Is Doug Stanhope finally cleaning up his act? Probably not, but he did quit drinking Jagermeister. Don’t worry, not all alcohol, just Jagermeister. This statement is used to kick off the album and to let us all know he is getting older and more importantly he knows he is getting older, which is not always a bad thing. Also, he helped his mom commit suicide.
On Beer Hall Putsch Stanhope tells us about an underwhelming encounter with the once great heavyweight boxing legend Jake LaMotta, who is now so incredibly hollow-eyed and archaic that it left him fearing his career will transition from the “Deadbeat Hero” we’ve grown to love, to becoming a cartoon of what he used to be. The listener needn’t worry though. Sure, while Doug is awfully content staying in, watching Hoarders with his girlfriend Bingo, and getting in late night bidding wars against rival EBay purveyors from the comfort of his home, Stanhope hasn’t hung up his gloves just yet. He still rails against society’s normalcy’s that become so obviously counter intuitive once he’s dissected them. Such topics as the waste of manpower that was the Occupy Movement, the pointlessness of Toys for Tots, the evils of passive philanthropy (e.g., breast cancer awareness pink ribbons), and even offers up a plan to resolve over population. He’s like the drunken dad at a little league game, screaming at us from the bleachers to swing the bat and keep our eyes on the ball. Sure, he’s making a scene, but it’s only because he cares. Stanhope is a man who’s passionate and informed plans to change the world are crazy enough, they just might work. His act plays less like a traditional stand up show and more like a town hall meeting from hell.
The highlight of the album comes from his brutally honest and unwavering retelling of euthanizing his own mother, who in his Man Show days had her own segment reviewing pornography. It’s a story that has been floating around as part of the Stanhope folklore for years, but hasn’t been professionally recorded until now. It’s beautiful without asking you to feel, and it’s unapologetic without being gratuitous. This bit alone is worth buying the album.
Because there is so much of his recorded material to choose from, it’s difficult to make the statement “This is Doug Stanhope at his best”, but right now I feel confident in saying Beer Hall Putsch is a personal favorite. At times, I’ve felt there was disconnect between his live show & his recorded specials. Sometimes the venues didn’t fit quite right, or the audience wasn’t comprised of his unique rabid fan base (see: Oslo: Burning the Bridge to Nowhere). His previous effort, Before Turning the Gun on Himself, might have come off a little too preachy, and at times, more frustrated than funny. He seemed convinced that no matter how much he spoke out against what’s wrong in the world, no one was willing to listen. Beer Hall Putsch doesn’t have any of those problems though, BHP has taken any nagging doubt about Mr. Stanhope’s ability to still bring the heat, and nipped it in the bud. His energy is up, his delivery is tight and his jokes are vivid, personal and truly telling. This is especially rewarding as just two years ago Stanhope expressed the notion of wanting to quit comedy.
Sure, Doug Stanhope is getting older, but I don’t think he is going to quit any time soon, which is great because he might just be the only thing that can save us from ourselves.