The first thing to appear onscreen during Doug Stanhope's latest comedy DVD, Deadbeat Hero, is "Liberty: The condition of being free from restriction or control." This political theorizing is a bit unexpected coming from a guy who's best known (in recent times, anyway) for hosting Comedy Central's The Man Show. Considered by some to be a vile anti-woman showcase, The Man Show garnered Stanhope his first protestors outside of a theater before a solo performance -- but the protesting college kids didn't even recognize him when he ran out to the picket line to get pictures with them. (Check out www.dougstanhope.com for photographs of this and other shenanigans.) Stanhope has also secured his place in the elite cadre of celebs who've hosted Girls Gone Wild videos. Given all this, Stanhope might not seem like an icon of individual liberty. But once he gets past the riotously funny transvestite-hooker and midget-versus-dwarf bits, a message becomes clear.
"If you're going to pledge blind allegiance and call yourself American for a government that fucks you on a regular basis, democracy is the worst kind," Stanhope says during his act. "[People say] we get to pick our leaders. Well, what if I don't want a leader? Where does that vote go? I do good on my own; I don't want to be led." He then asks, "Is that freedom?"
In an act peppered with as many sociopolitical statements as sodomy jokes, it's not Stanhope's ability to say incendiary things that separates him from others but rather the fact that he presents his material in such a way that audiences can't help but laugh as their brains are kick-started back into thinking mode. Anybody can tell a joke, but few can tell it well -- and fewer still can truly engage people through comedy. Stanhope is one of those few.
Stanhope has been doing comedy for more than a decade, but it's only been in the past five or so years that he's transitioned into more scathing commentary. "The older you get, the less you're thinking with your dick," he imparts. "If I had been doing socially relevant material when I was 26, it wouldn't have come from a place that was true. What do you have to say when you're in your twenties that's relevant?"
When informed that a good chunk of the RFT readership (and the interviewer) are in their twenties, he back-pedals slightly: "Plus, I had a nice mullet [in my twenties] that got me all kinds of weird stripper pussy, so I couldn't care less about the world then."
Stanhope, like most everything good in the world, isn't for everyone, though he should be. In a time when sound bites and spin determine the future of our country, one man speaking the unadulterated truth as he sees it -- in an entertaining way, no less -- could possibly be the most important thing ever. Hear Doug Stanhope's truth Thursday through Saturday (October 21 through 23) at the Funny Bone (6900 North Illinois Street, Fairview Heights, Illinois). Check www.funnyboneusa.com for times, and call 618-628-4242 for prices and for your required reservation.