Doug Stanhope’s latest album: Oslo – Burning the Bridge to Nowhere is going to be released on May 3rd across our great nation. It’s a CD/DVD combo pack and is very, very cool.
There are not a lot of comedians who can make it to NINE albums (and 4 DVD specials) let alone still be hot enough on the ninth to launch the Roadrunner Comedy label. Of course not many comedians are Doug Stanhope. In case you missed his entry in our 10 Comedy Albums to Have in Your Collection story; here’s a brief primer on Stanhope. (Oh…and I now include THIS album on a list of MUST HAVES).
Stanhope may be the last of a dying breed of comedians that share similar delivery styles: irreverence and shocking intelligence wrapped in the hardest of rough edges. If it gives you an idea of the weight of his material, others in this rare category are George Carlin and Bill Hicks. Doug also created his own comedy universe by playing mostly underground clubs and rogue venues. He doesn’t do anything the standard way, but has carved out just as much success as any name comedian groomed by Comedy Central or the rest.
For an exploration of Stanhope’s comedy motivation, you don’t need to look much further then a track on this latest album called “Strong Target” where Stanhope takes aim at Seinfeld and other great “observational” comedians for not having a message. I would treat this track, and perhaps this album as educational material for comedians who are trying to create art that means something. This is not to say this joke isn’t sandwiched between two jokes about pussy and spinning dildos. Stanhope’s trademark is: Smart wrapped in Shocking.
Oslo – Burning the Bridge to Nowhere has quick and inspired pacing, and feels organic, which is something a lot of comedy albums can’t claim these days. It is a flawless recording, with pristine sound both from Doug and the audience, but hasn’t lost that live feel that forces you to “be there” in the audience while you listen. Also, for those who can’t just listen to comedy anymore, there is an included DVD that captures the action of the performance as well as included extras.
A brief tour of the album:
Doug starts strong with a bizarrely layered meta-comedic joke that makes fun of his playing in, of all places…Oslo! It is simultaneously poking fun at hack road comics, and justifying his right to play a European audience. If you haven’t figured out that comedy is different in every culture; it takes a pretty amazing talent to be funny for more than one or two of them! Well the point is a lot of comedians couldn’t do this. Doug can. Yes he can!
Two early tracks, called “Dead Peoples Baggage” (#4) and “Olympics” (#5) are probably two of my favorite jokes in all of Doug’s work. Insightful, poignant, and not a word more than needed to sell his hilarious points. These might be my favorites on the album. I will now forever quote “Dead Peoples Baggage”. Thank you DOUG STANHOPE! But I digress...
This is about the time you notice that Stanhope coughs like a Coal Miner throughout the piece. Even in the audio you can tell he’s smoking and drinking on stage. I have no idea how he made this charming… but it is.
Track 9 is again a great treatise on what comedy should be. Listen to this twice.
Track 15 (entitled “Stomping Kittens”) is another amazing piece. This caught me off guard… wow!
The last track is predictably one of the best. “Freemarket Pussy” is two parts social commentary, three parts comedy, and five parts anger at society. I hope people get the real core point of this joke, its even smarter then it purports to be.
I had to take a long break after listening to this album and just let it sink in. Its really good stuff, and as a fellow comedian it was inspiring to hear someone on that “This can mean something” level I missed after Carlin’s death. It might even be a little tame for Stanhope, with a little less Shock and Awe comedy than he’s famous for, but I think it works. After 9 albums (give or take a bootleg) he’s still got it. We’ll see more from Stanhope, but before long you should all check out this latest effort. Must listen comedy is here!
The album will be available on Amazon and all the big name sites. I would humbly recommend you order (or even PRE-order) the album from Doug’s own website, as not only will he sign it for you, but I suspect that means more money goes to the artist then to say Amazon, and when an album is art like this, I want the artist to get paid. Check the link here: http://www.dougstanhope.com/store
PS: You’ll note I haven’t reviewed the DVD portion of the album here. Even a young guy like me grew up listening to comedy albums on vinyl, and I just prefer it. I did watch the DVD and I like it, but I listened first, and I want to make it clear this album stands on its own without any moving pictures.