Saturday, February 17, 2007

Doug Stanhope

Lately, I've abandoned listening to music and audio books on my mp3 player in favor of comedy albums. But excellence in comedy is hard to find. As in all other fields of human endeavor, most of it is poor to average... puerile, adolescent, safe, hackneyed and unoriginal. In the words of Salieri, "Mediocrity is everywhere." Fortunately, I don't have to listen very long to a comic's act before realizing whether it's shlock or not -- unlike reading or listening to an audio book where you've waded 50 or 100 pages into it before you realize it's junk.

I just discovered Doug Stanhope. You might call him the spiritual heir of the immortal Bil Hicks. I would immediately put him in line for a place in the pantheon with Carlin, Bruce and Pryor. I do not make such declarations lightly and it frightens me that I actually wrote that.

For the faint of heart, I would warn that, yes, he is drunken, foul and coarse, but the content of what he says is unapologetic, irreverent, iconoclastic truthtelling. His honesty strikes you and his audiences immediately as outrageous, as truthtelling often is. His bits don't come off as polished, overly rehearsed, stand-up comedy set pieces. They don't even sound so much like jokes as they do a spontaneous conversation with the audience -- like hanging out at the bar with a good, funny friend riffing with you late at night about junk he's been thinking about in the darkest, but honest corners of his mind. He's less a comic and more a ranting monologist with a strong libertarian bent. By stating those obvious, yet not-so-obvious, dark truths that lurk in the back of our minds, and stating them so bluntly and colorfully, he shocks us into laughter.

Do yourself a favor, buy one of his CDs or rent his DVD Deadbeat Hero. Or go see him live if you get the chance.

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