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Tearing down comedy from the inside

Doug Stanhope shares more than a love of cigarettes with the late Bill Hicks

Doug Stanhope, photo courtesy of

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When I call Doug Stanhope, I catch him swimming in a pool somewhere.

"Let me dry off my head," he says, "crack open a warm beer and light a cigarette."

For those not immediately familiar with Stanhope, you may remember him as the co-host (along with Joe Rogan) of the ill-fated reboot of "The Man Show" after the departure of Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla. Or maybe you know him from his hilarious scene in The Aristocrats when he tells the infamously filthy joke to his baby.

Really, though, Stanhope is a comedian, through and through-and an outspoken one at that. His very vocal disgust at hack comedians and opportunistic comedy club owners is widely known among people familiar with the comedy scene. He shares similar qualities to the late Bill Hicks and his respect for artistic integrity above all else.

It should come as no surprise, then, that our conversation quickly turns to (Bothell native) Kyle Cease's Stand-Up Boot Camp and the controversy that has been building around it, thanks in no small part to the scathing essay Stanhope recently posted on his website.

"Anyone who teaches a comedy class is a grifter," says Stanhope. "No different than a psychic."

The Comedy Boot Camp is an intensive course for stand-up comedy amateurs that can go as long as 12 hours a day for five days. That's called the "Stand-Up Mastery" course. Students are promised pointers in "out-of-the-box marketing strategies" and that they'll be introduced to industry insiders. But I'll let Stanhope tell you about it.

"I don't know that anyone else of (Kyle Cease's) level has quit doing comedy to do this," says Stanhope. "Usually it's some guy that tried to do stand-up and failed, so he teaches it. ... Any time I do interviews, they'll go, ‘What advice do you have for new comics?' And I'd always say the rote ‘stay with it' and ‘perform as often as you can' and ‘get up all the time.' But then you realize 99 percent of people that ever try stand-up comedy will fail and fail miserably. ... (Kyle Cease) says anyone can do it... Some people need to hear a fucking Simon Cowell every now and then.

"It's like you're saying, ‘Everyone can kick field goals in the NFL-you just have to believe in it,'" Stanhope continues. "Even the guy with one leg? ‘Yeah, if he has $3,000 for the Mastery course.'"

Doug Stanhope has established himself as a comic wholly opposed to the very nature of comedy clubs.

"They don't need to exist," he says. "When we have the technology, we have all the social networking sites and Youtube - you don't need a middleman. You don't need a comedy club owner to decide who's funny and who's not based on comment cards. You can make your own way."

Stanhope's shows-in addition to being caustic, booze-filled, and hilarious-have a way of erring on the side of guerilla. Case-in-point: Stanhope's recent performance at a carwash (pointedly) near the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.

Friday at Jazzbones, let's get trashed with Doug Stanhope and let him show us how it's done.

Doug Stanhope

Friday, Aug. 6, 8 p.m., $20
Jazzbones, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma

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