Doug Stanhope and the Road to Damascus - Liberal Resistance

Doug Stanhope and the Road to Damascus

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Doug Stanhope.

The caustic comedian has been on tour in the UK, a process he admits to hating due to the low water pressure, bland food and miserly drinks measures. I feel I should defend my homeland, but Stanhope actually has a point…

Still, things would only get worse for the blithely alcoholic comedian, when people at his gigs apparently took it upon themselves to try to match Stanhope’s booze intake. Fights were apparently common among audience members, as was drunken heckling and a generally bad atmosphere. Doug must have been breathing a sigh of relief as he caught a flight home, except that this was the moment he found out he was an unwitting poster boy for the Far Right.

Stanhope tweeted something fairly innocuous – downright tame, in fact, for a man whose standup frequently deals with abortion, drug abuse, school shootings and his mother’s suicide – and received a reply that for some reason highlighted the “plight” of Tommy Robinson.

For those unaware, Tommy Robinson is a right wing lunatic who was recently jailed for (according to his followers) bravely speaking out against the Muslim hordes. Or else (according to a judge and non-cretins everywhere) for breaking the fucking law.

Stanhope’s response was typical of his style, which could perhaps be called floridly insulting. He wished that Tommy Robinson would “choke on his father’s prostate” and speculated that if these were the kind of assholes his act was drawing in the UK it was no wonder his audiences had been so unpleasant. He finished by pointing out (because this is something you somehow have to do these days) that Nazis were not welcome at his shows.

On the one hand, I’m not entirely surprised Doug Stanhope attracts such people – he’s considered “controversial,” and these days that word means anything from being an iconoclast on a particular subject to being a literal fascist. Stanhope’s material, whilst always brutal and often offensive, has nonetheless always been solidly humanist. It’s a point that may have gone over some people’s heads.

Unfortunately, the sort of dipshit who thinks that the problem with everything is foreigners will also miss the nuance. Broadly, this sort of conflation between comedians who use offense to make a serious point and comedians who are just offensive is down to a longstanding problem that white westerners have with politeness. There are certain things which We Don’t Talk About. We should, but we don’t. As a result, taboo subjects all begin to cluster under the same broad tent.

It’s not polite to talk about abortion, so when Doug Stanhope does it he’s breaking taboos. It’s also “not polite” to praise the crimes of the Third Reich, but because of the ludicrous breadth of modern taboos, the sort of people who think its fun to do the latter end up confused when Doug Stanhope doesn’t side with them.

This whole debacle may also provide a Damascus moment for Stanhope, who has long professed that it doesn’t make a difference who anyone votes for. He’s of the “all politicians are as bad as each other” school of thought.

What I would hope he now realises is that when far right politicians are in charge, their Nazi supporters ooze out of their lairs and begin to encroach on the lives of decent people. Whilst most politicians are crooked, voting left at least lets the fascists know that their views are in the minority. The worldwide swing to the Right in recent years has made a real difference in many ways, not least emboldening the sort of people who support Tommy Robinson and ruin standup gigs.

Doug is still right about the measly size of British spirit measures, though…

Luke Haines is a British writer who once ordered a “large” Maker’s Mark in a Chicago airport and was delighted to find he had to take a canoe to get to the other side of it. Tweet him @lukedoughaines