Saturday, July 23, 2011

Doug Stanhope at the Underground Cinema

I rode back home in a speechless cab that picked me up on a faceless street. Quick Lubes and Moonlight Restaurants scrolled by my eyeballs’ windshield.

I hailed ten cabs before one stopped and picked me up. Shit, I thought, I could just walk home, just about halfway there. Now I know how those hitchhikers felt when I was roller-coasting up and down Airport Road the other day, just wizzing by, laughing at their fate with a Peter Jackson wedged in my lips, air con fanning my face and Tom Waits blasting some hot shit jazz through my speakers . . . "Romeo is bleeding . . ." I had my axe and laundry in the backseat and my dealers number in my phone. All they got is a thumb and a dream. I'm laughing. Ha! Look at his thumbing arm go limp after I roar by and glimpse the stinging pain of rejection on his face in the rearview window. I now know how those hitchhikers feel, neglected by motor transportation and the people who control them.  

I'm off my tits and have been walking for an hour or so. Great walk, however; beautiful vistas of the 2 AM club crowd on Queen St. West. The jackhammers had the streets were dug up, but I wasn't considering the construction in progress, what it might look like when complete. Everywhere I looked there was another gaggle of sevens, eights, and the occasional nine and ten with their painted faces and tube dresses, drunk and ready to go deeper into the night. The whole lot of them would be tens if this was Dundalk on a Saturday night.

They say Toronto has two seasons: Winter and Construction (eat it, Chicago). That's just like my brain I think, taking the steps down to a friend's basement digs, somewhere near Trinity Bellwoods. A steady excitement has built up over the last week anticipating this show. I’m a big comedy fan, yet I’ve never even been to a stand-up comedy show proper. Sure, just like every hipster wannabe I've been to 'loft parties' and 'basement shows' . . . (Hey dude, you should check out our band...The Blah Blah Swank Art Fags--Blah Blah, we're playing tomorrow night at the blah blah--frag-frick-gorph-gorph--club, you should really come see us--gorph). But this, now this was a fucking theatre show with seats and payments and tickets and the whole deal.

I was excited and not thinking straight when I took my three drink tickets and cashed them all out at once. I rationalized that there would be no getting out of my seat until the end of the show so I wanted to have a few beers to last for the duration. I'm not entirely familiar with theatre etiquette.

Doug had his heavily medicated girlfriend, Bingo, running the merch table. She was sitting cross-legged on top of the table in a red bridesmaid dress. CDs and other Doug Stanhope related material encircled her. Bingo seems like a very genuine, unguarded woman, albeit a woman with a child-like personality playing dress up. I’d buy a CD but I’ve heard them all, and I don’t really know what to do with CDs anymore. Maybe CDs will see a renaissance in thirty years similar to the current resurgence of vinyl, so I covet the meagre collection that has survived the years. They sit there year after year collecting dust in boxes. Perhaps the strategic skip on the CD will be the new needle static.

I asked Bingo about the recent Howard Stern interview with her and Doug. I told her she did all the talking; not in a bad way, it was interesting and funny, but Doug had a bug up his ass and was unusually quiet; barely said a word. She said there definitely was something wrong with him but couldn't tell me. Well as a crazed fan that's about as many degrees as I've come to the Stern Show: talking to the blitzed out girlfriend of a semi-regular guest and legendary comedian. How I long to yell 'Baba Booey!' inappropriately while a beat reporter from CityTV is doing some story about racoons breaching bio-hazard waste bins and eating late-term abortions.

By the way, whatever happened to Harold Hussein? He was my favourite weather guy. He had the perfect Caribbean accent. Not too thick as to be parodic, not too light as to be nearly imperceptible. I always wondered . . . any relation? Nah, he's too warm and friendly! And that weather guy in the chopper, Darryl Dahmer? Couldn't possibly be related, right? Nah.  

I wasn't expecting the time of my life. I wasn't expecting a fucking Celine Dion song, but I was excited. We got to the line-up and Mickey and me had to piss like nobody’s business. Anytime I've been drinking and thrust into a socially confined situation, a line-up or a car, I just know I'll have to pee my brains out. There's no seal to break with me. That's an urban myth. I will pee and then in two minutes pee some more. I'm a goddamn pee machine. I came here to do two things: piss endlessly and kick some ass. We sauntered into a nearby alley and whipped our shooters out. Pisssing like rain dogs and sweating like pigs, we stood there and for whatever unknown evolutionary reason I started doing what friends will oft do when peeing together: cross swords.

"Dude, stop!" Mickey exclaimed, like crossing swords was a felony; we're already pissing illegally in an alleyway twenty feet from Spadina Ave, who cares if we're crossing swords? I laughed uproariously at this, like a mad child, and kept disrupting Mickey's even flow, and there was already some rent-a-cop punk in a silly uniform two sizes too big peeking his head out from around the corner. In unison we zipped up, our jean-teeth cutting through the sticky late summer heat like the frantic mating call of a long extinct bird.

Mickey put the vodka (disguised in a Naya watter bottle, naturally) into some exposed pipe jutting out of the theatre. It appeared to be a perfect fit. Save that for later . . .

Now we're waiting in line and it's just about what I suspected a Doug Stanhope line-up would be: two sets and three sets of balding, apathetic thirty-somethings with shirts futilely covering bulging guts and man boobs. The odd dame dragged out of the woodwork, forced to cancel a Friday night out with the girls to see some jerkoff named Doug Stanhope. Doug WHO? All her girlfriends say in a chorus. That was my initial impression, but as time wore on the pattern became more complex and there was a healthy mix of all types of people. A lawyer can laugh at the hypocrisy and madness of the world just like a tattoo artist—especially if a top shelf comic like Stanhope is delivering the product.

I just came into join a crowd, 'cause I had some time to kill. After all we're just the same—Humans! Humans! Humans! They're everywhere nowadays. But to see humans of the feminine variety at a Doug Stanhope show was definitely an aphrodisiac. I like me a woman with a sense of humour and an ass full of jelly and dumplings. Like a woman reading a book, a woman at a Doug Stanhope show signals long term mate potential.

The whole lot of us moved quite swiftly into the seven hundred seat capacity theatre. It was most definitely the Underground Cinema for I had no reception on my cell. That's probably why I never heard any moronic, idiosyncratic cellphone rings at any point in the proceedings. Genius! Put the theatre underground where it belongs. I mean it is supposed to be subversive, no? Unfortunately, the silence of reception-less phones was offset by the endless clanging of bottles barrelling their way down the aisles. It's great that the Underground Cinema provides booze because it puts you in the mood, but when people have nowhere to put their empties—and there're lots of empties at a Doug Stanhope show—they end up rolling around and constantly disrupting the show.

Now that's not to say one has to be slanted to enjoy this man. His flow is sharp and clear, reels you in with his drunken observations about life, laying the absurdity of it out for you in ways that seem so obvious after the fact. He doesn't set up one liners like Mitch Hedberg or Stephen Wright, he tells stories to the audience like a Woody Allen or Richard Pryor, the set punctuated with anecdotal stories of his life in Bisbee, AZ, a small town near the Mexican border. That chunk was particularly good but I was too drunk to remember the particulars. Doug ranted about the hypocrisy of Dr. Drew and the whole celebrity addict genre. The material was engaging and smart, laugh-out-loud funny at times. Doug has this cynical, myopic outlook on popular culture, but it’s never a whiny type of cynicism. It’s more of a let’s-mock-and-humiliate-these-cretins-because-they-deserve-it attitude. No matter how dark the material is, there’s always this undercurrent amongst the fans that we all share a common ground, a loose community of like minds, and that’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.

One of the benefits of drinking too much is that you can enjoy things twice for the first time. I'd love to see footage of the show. It would seem like a long forgotten dream. Gosh darn, I was so damn wasted. Generally I'm a fairly well behaved Joe Citizen. I'll sit there politely and act accordingly. But on this night I was far gone, driven over the line by slamming vodka before the show and keeping the engine going with a total of four beers during it. I think the adrenalin kept the alcohol at bay and I didn’t quite realize how drunk I was getting.

This was the most drunk I've been in some time and I always quietly say to myself not do anything too embarrassing. I'm always getting into trouble with those damn words when I get into the hard stuff. I was yelling out jibberish to Doug and I couldn't give a squirt of piss what anyone had to say about it. Some of my hilarious lines included: "Doug, you can skin my baby!" (a call back to an earlier joke) and, "Doug, when are you going to do Howard again?" (totally random and out of the blue). There was probably more. I shudder at the thought. I'm so cruel to myself. That damn booze. I'll wait until the crowd is oh so quiet and then blurt out my nonsense. Throughout the following week there were surging waves of douche chills crashing through my body. Sometimes an attack just creeps out of nowhere and it hits you. Time . . . only time heals douche chills, my friends, for now, some two weeks after the event I don't really care all that much. Well, beer helps too, my friends, so stay thirsty. 

Doug ended the show to a roaring standing ovation. The show was timed so well—didn’t go on for too long, but it wasn't too short, either. It left you wanting just one more taste.

I was lit up pretty good and headed out for a cigarette. I found myself standing outside amongst my fellow Stanhope fans. Ah . . . a man amongst his peers. The other day I read an interview with DS in LA Weekly and the interviewer put forth the assumption it was common knowledge that Doug Stanhope fans are comprised of 50% educated liberals and 50% complete fucking morons. I straddled the border precariously. One more beer and I could have easily slipped over to one side or the other.

You could feel it in the air—the night was a success with both crowds. It was plain as day that he killed, but you never know, I could have walked outside to a gaggle of indifferent hipsters and haters. I eased myself into a conversation with a few guys and we laughed about some of the jokes. "All new material...." "...Yeah, fucking killed it." After a few minutes I remembered that guys don't look so good when my belly's full of beer, but we enjoyed the built-in camaraderie that naturally exists with a niche performer like Stanhope and his brand of comedy.

I scanned the scene for my future ex-wife. I was having a difficult time standing still, kept wavering to and fro as if there was a roiling sea beneath my feet. I scolded myself for getting so drunk. My mind is sharp but my body is not so my credibility is shot to the moon. Mmmm . . . but what was this before me? A lovely young woman standing alone smoking a cigarette, just like me; we have so much in common already.

I walk up to her and say, "Greaaadd show, huh?" Goddamn stupid brain! Should’ve said something better than that! Even in my addled state I knew that she knew I was off my pisser, that she pegged me as a drunken creep immediately; I was slurring my words and swaying in the breeze. It’s damn near impossible to reverse a first impression when you're trying to reel in a nice catch. Ah well, doesn't matter all that much because in Toronto there's as many women as there are specks of sand on Cherry Beach. 

"Oh, hey there sweet cheeks, boy do I have ants in my pants for you! I'll buy that wine you like and cook that dinner you like, we can watch your show, not mine, and then for dessert I'll marinate my dip stick in your baby factory. Did you know that's what the Mormons do? They found a loophole in their favourite book—a sly way to cheat the system . . . they call it marinating. You just stick your penis in and let it sit there in the pussy juice. No loco motion. We can do that if you want."

She casually walked away, and when I eventually glanced in her direction she seemed to have disappeared. Another mermaid lost to the ebbing tide, and I, invariably, as noted in the beginning, rode home in a speechless cab.  

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