by Amy Atkins
In the early '90s, caustic comic Doug Stanhope left telemarketing for comedy. He said it feels like his telemarketing career belongs to someone else. It's surreal to think that he sat behind a desk trying to sell people things they didn't really need. Part of that, though, is the booze.
"And when you've been drinking for 28 years, all your past seems like a dream. 'I had a weird dream: I was a telemarketer for five years,'" Stanhope said, laughing.
If you only know Stanhope from his short stint on The Man Show (2004) or his sentence with Girls Gone Wild (2005), he'd rather you fuck off.
"The only two things people have to point out, 'Oh, he's the guy from that,'" Stanhope said sarcastically. "Like I've never done anything high-profile that was good? The Man Show I had to do for the money and I'd do it again for the money. Three months work for almost half-a-million dollars," he added with a laugh.
Even at the young age of 42, Stanhope comes off as a curmudgeon—especially when he's asked about those stupid shows—but he's quick to laugh and skilled at getting anyone listening to join in. He's also not a complete asshole. When I asked him if he ever looks at the comments people leave under his videos on YouTube, the answer was a quick "No, no. Not any more."
"I'm too soft," he said. "I have such a growing self-hatred, that any second opinion on the Internet just verifies everything I think about myself. Usually, I'll get hammered and look because I can black it out. But it's funny, you can black out everything else from the night but 'You fuckin' suck' sticks in your head. It's the one thing you remember. I don't know what house I'm in, but I know I fuckin' suck on Myspace."
Stanhope gets those comments because he doesn't take the popular view on polarizing issues like child porn, medicinal marijuana or fear in the media. If it irritates him, he doesn't avoid it—he scratches at it until everybody's bleeding.
I asked him if anything is off limits or taboo. It must be a question he gets a lot, because he prefaced it with a low, slightly irritated, "My standard response is, I draw the line at anything I think has a chance of resulting in immediate physical violence ... I wouldn't tell a fucking 9/11 joke in a room full of fucking New York firefighters."
The geniuses on Myspace might think Stanhope sucks, but his neighbor Dave likes him. Stanhope refers to Dave as "straight" as in a non-comic.
"They make the best neighbors and friends," Stanhope said.
Dave, who drives a truck for Frito-Lay, was over at Stanhope's house when I called. When Stanhope handed the phone over to him, I could see right away why he likes the straight guy. And the feeling is clearly mutual.
Dave knew Stanhope's upcoming show schedule, probably because Dave's wife watches Stanhope's dogs—and teaches them tricks—when he's out of town. Stanhope and Dave have known each other a few years, but it was only recently that Dave caught one of his shows.
"He kind of, like, put me into his act. Being Doug, it didn't take very long before people were turning around and saying to me, 'You're his best friend and you've never been to one of his shows?'" Dave said, chuckling. "It was hilarious."
If you know Stanhope, you're already going to his show at Neurolux tonight. If you don't and were thinking about going but aren't sure, there are four things you should know about Stanhope: He loves the Neurolux, he's happy he can smoke there, he might piss you off and he's incredibly funny.