It’s rare that Toast gets nervous. We’ve been there, seen it, and if we didn’t like it, told it where to go, before pulling out the Gauloises and sauntering off to the nearest hostelry.
That said, when our own James McVeigh was faced with the chance to shoot the shit with one of the most cynically raw, yet brutally honest comedians working today, it’s safe to say that he was a tad anxious at the prospect. Throw in the fact that this is the mighty Doug Stanhope we’re talking about, he became fearfully starstruck and couldn’t stop chaining the smokes.
Nerves shredded, our McV then had to contend with technical difficulties courtesy of Skype, and let’s just say he lost his cool a touch. Still, ever the pro, he endured. What follows is a detailed account of a fanboy trying not to gush at the fact he was having a chat with his very own Deadbeat Hero. We’re sorry.
Hi Doug, how’s it going?
Fantastic. And yourself?
Not bad, thanks, but to be honest, I’m a little nervous speaking to you, I’m a big fan so I’ll try and keep a lid on that.
(laughing) Alright. I’m scared too. But we’ll get through this together, we’ll hold each other.
What are you expecting of the upcoming tour? You’re coming to Sheffield for the first time, so what are your preconceptions, if you have any?
None whatsoever, which I like. There’s always the chance I’ll like it. Everywhere else I’ve been I don’t like!
We saw you at Chesterfield a couple of years back, and it was nice to see you boot out some drunken harpy.
Ha, I wish that was less common to the point where it would stand out. So what is Sheffield known for?
Umm… Steel? Sean Bean. Henderson’s Relish – the locals go crackers for that. Oh, and hills, lots of hills.
Your stuff resonates in a Bukowskian manner, just tales of the American underbelly, there’s no real serious message, just observations. Do you ever feel misunderstood or misinterpreted, or are you happy for people to take your stuff as they find it?
That’s of no concern, ‘cause that‘s something that you can’t control, you’d just make yourself crazy. That’s why I used to ….. yeah …. constantly find stuff for people to take my material out of context or completely misread it and just start getting into arguments. You know like, when a Jehovah’s Witness knocks at your door and you think to yourself “You know what? I’m actually gonna sit and talk to this guy..” Like he can win! No, how people take my material? That’s their business.
You’ve never had a strong political message as such, but I think I’m right in saying that a lot of the things you say do resonate with people in a certain way.
I hate the word political just because it’s a buzz word for boring, because I don’t talk about politics, but I have material that’s occasionally socially relevant, with a sick fuck joke attached to it to make it fall under the banner of ‘comedy’.
I remember you came up with a concept of incentive-based eugenics, where you came up with a way of controlling the population. I thought that was a really good idea cause we’re going down the route of Idiocracy at the minute, and even though it’s not a nice thing to say, it’s kinda right.
What, the incentive-based eugenics? Oh, yeah, population control is out of hand. The brainstorming of everything that’s wrong with the world always boils down to overpopulation. If you don’t control that, you don’t control anything else…. and you’re not going to control it!
I take it you’ve seen it?
Idiocracy? Oh yeah, yeah. Wonderful movie.
It’s frightening. We’re just getting closer and closer to it. Scary stuff.
Hehehe. Yeah it’s pretty frightening, but I won’t be here to see it.
You’ve been described as ‘the comedian’s comedian’ by many. Are you happy with the critical acclaim whilst still being fairly ‘cult’?
I’d rather have comics like me than people. I’m very happy with that. If you look at what’s popular in the world, as far as pop culture goes, if you’re part of it, you might have to question everything you’re doing.
But there’s the big money to be made…
True. Although, the last several years, it’s nice that good comics have been taking over the top spots, the Louis CKs, the Bill Burrs, as compared to like, Larry The Cable Guy and Dane Cook that preceded them. You don’t have to suck to be popular, but it helps.
In the UK we’re inundated with shit comedians who appear on panel shows then sell out arenas at Christmas. They’ve not proven themselves, they’ve just been on TV and now their coining it in. It’s depressing.
Well, I guess that’s kind of the way it’s always worked. In fact, it used to be a lot worse. You could do one Johnny Carson show and become a household name. It’s not as bad as it was I don’t think.
Well, at least we’ve got the likes of you, and as you say, Louis CK, Bill Burr et al.
Yeah, I’m happy where I am, and don’t need anything more. The old days, I miss. Where pepole would come out to a comedy club, just to see comedy and had no idea who you were. Those were the days and you’d have massive walkouts……
Sorry, Doug, what was that? The line went dead… Oh nonononono. Argh! SKYPE IS SHIT!
Do you need me to say that again?
Ah, sorry, Doug, it just went silent again. I don’t wanna be bothering you.
Hehehe. You’re not bothering me, Skype sucks, the delay sucks, you work with it.
I’d just say it was a lot more exciting in some aspects when you’re a complete unknown entity, and people would just come into a club to see comedy and then hear me, and I’ve massive walkouts. That was always a lot of fun. So being less popular was actually a lot more exciting…in some ways.
Now you’ve got your own stages, you can do what you want. If people were to walk out, which is unlikely, it wouldn’t really matter, does it?
Yeah, at this point I think they’d only walk out if I was sober or born again.
True enough. Moving on, you’ve just finished your book ‘One Funny Mother’, right?
Well that’s a working title but I only have a week till I leave for the tour to fix that. But, yeah, that’s what it is.
So is it an autobiography or more focussed on you and your mother?
It’s a memoir. Covering my life going through the early years with mother, going through her alcoholic years, and then her coming out to LA to try to be an actress, then living with me, all through her suicide. It’s fun. She was a crazy bitch but she was definitely responsible for my sense of humour.
You manage to deliver a serious, emotional tale but still manage to have people doubled over in their seats. It’s a nice gift to have.
Yeah, it comes in handy. When you can laugh at the worst shit in the world, then it’s definitely a benefit. My sense of humour’s always been pretty dark, as was mother’s. Anything shitty in life is good for business.
After each tour, you always seem to be on record as wanting to jack it all in. Is that just due to being a bit spent after each tour or do you genuinely mean it?
What, retiring? Well, certainly after every time I’ve left the UK I’ve given it serious thought.
Ha. Touché. Is there anything you want to add, or say to the good people of Sheffield?
Yeah. I look forward to eating your relish and skipping through your green hills. And deciding which Sheffield team I like better, I hear you hate each other?
Yeah, there’s a big rivalry. One’s faring better than the other so there’s always some sour grapes going on. I don’t get involved.
I like the one that’s doing worse! Whichever one that one is, I like the dog. I don’t watch it either but it’s important to have a favourite.
Thanks for your time, Doug.
Hey, I appreciate it. We’ll see you over there. Thanks very much.
That was Doug Stanhope. And that’s why he drinks.
Doug Stanhope plays O2 Academy on 15th October. Get tickets here.
One Funny Mother (or whatever it gets changed to) is gearing up for an April release. Pre-order it here.