John Lahr

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Readings — From the August 1990 issue

Road worrier

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Mel Gibson on Hamlet

Books — From the October 1982 issue

The politics of charm

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There’s no private life in The Noel Coward Diaries.

Books — From the January 1981 issue

Dreamers of the day

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Talking to Studs Terkel

Theater — From the April 1979 issue

Sondheim’s little deaths

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The ironic mode and its discontents

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The critic as a cultural confidence man

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Notes on fame

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The machinery of celebrity provides the faith Americans seek

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Fearful symmetry

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Books — From the May 1977 issue

Clutching at flaws

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Books — From the November 1976 issue

Working the room

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Wraparound — From the May 1973 issue

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50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong·

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“I was warned that there would likely be a lot of emotions coming out in the room.”
Illustration by Katherine Streeter
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Dan Halpern’s “Citizen Walmart” (2012)·

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“He’s taking on a heap of debt to scale up for Walmart, a heap of debt.”
Photograph by Thomas Allen
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The Quinoa Quarrel·

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“Bolivia’s gene banks contain far more quinoa varieties than any other country’s, yet the Bolivians are dead set against sharing them.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
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You Had to Be There·

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“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
Illustration by Andrew Zbihlyj

Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:

2:1

Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.

Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.

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