[image-1]Confrontational comedian Doug Stanhope is known for being many things — controversial, controversial, and controversial being three of them. What people might not know is that whenever he’s not smack-talking at least four ideas you hold dear, he’s a pretty down-to-earth guy. Now with his Charleston appearance looming, thanks to Girly Bits Comedy, we took the opportunity to chat with Stanhope about his style of comedy, his niche fandom, and comas.

City Paper: Looking back at the past 27 years, how have you seen your comedy change?

Doug Stanhope: It’s hard for me to say because I’ve kind of been out of it for the last 12 years. I mean, I don’t live near comedy so all I ever see are my own crowds. And I don’t get to see much other comedy unless on TV. So, I guess somewhere it occurred … political correctness, and people are a little more touchy. But, those aren’t the people that come to my shows, so I don’t have to deal with any of that stuff. Fortunately, I put in enough time and developed my own audience. They know what to expect and I couldn’t imagine anything I could do that would offend them. And I try.

CP: Not even one thing?

DS: I think if I quit drinking or found God, then they’d turn on me.

CP: Speaking of your fanbase, the organizer of the Charleston show, Genesis Gonzalez, is a fan and wanted me to ask you: How do you maintain the integrity of your comedy and stay true to yourself in your work and still garner success?

DS: That’s pretty much all I try to maintain. Why put integrity over funny? This is the biggest problem, not maintaining integrity, but finding stuff that you want to bitch about that you haven’t already. I don’t have that many different strong opinions. I’m not like Bill Maher where I can just fake outrage about a different subject every week. I don’t have a lot of interests or hobbies. I usually wind up just bitching about the same stuff and I just try to repackage it and come from different angles.

CP: But, you still do have plenty of great material since you’re always so focused on current events and Libertarianism. In that respect, you’re political.

DS: Not really. I lean Libertarian, but that whole running for president thing — I actually had to learn stuff and, god, it was so fucking boring. I have a lot of social issues that I get disturbed by, but none of it’s related to politics.

CP: So, in that respect, being socially conscious, have you ever wanted to soften up your style so more people would listen to your opinion?

DS: With this act, it’s a very select audience that appreciates it. It’s kind of like death metal. You’re not going to get a lot of weddings. But, yeah man, I wish I had some alter ego. I wouldn’t even know how to write soft humor because it wouldn’t register as funny to me. If I wanted to have a sellout B plan, I wouldn’t even know how to write it.

CP: In the latest special [No Place Like Home], you talked about some pretty grim material. Have you ever found a topic that you did not want to make jokes about?

DS: No. There have been times that I’ve shied away from doing a bit that I already had due to the circumstances. If I think there’s a better than 50 percent chance of immediate physical violence and the person is closer to me than the fire exit then I might go “eh, I’ll skip that one tonight.”

CP: Are you excited to come to Charleston?

DS: I don’t know when I’m going to be there. I’m doing this AA style, one day at a time. I know where I’m going tomorrow and that’s it. In the meantime, I’m staring at a notebook.

CP: Is that how you’ve always done comedy?

DS: Well, I had a six month unintended layoff where I cancelled dates and had a bunch of shit I had to deal with at home, so now I’m trying to kick the rust off and it’s going alright. But, I’ve spent a lot of time familiarizing things and polishing up some turds.

CP: Do you think you’re getting better from that six month hiatus?

DS: No, no, no. That much time off is so brutal, especially since that was the end of October. [At the last show] I was still doing bits about “oh, he’ll never get elected, but wouldn’t it be funny if he did.” All that shit I was doing before is no longer relevant. But, as smart people know, there will be little or no Trump material. Everyone’s sick to fuck of hearing about it. There will probably be some coma material, though. My wife was in a coma and went to the hospital, hence the gap. You always have that in comedy. You go “I’m out of material,” and then your wife has a seizure and goes into a coma, and you go “I can probably work with this.”

CP: Do you think comedy is a way of helping you get through a lot of those experiences?

DS: Absolutely. And not just on the stage, but in life. People always say “Oh, he uses comedy as a crutch to hide.” No, I use comedy for the work. Take something tragic and make the best of it.

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.