By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Doug Stanhope makes no apologies for his uninhibited, controversial dark comedy, and with fans and friends like Ricky Gervais and Louis C.K., why should he?
The stand-up comedian, who had a busy 2011 with a 25-date run of shows in London and a role on FX comedy show "Louie," is releasing a digital album of live stand-up titled "Before Turning The Gun On Himself," on March 6, ahead of his upcoming tour around the United Kingdom.
With sketches titled "Dr. Drew is to Medicine what David Blaine Is To Science" and "Keynesian Economic Theory As Applied To Private-Sector Independent Contracting," Stanhope's comedy draws from current affairs and daily observations.
For most comedians dealing in dark, dirty, boozy comedy, parents might not be the most obvious audience, but for Stanhope, it was his late mother Bonnie Kirk who was his biggest fan. She died in October 2008.
"My mother was always the one with the dark, really filthy sense of humor. She was a vulgar woman. She used to tell me to do comedy before I even tried it. She was always up for any gag," said Stanhope, laughing.
The Worcester, Massachusetts native, whose live material is focused around current affairs in American politics and society, has often found himself in hot water with his audience for controversial jokes on subjects ranging from genocide, rape, abortion and addictions. But he is unapologetic for the content.
"It makes me tremblingly angry when (others) apologize, like Tracy Morgan and even Michael Richards ... when other people apologize, it's nothing, it's fake," said Stanhope.
Morgan recently found himself in hot water over comments many interpreted as anti-gay, and in 2006, Richards made a racial slur onstage that caused outrage.
Alcohol plays a key component in Stanhope's on-stage comedy experience, and the comedian often drinks during his routines, saying it helps to relax him.
"I'm so absorbed in what's going on around me that I'm not getting into the act, my mouth is on autopilot. Alcohol allows me to overcome all of that," he said.
CHALLENGED IN U.K.
Stanhope, who is currently preparing to return to the U.K., found himself challenged by English audiences when previously doing his shows at London's Leicester Square Theater.
"I'm always nervous about that place, there's something insidiously wrong with that whole island," said Stanhope.
"Over here (in U.S.), I know I can go on stage with little or no preparation ... but over there (in U.K.), you don't have that comfort, because half or more of your material has no relevance there, they wouldn't get the joke."
Stanhope has attracted the attention of his peers, appearing with Louis C.K. on "Louie," guesting on shock jock Howard Stern's radio show from New York and British comedian Charlie Brooker's "Newswipe" TV satire.
Recently, the comedian was praised by Gervais, who said Stanhope "might be the most important stand up working today."
"I've never worked with Ricky Gervais, but for some reason, he started being my de facto publicist, he started twittering about me. Never met him ... but I like it. I'm really easily starstruck by anyone," said Stanhope.
Asked whether his stint on TV playing Eddie, a washed-up, alcoholic, suicidal comedian on "Louie" would lead to more screen time, Stanhope denied wanting to work as an actor.
"Acting is horrifying, the whole idea of it. It feels so false, it never feels comfortable acting," said Stanhope, adding that if he did return to TV screens, it would only be in the guise of his "Louie" character, Eddie.
"With (stand-up) comedy, the pay-off is immediate and the work is minimal. With television, it's a serious job."
And for those who haven't seen him live, the comedian says he is working on a new direction.
"I'm trying to make it more positive, or at least, negative with a solution instead of 'everything sucks, we're all doomed.' I want to start a cult," the funnyman quipped.
"Before Turning The Gun On Himself" is available to pre-order on iTunes ahead of release on March 6, with the companion DVD to be released later next month.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy)