Comedian Doug Stanhope came out with his new album, From Across the Street, just in time for one of my least favorite holidays this year, and it's a cheerfully dark, fucking depraved masterpiece of comedy. It's “not for everyone,” as he frequently reminds you, which falls right in line with the brooding, drug-addled Portland spirit. He's got a bit of a cult following here. He's what you might call a Portland sweetheart - meaning when he's in town he likes to put cigarettes out on our bare inner thigh and ram his spit-lubed finger up our ass, just how we like it.
Stanhope isn't just a comedian, he's a storyteller. He's like a method actor, except he's a method comedian - he's a smart man living a thoughtfully self-destructive and relatively unrestrained life, and he talks about it in joke form. It's fucking hilarious to listen to and even more horribly funny to witness in person at one of his shows. He stumbles through his material in a drunken comedic rampage, frightening and entertaining the audience at the same time.
I don't remember the first time I heard one of Stanhope's albums, but I do remember that it was my friend Sketchy Justin who turned me onto his shit during a terrible, long, over-extended drinking binge that has since only gotten worse over time. I only have vague memories of seeing Stanhope at Dante's the first time. I remember the opening comic, a large white woman, flirting with me from the stage during her performance while I was carrying drinks back to the group from the bar, and my girlfriend was scowling at me because she'd heard the lady on the stage say something lewd to me and had seen me wink back at her, and a big-breasted heroin addict from my high school past was also standing with our group for some reason. By the time Stanhope took the stage I was pretty much blackout drunk.
What I mainly remember from seeing Stanhope live is the laughter and the screaming and the screaming laughter and also some people gasping and saying, “Oh my god!” a lot. I was the one doing the screaming. I do that when I get excited. I remember waking up horribly hungover the the next day with a sore throat, barely able to talk. Going to a Doug Stanhope show is like going to Portland SantaCon. You hang out with a bunch of drunk freaks for a few hours, get in a huge fight with your girlfriend, and wake up feeling like shit, promising yourself and the people around you that you'll never do it again, knowing full well you're totally gonna do it again and it's gonna be fucking awesome.
Although his material is dark and often reminds the listener of the horrible shit going on politically in our country (less so now than a few years ago), and he often points out his own ability to upset people in the audience rather than make them laugh, for me Stanhope's message is inspiring, if only because it's nice to know there are other people in the world living the casually hardcore lifestyle, exploring the deepest and darkest depths of the human condition. As Stanhope puts it, “The small, narrow corridor of people who are into this – I'm glad you're fuckin' with me, 'cause it's a big ugly world out there without ya.”
Doug Stanhope's new album, From Across the Street, can be purchased from his website, along with all of his other CDs and DVDs. He doesn't appear to be coming to Portland anytime soon, but when he does come to town, I suggest you get your tickets early.