I’ve been a fan of standup since I was a kid. I distinctly remember being 1 of 3 kids in my middle school that knew who George Carlin was. I can also very much remember my first George Carlin DVD, YOU ARE ALL DISEASED. Not only was it some of the funniest stuff I had ever heard at the time, but it was also a revolution for my prepubescent mind. I watched that DVD everyday after I got home from school for a month. I figured a heavy dose of Carlin would cure me of some of the antiquated, brainwashing, old-world, dirt-floor ideologies that one can encounter in a Midwest community school system.
I wasn’t just being turned on to a style of comedy that my 13 year old self had never really experienced before, I was also being introduced to a whole new way of looking at things, examining others opinions, and forming my own ideas about what’s going on in this crazy world of ours.
As my age and mentality matured, I grew to appreciate Carlin more and more. I think that’s the sign of any great piece of art: being able to take away something new every time you experience it, despite previously experiencing it a hundred times before. There’s been many times in my past when I revisited something I enjoyed when I was younger only to find that I couldn’t figure out why I liked it in the first place. With George, it has always been the opposite; the more I mature, the more I appreciate his work.
I’m 25 years old at the time of this article. In 37 years (assuming I make it that far), I’ll be the same age that Carlin was when he recorded YOU ARE ALL DISEASED: 62 years old. As a 25 year old, I view George Carlin as a genius, a master of his craft and a voice of a people that are all but ignored by most. If I do make it to 62, I can’t even imagine what his work will mean to me then. Hey, if George himself can worship Joe Pesci, then I can worship George Carlin, right? Right.
Like I said, I’ve been a fan of standup for a while now. Some of my favorites are Louis CK, Bill Burr, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Patrice O’Neal, Robin Williams, Chris Titus, Jim Jeffries, and so many others. Eventually I would like to do individual articles on each and every one of them, but this particular article is actually for the man who would come to spur on a second revolution of thought for me: Doug Stanhope.
I would call Doug Stanhope a controversial comic, but I think more people would need to know who Doug Stanhope is in order for him to cause any kind of real controversy. He’s certainly had a few incidents over the years (and you can hear about most of them in his stand up), but as far as I can tell his biggest “controversy” to play out before the eyes of the masses is his current Indiegogo project, which he set up to help out the now famous “I’M ACTUALLY AN ATHEIST” lady, Rebecca Vitsmun. She recently lost her home when a tornado smashed it’s way through Oklahoma not long ago.
In Stanhope, a prouder atheist could not be found. He was so enamored with Rebecca Vitsmun and the courage she brought to look Wolf Blitzer in the face, live on CNN and basically denounce God, that he overcame his fear and handicap of operating 21st century technology and started an Indiegogo page to help Vitsmun and her family out during their time of need.
As I write this article, Doug and his Indiegogo project have surpassed the initial goal of $50,000 and are sitting at a handsome sum of $118, 230. This is a mere $7,020 from the median cost of a home in Vitsmun’s hometown of Moore, OK. There are still 45 days left to go before the crowd funding project ends.
Doug absolutely did not, and honestly could not, have expected the kind of response he got. The $50,000 goal (a number that Doug flippantly chose as a starting point) was surpassed in the first 17 hours of starting the project on May 24th. On May 25th, it was over $77,000, and on May 28th Doug woke to find they had broken $100,000 raised for a woman who never even asked for Doug’s help in the first place. Rebecca wasn’t even aware of Doug’s charitable actions until the project had already hit the $50,000 goal starting point.
Again, the project to raise money for Vitsmun and her family is still underway. Due to the way Indiegogo is set up, you’re not allowed withdraw the money raised any earlier than the date you initially scheduled the project to end, so if you’re reading this and it’s not July 22nd 2013 and beyond, then click on the link here and give what you can if you can give at all. While the title of the project is “ATHEIST UNITE,” I’m sure they’ll accept the generosity of any good-natured person, no matter what walk of life they come from.
In my opinion, through all the contempt and rage I honestly believe Doug understands and cares more about those who struggle, or who are in need, more than any “charity” organization with a commercial featuring an all star cast of starving children. It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who actually gives a damn about America’s undiagnosed sideshow oddities.
Like I said, before the Indiegogo project (or even the internet for that matter), Doug of course has had his fair share of incidents with irate comedy club goers, show promoters and the media. In the end, though, most of his “controversies” seem to stem from folks not being able to laugh at themselves.
If you can’t laugh at yourself then you have no right to laugh at anybody else. It’s absolutely hypocritical to arbitrarily scream and shout about freedom of speech when Doug’s railing against a portion of this life that has nothing to do with you, but when he inevitably turns his alcohol fueled spotlight of comedic rage onto something that actually affects you, then you need to be able step away from your own ego and recognize you’re just as silly and imperfect as anybody else. Some of my deepest, rib-splitting, “I CAN’T BREATH!” fits of laughter have come from sitting around with my friends and talking about all the idiotic things we used to do, and still do to this day. It’s the kind of pure, guilt free laughter that can do more for one’s own psyche than a hundred psychologist visits could ever do for you.
I stumbled across Doug’s 2007 stand up special, NO REFUNDS, via Netflix and I got the same feeling I got while watching Carlin’s YOU ARE ALL DISEASED five years earlier. I was blown away to find someone who not only felt and said a lot of the things that I thought made me an outcast for thinking about in the first place, but he was standing on stage with a beer in one hand and cigarette in the other, gleefully smearing it in the face of the audience. For me, it was one of those “tell all your friends” moments, a moment that stand up comedy thrives on. While word-of-mouth has always been a major factor in marketing, these days it is king. These days, thanks to the Internet, if you get enough people talking about someone or something, it spreads to so many people so quickly that we’ve come to call it “viral.” I guess Carlin was right, we are all diseased.
You can find Doug’s work all over the Internet for free, because Doug quite frankly has zero fucks to give about people stealing stuff online — in fact, he encourages it. However, if you’re a fan of his work and you want to make sure he has the means to keep working, then head over to his online store here or check his tour dates here for the next show nearest you and go experience stand up the way it was meant to be. If you’re easily offended and aren’t comfortable with the possibility of having to laugh at yourself, then don’t even bother.
A frequent guest on the Joe Rogan’s podcast entitled The Joe Rogan Experience, Doug has apparently finally been coerced into starting his own podcast, a 21st century medium that a lot of comics have come to embrace over the years. With a bit of virtual insanity and a dash of old school word-of-mouth, hopefully it’ll find it’s audience, because quite frankly, now more than ever seems like the perfect time for Stanhope’s brand of comedy; people seem to be realizing just how fraudulent and forced the status quo is.
If you’re not a fan of stand up, or have managed to overlook Doug for all these years, you might recognize him from when he, along with Joe Rogan, replaced Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla on the fifth and sixth season of Comedy Central’s The Man Show. If you’re a fan of late night infomercials featuring young drunk college girls being exploited for profit, you may recognize him from his hosting spot on Girls Gone Wild: America Uncovered (don’t lie now, you knew you recognized him from somewhere).
Most recently, Doug was featured on an episode during the second season of the Louis CK written and directed comedic hit LOUIE. I have to imagine there was a fair share of coercion involved with getting Doug on set in front of the camera. Doug is a performer at heart and admits that he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life, but like most of us, he’s his own worst critic. He can’t stand to watch himself perform his own stand up routine, let alone try to seriously act. I understand what it feels like to doubt whatever talents you hope or think you have, and while I may be a bit biased in my opinion, Doug’s episode of LOUIE has been one of the high marks of the entire show in my opinion.
That’s not to say that Doug’s performance is the sole reason for his episode being so entertaining (again, it is written and directed by Louis CK after all), but the character he was asked to play was perfect for Stanhope. Eddie is a down-and-out, pissed off, suicidal drunk who’s blowing into town for one last hoorah with his old buddy Louie before calmly downing a bottle of Gin and a handful of pills. It’s the kind of dark, uncomfortable, you-feel-kind-of-bad-for-laughing humor that Doug is well known for. Sincerely, I hope that you all check out Doug’s work if you haven’t already, and if you should find that what Doug says is the kind of stuff you’ve always felt, and you too feel that revelatory moment I spoke of earlier, then all I ask is that you help to pass the word on.