Doug Stanhope still finds ways to surprise Vancouver audiences
At the Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday, August 31
Doug Stanhope and his plaid ’70s leisure suit stepped on-stage at the Rickshaw armed with a notepad and apologies. His latest special, Beer Hall Putsch, was released on Netflix last week, burning up last year’s material. In his home base of Bisbee, Arizona (population 5,633), there are no comedy rooms to workshop new routines. So Stanhope had to rely on his own scribblings for his Canadian tour.
But as he said, he’s able to keep “prices so low by maintaining a poor work ethic”.
Perhaps this was why his management didn’t want reviews of the show. But they needn’t have worried. Stanhope was sharp and hilarious throughout his 65-minute set. If he has any comedic faults, it’s that sometimes he goes on too long, drunk with love from his adoring fans and from the booze they ply him with. When he played here in 2010, he had 60 great minutes out of a 97-minute set. On Saturday, without the extra alcohol or time, he was dialled-in throughout.
No doubt a mind like his will find a way to buttress the already strong bits he came up with for this tour—hecklers in Canada, American prisons, atheism, the history of medicine, and “she-ogre” porn—and at that point the reviews will be even more relevant. But what he delivered on Saturday was strong, some of the best stuff he’s performed here. Besides, the public is so accustomed to comics referring to notes these days, it hardly made a difference. As Stanhope said, the families of Intervention subjects read from notes just to tell their drug-addled relatives they love them, so is it so bad if he needs to refer to paper for an hourlong performance?
Stanhope has always managed to prickle sensitive sensibilities, but as his notoriety has grown, he’s moved out of comedy clubs to venues filled with rabid fans, making it increasingly difficult for him to upset anyone. But he still finds ways to surprise. A riff on the pain infants feel while flying was beautifully sprung, and you didn’t have to be a sadist to appreciate the craft that went into his phrasing.
And if his take on former wrestler Chyna ever makes a future special, as it should, she will—if she hasn’t already—regret her decision to enter the world of porn. I know I will never look at a panini sandwich the same way.
The crowd cheered for more when Stanhope was done. He came back out, but only to tell us that was all the good stuff he had. This was perfect: no meandering, no needless encore. It was a gracious end to a great night of comedy.