Doug Stanhope – Live Review – Leeds O2 Academy
By Victoria Holdsworth, June 2018
After another customs and excis-style security check at the O2 in Leeds tonight, we finally made our way to our very uncomfortable battered excuses of patio chairs to see a comedian I have been a fan of for quite a number of years now. Was his routine really that offensive that such security measures had to be put in place? All was to be revealed about half way through his act.
Doug Stanhope is very much one of life’s comedians that you either love or hate. With his cutting deliveries, brutal cynicism and observations on life, the universe, and anything he damn well chooses to talk about, it’s easy to see why some people may be offended. But there’s a fierce intelligence at play behind the scathing attack.
After the sell-out crowd had made their way inside, the stage lights dimmed and the unmistakable scratchy irritated voice comes over the PA system and announces: “The anticipation is fucking palpable in the O2 Leeds tonight! Are you all ready for your support act? It’s meeeeeeeeeee, Doug Stanhope.” The familiar figure and outfit shuffles its way onto the stage, cocktail in hand and appears to be carrying a piece of paper. Stanhope explains that it’s his disclaimer and public apology, against himself and us. He delivers it to uproarious applause and laughter.
You can see that the complexity of his humour is already starting to build, and more than likely about take us to some very dark corners or our minds, as well as test our moralistic views on certain subject matters.
“Shocking to some”
Stanhope declares that he really does have to give up comedy for good, and that this may just very well be the last time he plays in Leeds, due the accidents of science that he saw waiting outside when he went out to smoke, and people moaning on at him about the ticket prices. The whole piece ends with Doug telling his crowd that they are all fucked up, Leeds is all fucked up and it is a statement not a discussion. However, he will endeavour to transfer his suffering to the audience.
The reason for the high ticket prices are down to our expensive cigarettes and alcohol he explains in his grumpy, matter of fact way, before letting us know just how shit our country is, and uses this to manoeuvre his way into telling us how much he hates any sort of touring regime. Most of this tends to focus on one place in particular: Thailand. There’s a side-splitting tale of him cancelling his gig over there, amidst fears of upsetting the Thai king and ending up the Bangkok Hilton. Now he is no longer in Thailand though, the king is no longer off limits – and neither is his endless pursuit of offending him as much as possible now until the day he dies.
Stanhope’s comedy, whilst shocking to some, is topically up to date and he certainly researches the stuff he talks about. He mentions the World Cup, but confesses he’d rather see a World Cup of lady boys. He talks about the dangers of taking toilet graffiti to heart in some of the shadier places he has visited, the perils of using a towel found at the side of a laptop, as well as the absolute failings of Indian gang rapists.
Never one for accepting and abiding by the rules, Doug can also give you some pretty good tips on how to avoid smoke smells in hotel rooms, plus a sure fire way of getting away with murder, whilst helping him to commit suicide at the same time, which involves your very own Doug Stanhope murder gloves.
The set wouldn’t really be complete without some sort of mention about his comedy circuit comrade Louis CK, who was embroiled into the whole #MeToo movement. Doug never defends anything that he has done, and cunningly starts taking you down one path of that story, only to then send you down a completely different rabbit hole. Whilst you may not agree with his topic or his arguments, you cannot deny that he gets under your skin, in many differing ways and, believe it or not, his comedy might even change your own moral standings.
He addresses the whole Weinstein issue also, and expresses how bad he feels for all the women that did have sex with him and never got a part. However, he does share the same ideals as me in this thought camp. Why wait until you were famous to come out about this now?
The tables then also turn to the men in all of this, and he even quotes a story from the young actor ‘allegedly’ sexually assaulted by Kevin Spacey, about how he used to think it was a funny story to tell at cocktail parties, but now all these years on he didn’t realise he was a victim. He also recalls tales of the things some female comedians have done to him in the name of comedy, and demands to know where his # is.
Religion is next on the agenda, and whilst Doug says that being an atheist isn’t really the best way to live, as there is a lot of negativity involved, it’s definitely the right way to live.
If you ever wondered the differences between an ist and an ism, then Stanhope is your go-to veritable encyclopaedia on it. His explanations and delivery on this had me in stitches. Doug is equally as concerned about how many kids are getting killed in the United States – of which there is very little news coverage – and he firmly blames Trump on this one. His basis for the argument is not only witty, but solid – and backed up with facts.
Nothing seems left untouched tonight. During his next piece about a very dear friend of his called Laura, who had died of cancer, Stanhope recalls how when she told him she had cancer, they both decided to make fun of it. He was literally just about to explain why it is important to joke about such things when an idiot on the balcony started hurling abuse. This in turn prompted a full-on verbal battle between the initial mudslinger and other members of the crowd, including threats of bodily harm. That is what happens when people do not listen properly or understand fully – they go off half-cocked.
There were a few more outbursts, and some people were removed, but the last abuse that came from the balcony made Doug walk up to the end of the stage and call the person out. He advised the audience member that he will be happy to speak to the guy after the show, on his own, one on one. More abuse ensued, with the rest of the crowd baying for the heckler’s blood, at which point security scrambled up there and ushered the offender out, as Doug shouts to him, “Just Leave! I really don’t like you!”
Now that I have seen Doug Stanhope live, I love the guy even more. Yes, he is ferocious and relentlessly honest, with utter fearlessness to say whatever he wants to say, but he’s as sharp as a tack, even with litres of spirits in him. He is an out and out realist, and should be applauded for being so. I cannot wait to see Doug Stanhope again; whichever shore I have to try and catch him travelling around – although I think it’s a safe bet I won’t have to fork out for a ticket for Thailand.
images: Brian Hennigan