How Doug Stanhope deals with the death of two close friends: he goes onstage (Exclusive)

“Brian Regan would have cancelled this show,” says Doug Stanhope as he interrupts a rant during his live show at Levity Live in West Nyack, NY last night. “Somehow I feel like I am the only comic adequately prepared to do the show if your best friend died and/or killed himself in your house four hours before showtime.” You read right. As most Doug Stanhope fans already know, as they follow his Facebook fan page and Twitter feed religiously, he has had a very rough couple of days.

His two close friends in Bisbee, AZ are musicians Whiskey Girl and Nowhere Man. Whiskey Girl went in to the hospital on Friday, Oct. 11 for open-heart surgery, but died on Monday before reaching the operating room. Already enough to cause a massive amount of daydrinking for the ‘alcohol enthusiast’ Stanhope, on Tuesday, five hours before he is to perform a one-night only stint in New York, he learns that Nowhere Man, whose real name is Derrick Ross and is also Stanhope’s tenant technically, went home and “blew his brains out all over my fucking wall.” As the former Man Show host tells his live audience last night of the tragedy, you can hear a significant silence before he continues, “Yea…always get a security deposit! Even if you know them.”

stanhope 700Laughspin Editor-In-Chief Dylan Gadino and I sat down with him in the green room of Levity Live to record an episode of the Laughspin Podcast (see photo) before the show where he openly talked about the situation. Afterwards, he sat at a table and furiously wrote notes on various legal pads for an hour until he went on stage, still carrying several legal pads and pieces of paper.

Some comedians, understandably, cancel a show after learning that their friend had just passed while awaiting major surgery at the hospital. Many would probably still have a “the show must go on” mentality and do the gig, as this artform can be an emotional stabalizer for a lot of comics. But who else could go on stage, not only after one death, but after the other friend’s suicide in a home you own the next afternoon, and then proceed to write and talk about it for over 20 minutes?

Stanhope fans are a loyal bunch of dark-humoured disciples who crave the raw look on life he delivers at his shows. Most likely, there are no casual comedy fans in the audience. There was no one there because they recieved free comedy tickets via email and thought a night of comedy would be “fun.” A couple hundred of his loyal following showed up to support their hero and comrade in the battle of Life. There were hecklers, but the type of hecklers who shouted, “We love you, Doug!” when they thought they sensed his sorrow. He began his set addressing the elephant in the room. And they followed him on a journey that began with happy memories of how the musical duo came to move in with him, his position on gun control, mental illness, the difference between crazy people and, as he still defiantly calls them, “retarded people,” as he tries to make sense of why his two best friends in the world are now dead.

He has always tackled heavy topics, including suicide and death, on all of his albums and specials. In Beer Hall Putsch, his newest special available on Netflix, he talks at length about assisting his mother’s own suicide, drinking alongside her as the morphine overdose slowly takes hold. In a previous record, From Across the Street, he recalls an email he received about a fan who postponed a suicide in order to see Stanhope perform one last time, then took his own life. His audience has grown accustomed to such subjects. At last night’s show, I have never heard a more comfortable silence between both the comedian and an audience. Sometimes the comic is fine with a silence, but you can tell that the audience is feeling squeamish and would prefer that he say something into the microphone. His fans, like a sports team losing at halftime, sit there paying attention and waiting to hear what their leader has to say.

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Billy Procida

Laughspin editor-in-chief Billy Procida is a stand-up comedian in New York City. He hosts The Manwhore Podcast where he talks to women he's hooked up with about sex, dating, and why they didn't work out. Reach him on Twitter.

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