Doug Stanhope at Comix last week.
Last week = First time I'd ever seen Stanhope live. Loved it. Early show (he hit the stage before 8pm) but he still managed to get hammered before the end of it...and even wound up having the guy who kept buying him drinks kicked out for constantly yelling stuff out.
Maybe not as many punchlines per minutes as some other top guys, but I feel like he's doing more of a Hicks/Carlin/offensive/"important ideas" thing than almost anyone else right now. And lots of ruthless honesty. The kind of stuff you're still thinking about days later. Plus, the total lack of pandering is great. He fully expects to walk people during his set (no big surprise from a guy who titles CD tracks "Fuck Your God" and "The Upside Of Sexual Abuse.")
Things got interesting after the show too. Then, he was interviewed for some TV pilot where a psychiatrist analyzes comedians. The whole thing was pretty half-assed but it was fun to hear this guy going after Stanhope's lifestyle choices. Q's: Wouldn't you rather be happy? Aren't you worried about dying? Don't you want to improve your mental health? A's: Happy people are brainwashed. We're all gonna die. Clarity is more important than positivity. In front of a crowd of Stanhope fans, this stuff all killed. The psychiatrist didn't have a chance.
A lot of the psych talk focused on Stanhope's drinking and drugging. He admitted he hasn't spent an entire night sober in over 20 years. But he also seemed fine with that. He thinks he has clarity and he doesn't care about living forever so what the fuck? He doesn't want to be happy or "improve his mental health."
It reminded me of something philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote:
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.
Too bad we never got to hear Mill do standup, eh? Alright, comparing a justifying-his-alcoholism-Stanhope to Mill is a reach. But after listening to Stanhope get analyzed, he really seems like a guy who's operating from a similar core philosophy. And that made it interesting to watch him vs. this shrink who seemed to represent society's view that you're supposed to be happy or something's wrong with you. The problem with that: Sometimes the people with the most wisdom seem the least happy. Does that really mean they need "fixing" though? Anyway...
From a comedian standpoint, the most interesting part of the interview was when Stanhope talked about why he always drinks while performing. Does he need booze to make him funny? I'll paraphrase his answer: No. He doesn't need booze to make him funny. He needs booze to make him a better ACTOR. See, a lot of standup is acting like you just thought of something. And he hates doing that. The only time he enjoys a joke is the moment he thinks of it. When it comes to him. Then he has to go out and say it 300 nights in a row and that makes him miserable 'cuz he feels like he's losing a little part of his soul every time he does it. So he drinks to get over that.