If anything, Doug Stanhope knows his audience. At his latest stop in Philadelphia this Saturday, the North Star Bar was packed with meatheads, burnt-out weirdos and other degenerates (hey, I'm included in that). Dirty, dark rock venues like that one are perfect for Stanhope's style of dirty, dark rants.
Probably the most notable Comic With Big Ideas since Bill Hicks (I'm not saying he's the next Bill Hicks, but there is a similarity there), Stanhope doesn't hold anything back. He really runs the gamut of issues and you won't hear views like his on health care, gun control and suicide many other places.
Stanhope's material can be described as straight-up rants: they start out slow, but as they gather steam they become more and more vicious and hilarious. Like any great comedian, what seems like easy conversation and on-the-fly observations is carefully honed material. He looks like he's just blurting out what the ugly voices in his head are screaming, but for the most part it's all planned out. He just put out an hour of material on Showtime in August, so he warned the crowd that he'd try not to do too much of that material, but that the new stuff may suck. Since I haven't seen the Showtime special yet (I bought it on DVD after the show), I didn't know which was which and it all worked to me.
Like his good friend Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope is well-known for the lame TV shows he's been on, but his first love seems to be in front of a mic all alone up on stage. While he can be angry and vicious, it's never directed at the audience. His main theme is that we're all getting screwed, but in the end it doesn't matter, so you might as well knock back a few beers and/or drugs. Not really a view on life that see from a lot of other comics that are just looking for a chuckle. It's sort of a "we're all in this together" in a twisted kind of way. He's proud and dedicated to his "Angry, Flesh-Eating Villians" and they are to him.
BONUS READ: Here's an article about the intense competition between Dane Cook and Doug Stanhope at the San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1995. Don't want to give it away, but the Good Guys win this one.