During a weekend of New York Comedy Festival shows at huge theater venues like Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, there was something different happening downtown and appropriately off the radar. Doug Stanhope was doing a five-show, three-night stand at Comix.
Stanhope, a 20-year veteran of the underground comedy scene, is probably best known to people outside of his cult following as a former co-host of The Man Show. I went into the show not knowing much about the guy’s comedy, and I was completely blown away. Stanhope definitely comes from the offensive and pissed-off school of comedy. He also deals out brutal honesty, telling stories from his drink and drug-addled past (and present). Having seen a ton of comics who talk about the same things, that description makes him sound predictable. Not the case at all, and that’s what makes him so fucking funny.
I try to be open to anyone that can make me laugh, but unfortunately, a head shot of a dude in a jersey usually strikes me as kind of a red flag. I’m an idiot. Stanhope is hilarious. However many times I’ve been turned off by comics that cover similar ground, it’s been because they just don’t back up their grievances with big laughs. Stanhope does. Any short clips you’ve seen him in don’t do him justice. You have to watch him for a full set. He tricks you into thinking he’s a jackass, then catches you off guard by saying something sharp, insightful and ridiculously funny.
He’s also great at doing long bits. He’ll tell you what he thinks about a topic, and just when you think it’s about to devolve into unstructured rambling (he downed two beers over the course of his set), he drives his point home with a huge comic payoff. His punch lines aren’t “lines”; they’re machine blasts that go on and on and on.
His bit about sex, and how isn’t the most intimate thing two people can share, was so good I can’t really see anyone else having to talk about the subject ever again. I’m afraid to use quotation marks and get it wrong, but he talked about taking his friend home from the hospital after she’d had a mastectomy, and how intimate was. “After sharing that, I didn’t say, ‘Let’s take this to the next level. Let me hunch over you in a seahorse position…” His impression of a pathetic male orgasm is hilarious, and sadly accurate. I was slapping my table (my seat was too cramped for me to slap my knee).
Stanhope’s on the road into December. Do yourself a favor and see a show. His dates are on his website.