Comedy: Doug Stanhope - drunken chaos and political rambling
Doug Stanhope is one of America's most popular and successful comedians. Liz Webster catches up with him as he brings his UK tour to Bristol.
"What the hell is this?" is the first thing I hear when I call Doug Stanhope for our interview.
The US comic has a reputation as an irreverent and unpredictable performer, with a fondness for a drink, so why should his telephone manner be any different?
As chaos reigns in the background he struggles to hear me as I explain I'm where I'm from – but he jumps on the word Bristol.
"I like Bristol," he says. "Bristol audiences are great. I remember people at the Bath gigs having to leave to go back to Bristol."
Doug is known as being a no-holds-barred comedian who displays scant respect for any personal, moral, or social boundaries.
I ask him what audiences can expect from his latest tour, which visits The Bristol Hippodrome next month.
"I'll probably be drunk, yelling at the audience, meandering from one topic to another, selling my stuff for as much as possible afterwards and then running out the back door before anyone bothers me," he admits.
"I actually don't know what I'll be talking about. I don't even know what I'm talking about now.
"I play Bolton tomorrow night so I'll look at my notebook tonight and plan something. Then I'll forget half of it. Then Brian, the tour manager, will tell me I need to work on it because the whole tour is going down in flames.
"Hopefully Bristol will be towards the end of the tour because, by then, I might have my stuff together."
Doug started his career in Nineties Las Vegas doing jokes for free drinks.
As well as numerous television appearances he has appeared at multiple major comedy festivals including Montreal Just For Laughs, Aspen US Comedy Arts, Chicago Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, where he won a Best Act award in his debut year.
Despite being known for his criticisms of the stupidity of social and political systems, and those who sustain them, he said a common misconception is for people to view him as political.
He says: "I'm not political at all. If I had to write a joke about Mitt Romney right now I'd need to hire someone to do it. I guess I talk about social relevance to some extent. I talk about anything that I can talk about or that's new to talk about.
"After 21 years it gets harder to find something new. I've talked about everything that I'm passionate about, I've squeezed out everything I'm semi-passionate about and now it's like throwing coins at a window.
"It's harder because you get older, fatter and lazier. If I was bagging prostitutes or taking ketamine it would be easier.
"Now I have to dig harder. You almost have to force yourself into awkward situations hoping to get something out of it. I'm so bored with myself I might have to go out to a street corner with a baton, wait for a fat kid to ride by and then smack him on the head with it. And he's not just any kid. He's a Mormon, handing out pamphlets, and he's smug...
"If I ever start making jokes about the Republican debate then that's when you know there is nothing going on in my life. CNN is a good back- up."
And although the comedian has just finished a tour of America he says he doesn't have to change too much of his material for the British audience.
He says: "I don't just bitch about whatever. I take out the references that don't make sense. I can't do stories about that TV programme Jail, that O J Simpson is in, because you guys don't have that over here.
"I've been thinking about who you have as a well-known vegetable – you know, someone on life support? See, this is how I do my work – my girlfriend sees me sitting on the stairs looking like a vagrant with a coffee and a cigarette thinking about stuff like that and she doesn't believe I'm working.
"But I write a little every day and try and add a new spin. By the end of the seven- week tour I'll either be stabbing myself in the eye with a grapefruit spoon, the one with the serrated edges, or I'll have a brand new hour of genius. I'm secretly thinking it'll go the grapefruit way."
As I ring off I can hear room service has just arrived.
"I ordered Beluga caviar," he whispers. "I don't even know what that is."
Doug Stanhope plays Bristol Hippodrome on Sunday, April 8, at 8pm. Tickets cost £21. Tel 0844 871 3012