US comedian Doug Stanhope – our favourite US ‘correspondent’ on Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe – is busy. He releases his new DVD Before Turning The Gun On Himself… on 12 March while his seven week UK tour just kicked off. “I’m a wreck I just got off a plane and I’m full of downers and Whitney Houston drugs, cocktails,” he tells Q from the road. “I don’t know where I’m playing except that we leave the next day and that’s really important to me. With the road you go onstage you suck or you kill but either way you put all that shame in the rear view mirror at nine in the morning as you head to the next town. Seven weeks is brutal but at least it’s all over the place.” To take his mind off all the touring, we asked him for his views on music. As normal, his opinions are as brilliantly brutal as ever.
We can talk about music, but you’re going to be sadly disappointed because I don’t like music. I don’t listen to it much. I did just load-up an iPod with Count Basie and Duke Ellington because I feel music should always be background. I don’t want to listen to music as a thing to do. I like it as a soundtrack to whatever you’re doing, non intrusive, so the stuff I listen to is so random and weird.
People who are grandstanding in music and saying, What we’re trying to do in this album… Well make your lyrics decipherable, you fucking assholes! I feel if you want to make a statement, make a statement. Don’t hide it in art. People are too dumb to get it. People aren’t reading the liner notes. If you have something to say, say it. That’s what I love about comedy, if I have a statement I’ll say it and then throw a fist-fuck joke in at the end so it fits under the umbrella of comedy. I don’t just hope people find the message in my art.
Do certain artists capture the American spirit? I wouldn’t even know what that is, other than the cigarettes. Anyone who thinks that their voice captures a generation… first of all it’s normally other people saying that, not the artist, but the artists who do say that are full of shit and delusional.
It’s one thing if you’re Bono and you’re using your fame to make money for starving people in Africa but if you’re some unknown band going, Hey we have new MP3 out, we keep advertising it on Facebook and no one buys it but now we’re going to donate some money to the Japanese Tsunami survivors… If you’re co-opting a tragedy to get people to listen to your dumb MP3 then you’re a douchebag.
Apparently my DVD is coming out on the same label [Roadrunner Records‘ comedy wing] as Slipknot – I don’t know Slipknot for shit, other than I didn’t have that guy [bassist Paul Gray] in my ‘Death Pool’ which some friends and I take serious for big money and didn’t know he was going down. It’s nice to know people still party! I thought I was the only one – so does this mean comedy finally is the new rock’n’roll?
If it is then I don’t want to be rock’n’roll. I did the Apollo in Hammersmith last year and it’s not fun. It’s cool, you get an ego boost and the round of applause is stunning at first, but it doesn’t really fit the comedy I do. I’m a bar comic. I thrive in a 120 seater, it’s just the money isn’t there, obviously. I love doing small rooms. In a theatre you can’t have a back and forth with the audience or it’s going to spin out of control if you have 120 people trying to answer rhetorical questions, it just loses something.
There are comics that are built for it, but I’m not one. In Britain because of that Edinburgh Festival it’s trained comics so they have a new themed show every year, it’s got a through line. That’s a play to me. I was here for five weeks last summer at the Leicester Square theatre and if I had a themed show and then all of a sudden the fucking riots broke out – as it did – and I’m trying to talk about overcoming my dad’s suicide or some other dumb fucking theme and ignored it, it would suck.
So what’s the theme for this tour? Same as it’s been for 21 years: Blah, blah, blah, I’m drunk, I’m angry, gulp, fuck you, goodnight! That’s the theme…
Doug Stanhopewas talking to Paul Stokes
For more and the full dates of the tour head to Dougstanhope.com.