Rebel with a cause

Doug Stanhope
Doug Stanhope

A stand-up show or an aggressive lecture, with Doug Stanhope, there is little difference.

I first became a fan of the American comic for his appearances on BBC 3’s Newswipe, when like-minded presenter Charlie Brooker would cut to Stanhope for a two to three minute rant on a number of subjects, including; abortion, the monarchy and celebrity.

While two minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, it was always shocking how much vitriol and venom he could squeeze in to the vignettes.

Well Stanhope doesn’t let off in his 90 minute show and by the end I imagine very few audience members left without being talked into a complete uncompromising hatred of the world around them.

With a small loyal fan base, The King’s is not the ideal venue for Stanhope, whose style is more of a one-sided conversation, rather than a traditional performance.

There are no set-ups, there are no punchlines, occasionally Doug pulls out sheets from a legal pad which he has scribbled notes but it isn’t long before he has veered off to another subject which has ignited his uncontrollable rage.

A particular hobby horse of Stanhope’s is his pro-euthanasia stance, which is heavily influenced by his experience with his own mother, who committed suicide while suffering from emphysema.

Much of the show is based on the twitter war between the American comic and Daily Telegraph commentator Allison Pearson.

The romance novelist wrote a a column which argued Tony Nicklinson, a 53 year-old former engineer left paralysed from the neck down by a stroke, was wrong to fight for the right to die.

Stanhope spends more than half an hour ranting an raving about the journalist, the article and the subsequent media furore and I imagine he could have gone on about it all night.

The comedian is dynamic in the sense that his abrasive material is driven by his passion and hatred and his subject matter is based on what’s on his mind, rather than , as with most comedians, what jokes were written prior to the beginning of the tour.

The only subject with which Stanhope views positively is the benefits of living in America as opposed to the “grey, bleak and depressing” United Kingdom, and it is up for debate whether that is an honestly held opinion or a tool to divide and antagonise the audience.

The laughs don’t come easily, but when they do they are rewarding although you might just have to find them through the tears after being suitably convinced of what a depressing world we live in.