Doug Stanhope comes to Improv Orlando

The comedian on ambushing pedophiles, why Hitler was a loser and why all the good stuff comes from the darkest places

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8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14 | Improv Orlando, 9101 International Drive | 407-480-5233 | | $25

Nothing is off-limits to Doug Stanhope. Yeah, yeah, comedians are always saying that, but this comedian offers a piece about helping his mother, shall we say, shuffle off this mortal coil – and roasting her “Friars club-style” on the way out. In a 10-minute tour de force on his new album, Beer Hall Putsch, Stanhope presents this as a story of hope. After she could no longer take “being permanently waterboarded by 45 years of Kool Milds,” he agreed to help her end it, but couldn’t resist going for the laugh at the very end. “Ma, wait! They found a cure!”

Suicide seems to be a recurring motif in Stanhope’s career; his last album was titled Before Turning the Gun on Himself, and he came to wider public attention (having previously been known as a “comedian’s comedian”) as Eddie, a miserable bastard of a road dog planning to off himself on Louie, in which he gave Louis C.K. a good excuse to hold forth on the beauty and meaning of life. Yet Stanhope was cheery as hell when we talked to him about shit towns, ambushing pedophiles, why Hitler was a loser, why he’s more like Chris Rock than Bill Hicks, and why all the good stuff comes from the darkest places.

Orlando Weekly: You called your September-October run through the Midwest the “Shit Towns Tour.” Is the Midwest really that bad?
Doug Stanhope: Oh man, is it bleak. It’s like, don’t these people realize they can leave? Are they under house arrest? It’s like a $59 ticket on a Greyhound bus to get to somewhere nice. … It was a milestone in my career when I realized I never had to play in Dayton, Ohio, again.

And now you’re coming to Orlando. You were here last August, and you’re back.
I’m there, I think, every year. It’s rare I’d miss Orlando. I used to play the Backbooth all the time, and that was always a blast. [And] we’re doing the Improv this time.

You’re known for attacking the local idols (Mormonism in Utah, the Yankees in New York). Should we expect some Disney-bashing?
Nah, I think all the Disney-bashing’s been done.

Maybe the Holy Land Experience?

The Christian theme park?
Oh yeah, they told me about that. No, I don’t go out of my way to get annoyed by Christians; it’s far too easy to do without leaving the comfort of your own couch. No, I have no beef with Orlando. I have a good time there.

Earlier this year, you and your friend Andy Andrist were in Florida together – you confronted his molester in Port St. Lucie. Fun time?
Yeah, Paul Provenza, who directed The Aristocrats, is working with Andy to make a full-length documentary about it now.

The idea for this “ambush video” sprang out of a line from Andrist’s stand-up act, but it doesn’t seem like a documentary about childhood sexual abuse is going to be a comedy, per se.
Oh, you don’t know Andy! Andy can take the most rotten lemons and make Citrón out of it.

Awesome. Or, I guess, not really awesome, but …
Yeah – pretty awesome. The fact that it actually worked, that he actually found the guy, that we coerced him to come out – uh, under dubious pretenses – but we got him to show up in a public place where we could actually film his reaction.

You do a long piece about helping your mother out when her terminal lung cancer became too painful. Do you think the best stuff comes from the darkest places?
Yeah, and it’s the most necessary stuff. That’s where comedy’s desperately needed, because there’s none inherent. You talk about dating, it’s not like, “Oh thank god, someone’s taking the edge off this.”

Like jokes about that missing sock from the dryer.
Yeah, you’re not curled up in a dark closet crying into your eyes because you lost a sock.

Speaking of dark places, your character on Louie: Would you say there was some of you in that character?
Oh, yeah, yeah. No, I’m not an actor. I stink at acting. That’s me if I had a few less dollars.

Have you ever gone up as Shitty Fat Tits, or was that name an invention of the show?
Yeah, actually I did. I just did that New England tour and I made ’em book a shitty bar in Bangor, Maine, just ’cause that’s where my character was going to kill himself. He was gonna play one last shitty gig and then kill himself, so I squoze Bangor in there. They were gonna bring me up as Shitty Fat Tits, but I don’t remember if they actually did.

I shoulda just said “Yes.”

With an album title like Beer Hall Putsch, should we assume you’re a big Hitler fan, or just really into history?
No, it was more about Hitler’s failure. The Beer Hall Putsch was where he tried to take over the government in the ’20s – they’d all meet in beer halls and yell and scream about politics and how they got fucked over after WWI – he was the good public speaker who’d get them all riled up and out into the streets and then when the first shot was fired, he ran like a pussy. Which is basically how I feel, yelling about how people should do this and that and change the world and I don’t do a fucking thing. That was the symbolism.

Noted. Bill Hicks, to whom you’re often compared, talked a lot about history onstage – but I’ve read you think you’re more like Chris Rock than Hicks.
I would expect that [the comparison to Rock], but I never hear it.

How so?
Higher energy, a squeaky annoying voice. Bill Hicks, he was very methodical, knew what the fuck he was talking about, he wasn’t a drunken, stuttering, screaming prick like me. That guy was all sober and read books and whatnot. … The thing about Bill Hicks is you can listen to everything Bill Hicks ever put out and not know a single thing about him as a human being. That’s where I bristle at the comparisons: I, I bare my asshole almost literally onstage.

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