Doug Stanhope, Leicester Square Theatre, London
Wednesday 08 September 2010
Dressed casually in jeans, Doug Stanhope looks less uncompromising US stand-up and more potter about to start work on some clay. Meanwhile, the trademark alcoholic haze that steadily creeps up on Stanhope (his poison for this performance is a double cocktail of beer and Jagerbombs) makes for the usual mix of the unfocused and the inspired.
At the start, Stanhope lowers our expectations by saying that he's struggling to come up with "socially relevant shit" when one of the top stories over here is a ridiculous drama over the identity of the The Stig. Indeed, it's only much later on that he gets his teeth into something as topically weighty as the economy, which he looks at from the point of view of a prostitute worried that unemployed financiers are about to saturate her profession.
Stanhope's gravitas, topical or not, comes from his desire to give a warts-and-all version of his life – and everyone else's. He's a walking warning of a libertarian approach to life (he nearly stood as a Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2008) and a "car crash" outlook, as he runs over anything that gets in the way of him having a good time or messing himself up. Unsurprisingly, rehab is anathema to him. Alcoholics Anonymous, meanwhile, is dismissed with, "All you have is God? No CAT scan?"
Rather than curb his intolerance, Stanhope chooses to recognise it, which, he acknowledges, doesn't mean it's going away. He can't stop imagining Sadean punishments for people who haven't sorted their change before they get to a cash register and asserts that self-help is ineffective in the face of anger.
The fact that we rely on Stanhope to stay messed-up makes us prurient, perhaps, but he hasn't asked us not to pry yet. And until he does, we'll keep coming back for more.
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