your routine per show?
I change it as often as I can. Every time I have anything new to say. I'm desperate for it. The news or my own personal life, just anything new. I get so sick of the sound of my own voice and saying the same shit. That's the worst part about stand-up comedy. Jay Leno has 17 writers. He can put out a ton of shit and edit his shit every night [laughs]. If you're touring, even if the audience hasn't heard it before, you've said it before. After you've said it so many times, you feel like the whole world has heard it. It only takes one douchebag with a fucking cell phone camera and YouTube to put it everywhere. I just snap on people with cell phone cameras. You're here live. Why do you need to see it later on a laptop? Like if it was something hard to do. Like if you had to have a giant tape recorder and a giant boot to call it bootlegging. Now everyone can do it, so don't act like you've gotten away with something. Now everyone has a cell phone camera. Put your thing down, stop being a tourist, and enjoy the performance.
Maybe they're as drunk as you are, and they're afraid they're not gonna remember it?
Well, good. That means they can come back next year and I can use half of the same shit [laughs]. The idea that the general public can decide when you put out a new album bothers me. It's not like a Metallica thing. I don't give a shit if you steal the stuff I put out. I encourage it. But wait 'til I release it, 'cause bits take a while to develop. I use the example of George Carlin and his seven dirty words. When he was just working the premise out, he only had jokes for four of the words and they weren't even strong yet. If he was working them out in a club, and if a hundred idiots put it on YouTube to prove that they'd been out of the house, he would've never been able to properly work out the bit. He would've been bored with hearing it. And nine out of 10 times they think they're helping you. But no, it's not done yet.
So you master it while you're on the road.
Yeah. I let things grow. While you're out you think of another tag, then you think, "Whoah, this is coming together." Then you add another bit that fits perfectly with that bit. Then you're like, "Shit. Now I have an hour's worth. Let's release a DVD." If one guy buys it, then great. He can let everyone in the world steal it. I don't care about selling them. Just don't put it out 'til I know it's ready.
Most comedians are usually very deadpan when it comes to interviews.
There's nothing more dull than comics talking about comedy. It's like sitting with waitresses after their shift and they're bitching about tips. I had a four top and they only left me six dollars. I can't believe it. Fort Lauderdale and the Culture Room. Last year we did acid and mushrooms right before the show. I remember it was fun for a while 'til it really started to kick and I had to close in a hurry. I remember screaming over the mercy booth over a swirl of colors and saying, "We ain't sellin' merch tonight! Pack that shit up!" We were high as kites. It was great. I hope the audience had as much fun, or if they didn't, hopefully they've forgiven me. But sometimes you've gotta try new shit.
Well you have this show then to redeem yourself if someone at the last show didn't have fun.
Yeah. Or make it worse so that they'll enjoy last show in comparison [laughs]. We'll see, either way, Fort Lauderdale's always a good time.
Doug Stanhope. Saturday, November 13, at 8pm. At the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale. Tickets are $24.24 via ticketmaster.com.
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