With an ever present drink in hand, standup comic Doug Stanhope worked through more than an hour of new material that falls perfectly in line with the kind of work that has propelled him through his 27-year career. As caustic and irreverent as ever, the show felt less like a performance and more like an alcohol-fueled hang, complete with a drunken crowd member having to be removed from the venue.
Albeit, this hang had a purpose, “Reno’s not the final destination,” Stanhope joked when, late in the evening, he referenced his notes. “You guys are a focus group,” he continued, “so we’re gonna work through all this shit that probably won’t make it onto the special.”
Stanhope’s appearance at the Cargo Concert Hall in downtown Reno on Saturday, March 25, fell on his 50th birthday, and he made it clear, as he does, that he would be doing some extra partying to celebrate. The show’s structure was loose, with Stanhope acting as emcee and headliner. He entered the stage at 8.
“Alright, so this is how this is gonna work, I’m gonna talk for a bit, then my friend, the very funny Brett Erickson, is gonna come out here and do his set, then I’m gonna come out for a little bit longer, then Morgan Murphy, then I’ll come out again and — I’m gonna stay out here longer the drunker I get so by the end you’ll be like ‘fuck…’ ”
Stanhope kicked off the festivities with a long bit explaining why he had to cancel his scheduled Reno performance back in November. His longtime girlfriend, Bingo, had been celebrating her 40th birthday when she had a seizure and “fell down, cracked her bean and had to get life-flighted to the hospital.” The routine rolled on with asides about his Bingo’s parents, who were in attendance, Bingo’s intelligence — and lack thereof — and the fecal transplants that she needed.
“After I found out how serious her condition was, I really thought about it and decided I needed to cancel the tour … well, I did one show,” Stanhope explained.
Shortly after his Bingo story, a section of the audience stood up and yelled for the staff to call 911. Later in the set we learned (from Stanhope) that the guy had a seizure and, when he came to, was so drunk he tried to fight the security that was helping him. No joke. The Reno crowd and Stanhope himself were relatively unfazed. Stanhope takes pride in the “degenerate” tag attached to him and his fan base:”All my fans are assholes and they fuckin’ hate each other.” He even riffed on how nice the Whitney Peak Hotel is: “Oh, how thoughtful of my management to book me at Reno’s first non-smoking, non-gambling casino.”
The highlight of his sets was a routine on Indian men and gang rape, with sentiments like “Indian men are the women of men” and with the assertion that if an Indian man had ever tried to rape someone one on one, he might have given that guy the necessary push, Stanhope disarmed one of society’s most deep-seeded taboos. He eventually wound up the bit with real analysis on the nature of comedy and taboo topics by explaining the importance of being able to laugh at the evils in the world. This is what separates Stanhope from the shock jocks of comedy. His use of personal and societal flaws to explain his opinions is impressive, enlightening and often hilarious.
As the show came to an end, it was clear that the comedian’s night was just getting started — “Come find me in the casinos, I’ll be close.”
His politically charged set came with an apology for past bits he had done comparing Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Joking that he used to see Trump as an airline seat in the upright position, he saw Clinton as a seat that reclines back two inches. He realizes now that Clinton is still a barely reclining chair but Trump has “ripped the seat out and beat a Latino with it.”
Murphy’s act swerved from material on sports to binge-drinking/chain-smoking with Stanhope to dick size but her best joke was simple in set up. “I don’t think Donald Trump knows the meaning of consent, I was hanging out with him once and I said ‘Donald can you use ‘consent’ in a sentence?’ And he said, “Yeah, can you believe that cunt sent all those emails from that server?”