Blacking out cross-country

Abrasive and lewd, Doug Stanhope will bring his free-wheeling cuss-a-palooza to the Varsity this Friday.

Spencer Doar


What: Doug Stanhope

Where: The Varsity Theater, 1308 Fourth  St. SE, Minneapolis

When: 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show; Friday

Cost: $26.50 advance, $30 day of


Is it binge drinking if you do it all the time? That’s a question for Doug Stanhope and his buddies Brett Erickson and Geoff Tate, who will be rolling through the Varsity Theater on Friday.

“We’re driving this whole tour,” Stanhope said. “We wake up with a bit of the shakes, get in the van, stop to eat some shitty fast food, get to the show in the next town and hopefully have time to shower.”

The shitty fast food of that day: Hardee’s. The prognosis on the shower: doubtful.

Stanhope is every bit the bedraggled firebrand that he appears on stage.

He’s a dingy shirt, vodka sweat and bad breath kind of guy who, in a previous life, could have been just the short of hack flatfoot that Sam Spade despised.

But for all of his vitriol, Stanhope is a nice guy. A nice guy with an in-your-face act but a nice guy nonetheless. His anger is an effect, and his shouting is not at the audience (though it may seem that way).

“I’m not battling anybody but the person I’m visualizing,” Stanhope said. “I’m yelling at Nancy Grace or something in my head.”

Stanhope’s hungover and apologetic as his van moves closer to Columbus, Ohio, that day’s stop on the tour.

“You can make up [expletive] that I said that’s more interesting than what I’m saying,” Stanhope said. “I’m not going to call you on it, I wouldn’t Stephen Glass you. If you made this interview one giant lie, I would love you. I’d send you flowers.”

But that is not surprising for a guy who takes glee in seeing the status quo turned on its head (or at least punched in the gut).

An outspoken libertarian who this year supports Gary Johnson, Stanhope is well-aware of his politics’ shortcomings.

“I think that [the election] is going to be incredibly boring, like if the Olympics lasted a year,” Stanhope said. “I like Johnson a lot and support him, but it’s pissing in the wind. But when you’re on fire, that can help.”

That won’t stop Stanhope from attempting to raze the current socio-economic structure to the ground during his act. If there is a button to push, Stanhope will push it because he likes pushing buttons.

Stand-up is Stanhope’s outlet for his rage and dissatisfaction with the world; an outlet that if unused would likely result in Stanhope turning cartoonishly red, shooting steam out of his ears and then imploding in a burst of bile, alcohol and dirty socks.

“Effort. Professionalism. Craftsmanship. I try to keep those out of the act,” Stanhope said. “Now that I have my own audience, I’m hard pressed to find something that will make them turn on me. Not much. By the time I’m talking to them, I’m usually so drunk I don’t even think.”

And by the way, don’t stand in the front; you might catch some spittle from Stanhope as he acerbically wends his way through an hour-long tantrum of hilarious proportions.