Doug Stanhope on the evolution of jokes and why Breast Cancer Awareness is a scam

Doug Stanhope on the evolution of jokes and why Breast Cancer Awareness is a scam

For every parent out there worried about pedophilia, Doug Stanhope offers a reassurance: In all likelihood, nobody wants to fuck your kid. That bit is up there on the list of incredibly offensive Stanhope material, but it's by no means all there is; over the course of his twenty-year career, Stanhope has developed himself into something of a Bill Hicks torch-bearer, a socially conscious, obscenely ranting curmudgeon obsessed with deviant pornography and humanity's shocking dark side, but not without some excellent points to make along the way -- and a lot of laughs. He's one of the most compelling comedians working today, and in advance of his stop through Denver tonight Friday, November 4, we caught up with him to talk about Oslo, developing a bit and "Cunt Cancer Awareness."

Westword: I wanted to talk about your DVD Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere and how you just kind of showed up to an empty club and taped it. And I was thinking about Louis CK and how, on Louie, you'll see him performing to an empty club with like two sleeping people, and I was wondering if that was something you were inspired by, or if that's part of like a hyper-realist comedic philosophy or something?

Doug Stanhope: Oh man, you're reading way too much into it. I had a photographer who was shooting the cover for a CD that I was about to release, and he said, hey, you know, I can also get TV cameras if you want to film the show. I hadn't even released the CD when we filmed the DVD. I wish I'd never put it out. It was way too soon. Those bits were all in their toddler stages, and they became way better bits. When you look at the long run of life, that was a piece of shit. But yeah, you're right, it was true to what we do -- that's the show that I would have done in Norway. But the thing is, you keep doing those bits, they become way better, so it was almost like releasing an open mic. But that's how comedy goes. You work on stuff for nine months or a year and a half, and then you're sick of doing it, but it was what it was.

We're actually putting out another one out for Christmas, and it had a bit that I opened with that I had just written that day -- it was just a joke, and it's since turned into a way better bit. So I cut the whole opening out. I don't want to fucking waste a joke that's turned into a fun piece to do. The tough thing is it's the opener of the show, so if we cut that out, there's no way to edit around it. But fuck it. No one sees my show for professionalism.

True enough. Most of your stuff comes off really honest and off-the-cuff. Have you always performed like that, or is that something that's evolved?

Of course. I mean, it's been 21 years I've been doing this. I've gone through a lot of phases. When I was starting out I just said things that would elicit a laugh, and then I started doing like true stories, and then I got opinionated, and I thought, "Oh shit, I don't ever want to be Bill Maher." I don't know what I do anymore. I don't know why people keep showing up.

Have you stopped caring?

I've stopped caring for sure, but at the same time I still work on it. Once you've talked about the things you're passionate about so many times, and you're looking for new material, you're like, "well, I've already talked about the stuff I'm passionate about. I guess I'll talk about the stuff I don't really give a fuck about and pretend to care about it more. Right now I'm walking around now with a shirt that says Cunt Cancer Awareness on it, just a little logo right there in the upper corner, like a Polo symbol on this Miami Dolphins-blue fucking polo shit, and no one has noticed. Nobody's noticed it says Cunt Cancer Awareness.

Why are you wearing a shirt that says Cunt Cancer Awareness?

The idea came from hanging around with...


Why are you wearing a shirt that says Cunt Cancer Awareness?

The idea came from hanging around with Brendon Walsh -- really funny comedian -- who uses cunt cancer randomly in his act. I can't help it! My hand was forced by breast cancer awareness, which is such a huge scam, and irritating and annoying. I have a bit on that I'll be doing at the show in Denver.

Why do you think it's a scam?

When you come to the show you'll hear the full version. Short version is I opened a Dannon yogurt with "Breast Cancer Awareness" on the cover, all pink, it says "Breast Cancer Awareness" on it. You know, so you would know that you were doing something good by eating 38 grams of sugar. So I open the thing and on the cap, to where you could see there was writing there but, you know, you had to like lick the yogurt off to read it, it says, "Go to this website and put in the code, and after you do that we'll donate 10 cents."

You know, I'm a Delta frequent flyer, and they always wear pink ties and get on the overhead and tell you how bad breast cancer is and one out of three products has something pink on it -- even the NFL, the whole month of October they're wearing something pink. This is a business. Dannon doesn't give a fuck about breast cancer. This is one of 20,000 diseases that you can have. Tits are popular. The pancreas is not popular. The colon is not popular. Cunts are a little ugly. Tits are popular.

When you come to Denver, you'll be doing the show at the Oriental, which--

Oh yeah, what the fuck was that? I'm half-hammered and Brian my manager emails me the thing -- I just got one of these fancy phones with email -- and I just read the headline, I didn't get to read the whole thing. But what, the whole fucking roof collapsed or what?

The ceiling caved in a few weeks ago. It was pretty crazy. But the city inspector came out and they're back open now, so probably the ceiling won't collapse on you.

The Oriental Theatre, man. I remember just being terrified to walk up the stairs to the green room in that place. But I love that place. It's literally one of my favorite venues ever. I don't mind if it collapses on me as long as I get paid. I just don't want to show up and it's like, oh yeah, the place is condemned.

Doug Stanhope performs tonight at 8 p.m. at the Oriental Theatre; tickets are $25.

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