Doug Stanhope

Before Turning the Gun on Himself...

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If Before Turning the Gun on Himself... is an unsettling title for a standup comedy album, then it's good enough for this one, because Doug Stanhope is an unsettling comedian. He's not necessarily any grosser than the rest, and his foul language is on par with whoever's playing the local comedy club, but toward the beginning of this 2012 effort, there's a bit about his buddy and fellow comedian Mitch Hedberg -- exploring the kamikaze way he lived, his drug overdose death, and the charity golf fundraiser in his name that now raises money for drug rehab facilities -- that's at the very least uncomfortable, bordering on unsettling. The comedian shows much love for Hedberg and his clan, and is well aware that love might be spurned in the wake of this routine, but the idea of the Hedberg name anywhere near a golf course or a rehab facility is something he can't resist mocking, and if anyone ever seemed doomed to comedy, it's Stanhope. His hatred for the cultural phenomena of celebrity rehabs and how "Dr. Drew Is to Medicine What David Blaine Is to Science" is so vicious that it could reverberate throughout the industry, with the Hollywood talent agents network banishing Stanhope to even further outside the industry, but there's plenty of evidence that's where he belongs, because he's an "acquired taste" to the point of "you must be craving bile." Still, "Simple Man" is a well-crafted and surprisingly rich look at those who "willfully vote against their own interests," and if all the above sounds too heavy for a night of comedy, balance is struck with ham-fisted bits like "My Piss Stinks." Like the discography of Bill Hicks, Stanhope's offers highlights instead of easy entry points, but coming after the weird Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere -- where he offered his agitated rants to an audience who only know English as a second language -- this one can be considered a fan-pleasing return to form. Stanhope can make any gig anywhere sound like it is taking place at the last comedy club on the road to hell, and while that's a gruff, crude, and morbid style, he's incredibly sharp here, and offering a very unique comedy experience.

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