Doug Stanhope’s Royale return

As part of his 2023 Australian Tour, US stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope heads to Perth this summer, hitting the Royale Theatre on Monday, February 20. Just ahead of returning to our shores for the first time in four years, SIAN CHOYCE spoke to Doug Stanhope about living in hotels, touring, and the importance of knowing where you’ve left your ditch bag. 

How have you been since last time we spoke? A few things have happened, house burning down…just a couple of minor things.

Yeah, I checked into this hotel and they said “ah, so we see we have you for…is this right? 100 nights? I said “yeah I guess so.” That’s my insurance company’s way of telling me how long this fix is gonna take.

So they didn’t really give you any answers, they just gave you 100 nights at a hotel?

 Yeah. And that was after six weeks of other hotels.

So, you’re ready to go on tour and stay in…more hotels?

Yeah, we just went on vacation. I left my hotel. My Doubletree Inn. To go to Hawaii, to stay in another Doubletree Inn. I just realised, I don’t know where my ditch bag is. Like, if you need to go on the land or on the run, you have a ditch bag. I don’t even know where my ditch bag is and if I was gonna flee, where would I go?

Have you kind of already ditched though? Could you almost say you’re in the process of ditching, like right now?

(laughs) Yeah, constant ditch mode. I just realised my passport is in my friend’s safe and they went out of town. So, I’m gonna have to get into their house, to get into their safe to get into Australia. I’m sure I’ll get there though.

There seems to be a sense of audiences feeling emboldened after events like the infamous Will Smith Oscar’s slap of Chris Rock. It seemed like if they didn’t like something they maybe felt entitled to stand or speak up more than they would have before.  Have you felt any of that?

My audiences. Well, there’s always that sense. I don’t feel like I’m going to get slapped. I feel like they might start slapping each other.

(Laughs) There’s always a pass out or two, that’s what amuses me the most about your audiences. They get so excited to come and see you that they tweet you at 6am saying “First drink! Can’t wait for Stanhope tonight!”

Yeah, tailgating in their El Camino with a bottle of Wild Turkey. Oh yeah, this is 1 o’clock in the afternoon. You’re going to be perfect at 9pm, you f**k.” Cause I’m a drunk and it gives me a bad name. Like, I know that I draw that type of audience cause I’m a drunk. But, I’m decent at it.

I remember one in Melbourne who was getting thrown out from the balcony. There’s a kerfuffle and I see security coming down cause he’s drunk and can’t shut up. He wasn’t violent or anything. It’s just that you get that place where you can’t yell at someone and make them sober. You can’t chide them or embarrass them into sobriety. It’s just, you’re done. You’re not going to be able to make it through the show. A few minutes later I realise he’s still being thrown out of the show and it’s because he had to put his shoes on. I’m like “you were up there with no shoes?” and that was several times in Australia. People are just barefoot. Like, had their flip flops off to the side. Like they’ve kicked them off on an airplane. Goddamn slobs. I will take my shoes off on a plane, but that is double socks on freshly washed feet. But, barefoot in a theatre? And it’s not a germ thing, like it doesn’t gross me out. It’s just the audacity I guess.

There is quite a big “well, who’s going to stop me?” vibe about Australia sometimes. Perth has quite a bit of it.

Perth is my favourite, by far. And I know I would love Darwin. Everyone says “oh it sucks, it’s muggy and hot.” But I still know I would love it there, but we just don’t have the draw.

It is beautiful, but it’s frustrating because its hot and muggy and you see beautiful beaches and inland waterfall type things that you can’t swim in to cool down because there’s a good chance there’s crocodiles in there.

Oh, that’s fine. I’m a hotel pool guy. I think I rather just go and not have to worry about doing a show. I go on vacation, I went to Gibraltar, the southern-most tip of Spain but its British owned or governed or whatever so they speak English, just cause I thought it sounded funny. I was there for seven or eight days or something. Never left the hotel really. Hotel pool, hotel restaurant, got a couple of crossword puzzles. I don’t want to go see shit.

If you love the hotels so much, how excited are you at the thought of being or not being back in your house eventually?

It’s gonna work out, I hope (knock on wood) because we tested positive for asbestos. It’s a 1915 house so they had to tear all this stuff out. So, it’s basically being remodelled on the insurance company’s dime.

Isn’t asbestos meant to be flame retardant? How did it still burn?

Um, I don’t know is my answer. I have no f**king idea how anything works. I literally hired a handyman to change a lightbulb cause it was a weird lightbulb and I was afraid of breaking it trying to take it out. Anyway, I’m that incapable. Handicapable as a homeowner.

That just means you’re employing people to work though, that’s got to be helpful in Bisbee?

No one wants to work there, that’s the great part about the town. It’s a hippie town, basically. Old hippies. No one wants to work. I could stand on a milk crate waving hundred dollar bills and unless it’s right before their monthly cheque for their disability or whatever, they’re not desperate for work.

Are you doing many more interviews today?

I have radio next I think. Is radio still a thing? Can you swear on radio? Like, shit? (laughs)

Umm, not really. You can probably get away with an s-word or two.

I’m just curious because it’s been so long since I’ve done radio in the States cause everything’s a podcast now. You never even think about the words you’re saying. The UK would prefer you say c**t before r****d. Like, I don’t plan on it but it’s been so long since I’ve worried about the words I use. It’s so silly.

That comes back to talking with comedians rather than normal people most of the time.

I haven’t been around it for about 20 years, so I’m not sure but it’s probably different in L.A. and New York now. But, road comedians are a whole different breed than actors who can do seven minutes at an alternative, hipster joint and they’re the ones who get offended at actual working comedians that have to band together in the green room against the hoards of the audience. It’s us against them on the road. It’s like first responders, lets say. If you could cancel firemen or ambulance drivers for the shit they say over a dead body cause it’s gallows humour. No one’s ever been offended in a green room.

(Doug speaks off-screen) Write that down for me Brian, that’s a good premise. Cancelling first responders for their gallows humour.

We get to see the ground floor of a new bit, that’s exciting.

It’s workable, its workable. (laughs).

Do you have much time in between shows? Could you get up to Darwin for a cheeky couple of days in the schedule?

I don’t know, I haven’t looked at it. I’m ignoring my whole life right now. I think we have like eight shows in three weeks, but I’ll do Darwin as a separate trip at some point. When I need the miles to hit my diamond status at the end of the year. I would’ve booked that ahead of this tour, just to get the f**k out of here if I knew I wasn’t going to be needed for signing insurance papers and ok-ing this and letting people in there. (whispers) But that’s the thing, I don’t actually do anything. (Greg) Chaille and (Brian) Hennigan do everything for me.

So, you could’ve been in Darwin this whole time? Just chilling…

(Laughs) I know! I did go to Hawaii and that just made it worse having to come back here where it’s been miserably cold. I hate it. I was out there, I had two thermal long john shirts on and a hoodie and a leather jacket with a scarf and hat  in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s f**king 50 degrees! I don’t know what that is celsius but yeah…

I struggle with that conversion too. But it’s almost 50 degrees celsius here at the moment which is halfway to boiling point, so you’ll have fun down here.

Love it. I love the heat. Australia…I don’t remember what I complained about, I’m sure I’ll find it. It’s usually something stupid like you don’t have the proper condiment. But, I don’t care cause it’s desert and it’s warm. The weather’s f**king great. I love being there. And I’d tell you if I don’t. If you thinking I’m just kissing ass, ask them in the UK if I kiss their ass. No. I tell them how miserable it is and how much I f**king hate being there and I don’t want to come back and I quit comedy every time I go there. So yeah, when I tell you I like you, I’m not just blowing smoke.

The UK probably would’ve loved you telling them that as well. They probably politely agreed. They have a good sense of humour like that.

Yeah, they’re as miserable as I am so they get it.