Nic Wright

Review: Doug Stanhope, Newcastle Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page


“My friend Amy died of brain cancer,” Doug Stanhope tells Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House as he takes the stage.

It’s a hell of an opener, but if anyone is expecting a heart-warming tale of personal tragedy tonight, they will be sorely disappointed.

Flanked by two cocktails, Stanhope encourages audience members to climb over their neighbours to get to the bar; “I couldn’t sit through a comedy show without a drink,” he says, and he doesn’t expect his crowd to either.

It’s a slow start, with Stanhope not one for slick openings or audience banter, but once he gets going, like the last punter in a dive bar, he lets rip. The laughter he ignites is the worst kind of “it’s funny ’cause it’s true” laughter, but if you’re not sure you should be laughing, and you still are, then it has to be pretty hilarious.

Aiming his bile-canon at the stupid, the unjust and the hypocritical, Stanhope’s targets are never torn apart without good cause, even if that cause is buried deep in a difficult-to-swallow delivery. Much of his material tonight, whether it be his girlfriend’s access to therapy or the most recent mass shootings, touch on the inequality faced by those with mental illnesses.

Particular attention is given to the portrayal and treatment of the mentally ill versus that of the mentally disabled; not exactly a comedy goldmine, but in the skilled and calloused hands of Stanhope, his devastatingly salient points bristle with whip-smart glee.

Ever the abrasive, feather-ruffling type, Stanhope shambles into caustic, devil’s advocate style assaults on the mistruths of ISIS, the capricious nature of political correctness, and selfish cancer sufferers.

Himself, his audience, the world at large; evidently there isn’t much that escapes Stanhope’s hateful gaze, but however vicious and unrestrained his material might be, at its core is a fiery sense of rationality and justice. For those who can stomach – or better yet , revel in – his belligerent manner, there is much to be enjoyed.

A bracing change from the affable, laddish stand-ups de jour, Doug Stanhope is a thinking man’s comic – a feeling man’s comic – wrapped in a tornado of obscenity and bitterness. Stanhope turns the things no one wants to talk about into things worth laughing about, showing his audiences the dark and despicable from a new angle. And from that angle, they look very funny indeed.

Date of live review: Sunday 4 October 2015