2006_09_doug_stanhope.jpgComedian Doug Stanhope is making a rare NYC appearance at Pianos on Friday, September 8th. In this interview, he discusses comedy, his forthcoming presidential campaign, and his love of Costa Rica.

What sort of role did comedy play in your life growing up?
My childhood is vague snapshots of memories that cannot be trusted. I remember trying to repeat some Bill Cosby bits back to my dad that I didn't even understand. I remember him laughing though, just at the fact that I had memorized them. He probably didn't get them either, now that I think of it. But I was always a big fan of stand-up until I started doing it and realized that most of it was a trick.

What were you like in school?
I was somewhere between the class clown and Columbine. The odd kid who made you laugh sometimes but not in a way that made you comfortable.

How'd you get your laughs as a kid?
You'd have to ask the other kids. I don't even remember who they were. They were like extras in life. Background.

What was your family like?
My dad was like the Happy days dad without any point of view. He was the most content man I've ever met. Didn't drink, smoke, no vices whatsoever. Went to Church but more for social reasons. To help cook elderly people lunch. Never a religious person at all.

Mother let us read Hustler and smoke cigarettes. They weren't together long but we bounced back and forth between them. My brother and I still are the best of friends. Dad is dead and Mother is chasing him, one Kool Mild at a time.

What sort of aspirations did you have as a child?
Fun. That's all I ever cared about.

What sort of creative outlets did you have?
As many as I felt the urge. I occasionally wrote shit. I amused my peers. I made prank calls. I did fraud telemarketing that I made funnier than most of my comedy. You make your own fun.

What did you do after high school?
I didn't graduate high school. I went on a journey around the country, fucked up, got fucked up, and did whatever seemed amusing or appropriate.

What inspired you to perform stand up for the first time?
I hung out at this open mic in Vegas for what I would guess was 4 or 5 weeks, constantly asking if I could go up the next week. They always said yes but it took that long for me to write a set.

How did that first performance go?
It went great for what it was. If I saw it now, I'd vomit.

What was your early material like?
It was shit. Shit that I thought was original until I did it some more and realized it was terribly hackneyed.

What were the next several years like for you?
Short version - I got a house MC gig in Phoenix, got enough gigs to live on the road, did shitty one nighters and low-rent comedy clubs for three years, got some industry notice, moved to LA, fucked off doing never-seen or wish-you'd-never-seen television, realized I hated my life, moved to a small border town in Arizona, and the answered this email.

Some time ago, there was a club that had you booked in advance and then flaked on you. You asked your fans to launch a ground assault. How'd that work out?
Like any pointless vengeance, it felt good for a minute but didn't make the asshole any less an asshole or make me satisfied. See the Robert Palmer cover of "Every Kind of People".

Have you ever regretted doing a specific piece of material?

How do you approach writing your material?
I think something is funny, I write it down. I didn't always do it that way. In the beginning I'd try to write things that I thought would get laughs. Then I decided - over a course of time - that I'd rather say things that I meant, that were true, and make them funny after the fact. Everyone is different. I'd hate to have this answer construed as "the way you're supposed to write". Write how it feels right. Fuck everyone else.

What's your opinion of when comedians material overlap?
I'll tell you what I'd do, but not what you should do. If I wrote it and it's solid - and then I find out someone else has a similar bit, I don't drop it unless it's some kind of Chris Rock or Bill Hicks (especially Hicks, because a lot of his fans are idolaters and shit heads because of it). But if your new in the business, its always better to drop it as opposed to being branded a thief because local comedy scenes are rife with finger-pointers and young comics are full of ideas they thought are original that aren't. I was one.

How do you feel about people downloading your albums off file trading networks?
I openly encourage it.

What's your beef with LA and NYC?
I hate crowds and traffic.

How'd you decide on Todd Barry as your NYC opener?
Todd and I are friends. We share info on good rock n roll clubs to perform to stay out of comedy clubs. He isn't opening for me. We're doing a show together.

Why do you like Costa Rica so much?
It is as close to a Libertarian state as I have found. And its warm.

What are some of the favorite places that you've performed?
Anchorage. Seattle. Portland. Austin. Minneapolis in its day, which is over. Houston is nearly the same.

What's your opinion of Last Comic Standing?
My opinion of television - especially network - is that it is watered-down shit. All of it. I watch LCS because I know the business and I know a lot of the people. If it was Last Plumber Standing and you plumbed, you would have interest.

Is America a ready for President Doug Stanhope?

If it can't be you in office, then who would you like to see at the helm?
Nobody. That's the point of my campaign. If you need a leader, you're a douche bag. Normally I'd spell it out more but you have so many fucking questions.

What have you got planned so far for your campaign?
To put you in a train and send you to a camp. i don't have the time for total genocide - not after the length of this interview. So we will eliminate you.

What projects are you involved in?
Enjoying my day.

What projects are you contemplating?
Making you dead.

What do you like to do after a performance?
Leave quickly and spend quiet bar time with my friends who get what I get.

To learn more about Doug, visit Dougstanhope.com