Doug Stanhope has talked enough to fill 12 CDs and DVDs. The problem, as he posits on the new Before Turning The Gun On Himself, is that nobody has been listening. The album ends with an 11-minute reprimand of fans who, say, write to tell him how much sense his anti-marriage tirade makes, only to follow up that they’re getting married. “In 20 years of comedy, I’ve probably had a dozen good points,” he says. “But that whole changing-the-world thing never kicked in.” He wonders, later in the bit, if comedy was worth it at all, or if he’s been spending his time yelling at drunk people for nothing, usually outside the mainstream.
This frustration and borderline hostility runs through Before, offsetting Stanhope’s social commentary with his belief that nobody gives as much of a shit as he does. In one bit, he discusses the N-word and how it only remains offensive because people give it power, specifically the moms and dads of the world who should shoulder the blame. When targeting autoworkers in Flint, Michigan, complaining about how President Obama screwed them out of a job, his rebuttal is about how they screwed themselves by having four children, each of which costs roughly $250,000 to raise. Whether pointing to the hypocrisy of Alcoholics Anonymous or venting about the Wall Street collapse, Stanhope acts as if he’s the only sane one in an insane world
There are fleeting moments of humility on Before, when Stanhope stops trying to have so much of a damn impact on people. He mentions that comics occasionally ask how he’s doing on the road, which sets Stanhope off about his broken-down body that produces piss and shit in quantities—and qualities—that would disgust anyone. After a few minutes of this visceral description, the bit ends with the friend responding, “Oh, I meant ticket sales.” His disdain for children comes out over the course of multiple, bile-fueled bits; but no moment really hits until he describes a photo he keeps in his wallet, of himself as a boy kissing the head of his dead dad. Whenever anyone shows him a baby picture, he busts it out. “This is how that ends,” he says.
Stanhope makes more of an impact when he’s not trying to make an impact at all. It’s a shame Before is meant to validate all the hard work he’s done over the years, because the album suffers most from his inability to let it speak for itself.