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DOUG STANHOPE Maintain Your Rage

Doug Stanhope
Doug Stanhope

Acerbic, anarchic and effortlessly controversial, Doug Stanhope is revered by comedians and stand up connoisseurs as much as he is reviled by audiences who often don’t get his none-more-black brand of humour. He talks to TRAVIS JOHNSON about, well, drinking, mostly.


“I think it’s the G20 blocking our phone line because they don’t want us talking about them,” Doug Stanhope says, after numerous dropped calls force us to move to a different phone entirely. He’s in Brisbane, the second stop on his Australian stand up tour, where the G20 summit is currently taking place. Stanhope is unimpressed with the affair – he tweeted earlier about having seen someone arrested for taking a photo – but, after a brief explanation of what it means to shirtfront someone, admits admiration of Tony Abbott’s moxy in threatening Vladimir Putin.

“I like it,” he laughs. “I don’t know Tony Abbott’s stature, but Putin’s kind of a badass. That’s good shit talking right there. I wouldn’t put many up against Putin.”

Conversation then shifts to recently deceased Labor icon Gough Whitlam, who exhorted the nation to maintain their rage and enthusiasm after he was booted out of the top job back in ’75. It seems appropriate to ask Stanhope, a man known for both qualities, what he does to keep them ticking over.

“Alcohol helps quite a bit,” he says. “It can make old rage I’m bored with new again. That’s why I have to constantly write, because you get to a place where you’re just repeating the words and you don’t feel the sting any more.”

Writing and polishing his material is a daily chore for Stanhope. “Oh, it’s a constant process. You have your skeleton of your set, the stuff you’ve been working on – usually a year and a half to two years between when I put something out as a special, but there’s always stuff that you’re gonna put in there that you know might only have a week-long shelf life. I’m sure I’ll be riffing about G20 stuff tonight and it might possibly last the week or maybe the tour but after that… So as long as you have some new shit to talk about, even if it’s just some asshole at dinner that gave you some rage, that will carry on through your show and make your old shit seem new again.

“Oh, I wasn’t being facetious at all when I said alcohol,” he continues. “Alcohol is, yeah, it’s almost like my ventriloquist dummy. It’s not even my crutch so much as my comedy partner. If I had to, I’m sure I could learn to do it, but I wouldn’t try.”

These days Stanhope’s tipple of choice is vodka. “Vodka soda. I used to be a big beer drinker and then, because I’m an idiot, one time I’d quit smoking and I was gaining weight and I thought if I switched to vodka, vodka and cranberry juice, it’s be better for me, it’d be less calories somehow – just having juice in something seemed like it would make it healthier. But it’s like three times the sugar so I just got fatter and then switched to vodka and club soda, with a splash of grapefruit occasionally.

“Hard cider is my day-drinking drink of choice,” he goes on, clearly into the subject at hand. “If I’m just gonna have a few during the day and not continue it I like a hard cider. They’re just now getting popular in the States. When I did the UK tour, the last one I did a couple of years ago, that’s when I got turned on to hard cider. I think it was Willie Smith’s, it was a Tasmanian one that I had last night – that was pretty good. I might have the name wrong (he doesn’t)”.

In NFL season, though, it’s a whole different, pardon the pun, ballgame. “If it’s football drinking, football Sundays start at 11 in the morning and go til 10 at night, so we try to drink for the cycle where you start out with Bailey’s coffee and then move on to mimosas, Bloody Marys or fruit smoothies with rum. Then you switch to beer, then to hard cider, then you get to the vodka drinks, and if you can close strong, you close on wine.”


Doug Stanhope performs at the Fly By Night Musicians Club on Tuesday, November 18, and Wednesday, November 19. Go to for tickets.








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