Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. â€śOnce you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,â€ť he says. â€śYouâ€™re the director, performer, and producer.â€ť 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 havenâ€™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 theyâ€™re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isnâ€™t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch showÂ â€” at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isnâ€™t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, heâ€™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 LouisÂ 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. Heâ€™s especially pleased if thereâ€™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. Stanhopeâ€™s America isnâ€™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, â€śAmerica may be the best country, but thatâ€™s like being the prettiest Dennyâ€™s waitress. Just because youâ€™re the best doesnâ€™t make you good.â€ť