Comedian Doug Stanhope is possessed of a graphic lack of inhibitions. A chain-smoking iconoclast with his perverted pedal pushed to the proverbial metal, his reputation for blue honesty and volatile social criticism is well-earned. Stanhope is most widely recognized as co-host of Comedy Central’s The Man Show, but the boundaries of television, even cable television, don’t shed one dim watt onto his stand-up act. His Valentine’s Day appearance at the Murat was recently canceled due to poor ticket sales, but he was still nice enough to chat with NUVO about all this love in the air.
A real man: Doug Stanhope and a friend.
NUVO: Who is your Valentine this year? Doug Stanhope: My pseudo wife. NUVO: Your pseudo wife? DS: We go by married, with an asterisk. I have huge problems with legalized marriage. It’s not an institution that the government should have any dealings in. It’s not an anti-marriage thing, which is a completely different argument in itself as far as committing to one person for life. But as far as the government making it legal or not legal; I mean, if its something you want to do as a tradition or a rite then go down to a Chuck E. Cheese or a church and do it. It’s like joining a fraternity. It shouldn’t be a legal thing. It’s something you’re doing on your own. You shouldn’t have to be legally a Phi Delta Kappa. It just doesn’t make any sense when you think about it and it’s the one institution that people just blindly follow into with no thought whatsoever. So, when we got married we went to Vegas, threw a big party and said we were married. NUVO: A Vegas wedding? That doesn’t sound that unusual. Why the asterisk? DS: We had a mock ceremony. Well, a real ceremony. We had a defrocked priest who is a good friend, an ex-priest-now-hippie, who came in from Santa Cruz and made up some kind of ceremony on the spot. NUVO: A real ceremony, just not a real wedding ceremony? DS: Mock in every sense of the word. Except for the commitment, which is real. I think really the only reason that the institution survives is ego. Most people, they have three big days or, you know, two: graduation and their wedding. It’s all focused on them. It’s a big party for them. So they don’t want to miss out on their big picture day and get their presents. NUVO: So what are your Valentine’s Day plans? DS: You know what, I didn’t have any because I was supposed to be in Indy. Now I have the weekend off. I’ll have to think about it. Apparently the bookers in Indy thought that 10 shows on late night cable would sell out an auditorium. NUVO: Are you a romantic? DS: Ah, I’m typical. I’m very romantic during the build up, during the chase and then I lack horribly afterward. NUVO: Yeah? What are some of the romantic hoops you jumped through while you were dating your wife? Your pseudo wife, I mean. DS: Ah jeez. Renee and I had pretty much of a drunken courtship, kind of like [author Charles] Bukowski and Wanda. We had a Barfly courtship. If I did do anything romantic, it’s blurred. NUVO: OK, so you’re not exactly carrying the banner for romance. Do you think anybody is anymore? DS: It all depends on what you call romance. There’s really no such thing as courting anymore — at least not like there was 50 years ago where you had to bring her flowers every day for years and sip malts before you could even get a hand job. So, if that’s what romance is, I’m sure it’s gone by the wayside. NUVO: You must have a romantic evening sometime, just the two of you out for dinner or alone at home or whatever, at least every once in a while. DS: Doing nothing is the most romantic thing we do. Sitting in bed with a comforter and a beer and good delivery food, just renting movies and not talking to people. Sitting on a beach in Costa Rica drinking fruity drinks. Sometimes silence together; every one looks for someone they can communicate with, but it is even harder to find someone you can be comfortably silent with. NUVO: Speaking of romance, I saw a clip from The Man Show where you asked [Hustler publisher] Larry Flynt if you could sniff his finger. Pretty brave. DS: Larry Flynt has always been a hero of mine. When people ask who my influences are I always try to mention him. When I was growing up, the humor in Hustler was really raw. It was something that I was into when I was 13, 14 years old. NUVO: What did his finger smell like? DS: Old man [laughs]. There is some history there with that finger. You’d figure there would be herpes sores on the actual nails after that life. He’s an odd guy. NUVO: You don’t say. DS: When you see his office it’s all overly gaudy, decorated gold and that whole — I don’t know if it’s Victorian. I’m not a decorator — but, you know, the velvet old fashioned chairs. It’s just gaudy and gross. The gold plated wheel chair; you don’t know if that guy is taking himself too seriously or if it’s still kind of a goof or what. And it’s hard talking to him too because [impersonates Larry Flynt’s famously slurred speech]. The way he talks you can’t really tell if he’s all there. NUVO: What’s your guess: Is he all there or not? DS: I couldn’t get a read. The few times I’ve run into him there is always someone looking to interview him or to get him to talk about something, so you don’t know if he is just overwhelmed or … I saw Rodney Dangerfield at the Comedy Awards and it was the same kind of thing where there are cameras all in his face and they are just kind of dragging him around and you don’t know if his handlers are propping him up like the pope or if he has got any, you know, how much of his faculties does he have left or how much it all means to him. NUVO: You hosted the Adult Video Awards last year. That must have been romantic. Was it your first time? DS: Yeah. First and last time. For comics it’s horrible and you know that going in. Thirty five hundred people there for porn not for comedy. The last thing they want to do is listen to your jokes. But it’s something that you have to do once just to say you did it, kind of like getting a hooker. NUVO: Your material can be pretty sexual and, I don’t think I’m going out of bounds here, I doubt anyone has ever found it romantic. Is that something you carry over to your personal life, keeping a distinct line between what is sexual and what is romantic? DS: They have been separate for me for a long time. Sex is not something that I think of as being romantic whatsoever. I like it filthy. I like a degree of difficulty in my sex. I couldn’t get a boner if it was at all weepy or nice.