My Comedy Hero: Fern Brady on Doug Stanhope
- Brian Donaldson
- 25 January 2017
credit: James Robertson
The Scottish stand-up picks the no-holds barred American as her comic icon
My comedy hero is Doug Stanhope. I went to see him in 2011 and my friend and I were the only women in an audience where all the men looked like truckers / murderers / both. I don't know why more women in the UK aren't into him: I overheard a feminist comic at a gig recently shouting that he's a misogynist and it really bothered me because I'm a feminist and I think his general bleak misanthropy gets mistaken for misogyny.
He's the full-time carer for his severely mentally ill girlfriend Bingo who influences his work and collaborates on his shows; not to mention the close relationship he had with his mum and his effort to support and promote less well-known female comics like Kristine Levine. When I went to see him he read out a shameless request for free tickets from the producers of Have I Got News for You and his caustic response was just brilliant: it's on YouTube if you want to have a look at it. I have also been influenced by this in my attitude to panhandling TV producers, probably to my own detriment.
His podcast is excellent: it dispenses with the usual format of having celebrity or notable guests and instead plays host to the colourful residents from Bisbee, Arizona (Stanhope eschewed LA to live in the middle of nowhere). So, he has episodes like 'Bingo's Other Boyfriend' (where his girlfriend leaves him and he calmly interviews her new love 'Washtub Willy') or 'Bisbee Cliffhanger' where his two best friends (a young couple that lived next door to him) died one after the other. Those episodes incredibly still managed to be funny and poignant and if you're not a fan of Stanhope or even live comedy I'd recommend you have a listen to them. I'm reading his book Digging Up Mother at the moment and it's a great insight into his white-trash upbringing and how he ended up in so many seedy situations.
I've always been interested in comedians who use real-life stories for their shows so in that sense I'm massively influenced by him. A comedian who knows Stanhope told me that he deliberately seeks out mad experiences to use for comedy: I also used to constantly get into ridiculous situations just to have a good story to tell eg. the two and a half years I spent working in Edinburgh's strip clubs as possibly the worst lap dancer of all time. I just hope there comes a day when women can talk about sex stuff and it'll simply be seen as funny and not 'why do female comedians always do sexual material?' It's already happened in the US with stuff like Broad City and Chelsea Handler, so fingers crossed it's in the post.
Fern Brady: Male Comedienne, Blackfriars Basement, Glasgow, Fri 24 Mar; a live album recording of Male Comedienne is at The Stand, Edinburgh, Sun 26 Mar.
Fern Brady: Live US Album Recording
Be a part of the live recording of Fern Brady's second solo show ‘Male Comedienne', a show which sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe through word of mouth alone. This show is being recorded for distribution in America by Comedy Dynamics who've produced albums and Netflix specials for the likes of Louis CK, Bill Burr and Doug…