This Is Not Fame

A "From What I Re-Memoir"


By Doug Stanhope

Foreword by Dr. Drew Pinsky

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An unfiltered, unapologetic, hilarious, and sometimes obscene assemblage of tales from the down-and-dirty traveling comedy circuit

Doug Stanhope has been drunkenly stumbling down the back roads and dark alleys of stand-up comedy for over a quarter of a century, roads laden with dank bars, prostitutes, cheap drugs, farm animals, evil dwarfs, public nudity, menacing third-world police, psychotic breaks, sex offenders, and some understandable suicides. You know, just for levity.

While other comedians were seeking fame, Stanhope was seeking immediate gratification, dark spectacle, or sometimes just his pants. Not to say he hasn’t rubbed elbows with fame. He’s crashed its party, snorted its coke, and jumped into its pool naked, literally and often repeatedly — all while artfully dodging fame himself.

Doug spares no legally permissible detail, and his stories couldn’t be told any other way. They’re weird, uncomfortable, gross, disturbing, and fucking funny.

This Is Not Fame is by no means a story of overcoming a life of excess, immorality, and reckless buffoonery. It’s an outright celebration of it. For Stanhope, the party goes on.



My first thought when Stanhope asked me to create a foreword to his book was that there must be a mistake. I did indeed ask if he was punking me. That is true—that happened. My reaction must have caught his attention as well, as he included that moment in his story though I still don’t know if he is offended or proud of it. After all, he was the same guy who stood on stage and ruthlessly busted my balls without ever having met me! But that was all in our past. I then felt sort of honored. He and I had crafted a friendship across some pretty shitty seas. (If you wish to understand how our friendship blossomed you must read on.) He assured me he was not punking me. Once I realized he was serious I thought, “Well, once he gets the balls, he’ll ask his friend Depp and I’ll be off the hook.” Evidently he never developed the huevos to do it, so here I am.

Having studied his opus carefully, I will tell you this is actually a practical parenting guide. I mean, what child does not need the practical wisdom for managing the vicissitudes of entering adulthood with sage advice such as being sure to buy a love seat rather than a couch, so your loser buddies feel so uncomfortable when they flop at your pad that they do not stay, or learning the fact that you can avoid a flight-change fee if you manage to get kicked off the plane for excessive intoxication. And of course every child should understand that threesomes are awkward and weird unless you are completely intoxicated to the point you can barely function sexually and, finally, that you too can bullshit your way onto a talk show if your story is good enough.

Aside from the practical wisdom Doug dispenses, I want you, the reader, to understand something else. Doug has written a story that Hunter S. Thompson would wish he could have lived. This is, I shit you not, a modern story for the ages. Now let me be clear. This is not a story of healthy behavior and surely not a story written by a healthy person. But this is a human story and it is honest and it is somehow refreshing. I love people, warts and all. I also like to help people to change when they want help changing. That does not mean I don’t love them just as much when they don’t want my help and do not wish to change, or are struggling with what it means to be a human being. Doug embraces his human-ness; he celebrates his pathologies and his flaws, terrible choices and their consequences. I don’t think he ever really hurts anyone but himself along the way. Mind you, you don’t want to be in his crosshairs. Been there—it doesn’t feel good. I don’t recommend it. But Doug’s vulnerability, in the midst of these extraordinary situations you will read about, connects to us on a familiar level. I love Doug for his humanity and, like everyone else, I love him for his comedy. If you are a fan this read will be time well spent. You will feel like you have been on vacation with Doug Stanhope. And although I enjoyed the front-row seat in the adventure that is Doug’s life, I found myself more than once worried about my friend’s survival.

One day Doug may need or have to change. Maybe one day he will look back on some of these experiences with regret or remorse. But I don’t think he will ever regret having lived a life fully lived. And we will not regret the stories and entertainment he has given us. As he says, he has in fact done a lot, if he could just remember it.

So now the warning. Do not follow any of the practical wisdom you cull from this book. Do not consider this a template for how to live your life. This book should also convince you that if you see Stanhope heading your way, don’t make eye contact.

Dr. Drew Pinsky


I usually skip the introduction to a book if it doesn’t immediately strike me as important. So I will tell you now, read this introduction. I will assume that you read like I read, plodding and without much patience.

There is no letdown greater for me than reading a bio of a degenerate rocker or an otherwise renowned derelict with sordid stories only to have them sober up two-thirds of the way through the book. You know that the rest is gonna suck but you’ve invested so much time, you know that you have to see it through. At no point in this book will I find God, go on the straight and narrow or find any higher purpose. You will always find yourself better than me even when I am calling you a nugget of shit. There is no happy ending. There is no ending at all. I’m not dead, at least at this writing.

I also hate reading memoirs when you have to wade through someone’s childhood years and their parents in order to get to the good parts. If their childhood was compelling, they would have written the book back then. If the parents were of any interest, they’d have a book of their own. Fortunately I got all of that detritus of being raised out in my first book. I hope you enjoyed it.

Like the first book, I use a lot of fancy words when I can. This has nothing to do with a strong vocabulary. I get excited when I find a big word on my own but mostly I use a thesaurus. It feels like cheating but I pride myself on making decent choices in the absence of actual knowledge.

Here are some of the main people who will come in and out of these stories.

Amy Bingaman, known in the book as “Bingo,” is my gal pal of nearly twelve years as of this writing. She has a history of mental illness and being adorable. She is the soul and the muse of the operation. And occasionally the monkey wrench in the gears when her brain goes bad on her.

Greg Chaille, only known as “Chaille” anywhere in the civilized world, is my “tour manager.” He is known as my tour manager as that is his one job. Managing the tours. He also produces, edits and co-hosts the podcasts, runs the website, and packages and ships the merchandise from said website as well as selling it on the road. He also drives the van, sets the GPS for the next town’s gig and hotel, gets us breakfast and makes sure that the gig has sound, greenroom booze and that we get paid afterwards when we are too drunk to see. He also finds the shortest route from the greenroom to where I can smoke and makes sure I have a stool onstage for my drink. He mules our drugs in his anus even though they are usually over-the-counter drugs for heartburn or seasonal allergies. At home, he is currently fixing the Christmas lights after making me fish sticks. His hobbies include gassing up the cars, picking up my friends from the airport and running sound and lights for comics and bands that perform at parties at the house. He will even fill in on most instruments on any given jam band playing at the house, so long as he can get time away from his one job. Tour manager.

Brian Hennigan, known mostly as “Hennigan” in this book, is a filthy, uncut Scotsman. He is my “business manager” who manages business things like book deals, television appearances and booking tour dates. That means he forces us to make money. He is evidently sometimes a prick about this with booking agents and in other business dealings, but we try to ignore his barbarous and impolite tactics. Too often, on the road Chaille has been confused for Hennigan because of the common “manager” title. Hennigan has the benefit of being able to hide his fancy-lad Scottish accent when he only has to communicate his boorish vitriol via email. Then when Chaille shows up at the gig, the local booker assumes Chaille was the asshole who the booker had to deal with in order to hire me. Chaille gets all the dirty looks that Hennigan has earned. Chaille doesn’t do any of the bookings. He’s only got one job and that keeps him busy enough.

Andy Andrist and Matt Becker are two of my oldest and closest friends and two of the funniest people who have ever walked this planet. For that reason they show up in the book quite a bit.

Save for Bingo who runs ten years behind, we are all around the fifty-year mark and we have all been together for many a moon. We probably should have stopped being fuckups a long time ago. That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.

This book is a journey of a life in the breakdown lane on the highway of fame, a motivational opus for those who strive for the margins. A highlight reel of a life on the stage when most people were looking at a bar fight in a different direction. Often enough, that worked in my favor. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight until it’s their own prison break.

Mitch Hedberg had a joke where he said, “As a comedian, I always get into situations where I’m auditioning for movies and sitcoms, you know? As a comedian, they want you to do things besides comedy. They say, ‘All right, you’re a comedian, can you write? Write us a script. Act in this sitcom.’ They want me to do shit that is related to comedy, but it’s not comedy, man. It’s not fair, you know? It’s as though if I was a cook, and I worked my ass off to become a really good cook, and they said, ‘All right, you’re a cook… can you farm?’”

The joke is that it isn’t a joke at all. It’s the truth with a fantastic analogy. People in the industry look at stand-up as an audition to a shittier platform. If you can do well in a pure, unadulterated and raw format of your own making, then you might be given a chance to be elevated to a place where you can be diluted and neutered for mass appeal. And be made famous.

Like Hedberg, I never wanted to “farm.” In my younger years, I thought that was what I should aspire to if only because they told me so. I’m a cook and I’ve had a lot of fun doing just that. In a sense, this book is akin to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. The joys and pitfalls of just being a fucked-up cook. The greasy-spoon breakfast to another comedian’s Zagat-rated four-course meal.

The stories may seem to weave off topic but that is how my head works. Stay with me. They’ll get back to the point eventually. Or maybe not. The tone of my remembrances might also ping-pong from positive to negative. That is because I am a drunk. “I will kill you” can turn into “I love you, man!” over the course of a few salty dogs.

Another thing. These pricks at this book-writing company correct me too often. I like to write stories in the present tense, the same as you’d tell them in a bar if you can tell a story worth a fuck. It makes the listener imagine that he or she is with you as you go. Instead of “So now I’m looking down the barrel of the gun” they want it written “I looked down the barrel,” etc. And you never get to feel like you are going to die. For some reason I listen to them. I bet I’m right but I don’t have the time nor tenure to argue. If you find some old story written in the present tense, that’s one I slipped past the censors.

If you are the fan who’s watched every special, bootleg and YouTube clip, listened to every podcast and read every interview, you’ll recognize some of these stories. Fortunately most of you are barflies and reprobates who won’t remember until you read them again. And if you have your glove that deep in my ass as a fan, you couldn’t live without this book anyway.

If you’re like most people and have never heard of me, this book should give you some insight as to why you’ve never heard of me.


I hope that the president gets assassinated. Not for political reasons. You just have to understand that I drink every single day. And it would be nice if for once I could remember where I was on that one day.

—Norm Wilkerson, Unknown Comedian

Early in my career, a young stand-up comic, Josh Perlman who I knew at the time in Los Angeles, came back from Las Vegas after playing a show at the Rio Hotel. He told me that he’d been lounging late night at the casino bar talking to a prostitute playing video poker next to him. He was interested but he was new to the game, shy and didn’t know how to broach the subject. Instead he just continued to make small talk for an eternity, hoping she’d go for the close. Eventually she asked Josh if he’d like to take her to his room for “a dance.” He asked how much it would cost and she told him that it would be two hundred dollars. He hemmed and hawed and finally asked her what she meant by “a dance,” specifically what he could expect for his money. She paused suspiciously.

“Um… are you a cop?”

He laughed and said, “No, no! I’m a comedian!”

She lit up. “Really?! Do you know Doug Stanhope???”

This is not fame.

“Known in certain circles” would be a more accurate way to put it. This gal in Vegas didn’t know me from my body of work and I’d bet that I never found out if she could actually dance. That was decades ago but the times haven’t changed. The circle might have widened but the audience has remained within the loop. All for one, one for nothing. Or whatever.

So long as the right people remember you.

Before I wasn’t famous, I was completely unknown. It was so much more fun. When I started doing open-mic comedy, I was only concerned with being famous for that one night after I got off the stage. I wanted someone to tell me that I was great. I wanted the owner to invite me back. I wanted some dude to buy me a drink and some girl to give me a second look. Karaoke famous.

I achieved those goals in record time. Those were the early days of 1990 Las Vegas. I did stand-up as a lark and eventually when a local stripper wanted me to beat her senseless while I fucked her poorly, I considered myself to have been “discovered.” As a twenty-three-year-old, in my eyes I’d made it to the big time.

For most of my twenty-five-plus years since in this business, the stage was just the pivot pole, the jumping-off point. The excuse. The baked potato. You would never eat a plain baked potato. You eat it for all of the great things that go along with it. But you still need it as a platform. Eating butter and sour cream all by themselves makes you look like a glutton.

I remember an early open mic in a casino where, after barreling through my set of mostly jerk-off jokes, a Down syndrome man-child ran up on the stage, grabbed the mic and started yelling at me.

“You are evil, Doug! The things you say are EVIL!

Now imagine that voice in a tone that would be considered mocking or insensitive if I said it aloud, and you’ve nailed it. I was barely three steps from exiting the stage and had no idea what to do, nor did the crowd. Eventually someone gently guided him back to his seat, but I never lived it down with the local comedians for the next six months that I stayed in Vegas. Anything that I said off-color was followed by comic buddies mimicking him.

“You ah eeeevel, Doug! Da theengs you say ah EEEvel!”

That’s not a bad show. That’s fucking funny. That guy made it funny. Without him, that show was just a plain baked potato. Unmemorable.

There was a comic who started his open-mic shows by doing hokey impressions from a wireless microphone in the men’s room. I’m sure he believed the audience was confounded as to why nobody was onstage, yet bad comedy still lived in their ears. He’d make his “Ta-da!” moment, revealing himself coming out of the shitter, take the stage and continue to suck. What he didn’t know or couldn’t see from the toilet was that nobody gave a shit. The only time it was funny was when the other comics got the entire bar to get up and leave the bar as he did his Donald Duck or whoever from the toilet. He went into the bathroom with twenty to twenty-five people in the room and came out to only the bartender silently wiping a glass. Ta-da! I don’t think he ever came back to open-mic night.

I remember doing a show for nobody. There was a flash-in-the-pan wanna-be booker we called “Jack the Wig” due to his ridiculous toupee. He’d started a show in North Las Vegas at the Silver Nugget Casino, a casino whose major draw was people coming in to not get murdered in the surrounding ghetto. The show was being held in the “bingo access room,” a room beside the bingo hall that could be used to hold more patrons should bingo draw above the capacity in their main room.

The loudspeakers in the casino were announcing “free comedy at eight p.m.” every five minutes or so in the hour leading up to showtime. Still, as the hour wore near, there was not a soul in the house. The Wig, in a panic, demanded that the show go on as planned, so on the off chance someone walked past and saw a show in progress, they might venture in. One after another of the local comics went up on the semblance of a stage under a darkened bingo board and delivered their acts to nobody at all. I can’t tell you about the tree falling alone in the forest but I can tell you that your jokes still suck if there’s nobody there to hear them. We all wished bingo had been more popular and there had been an overflow forcing our cancellation. We weren’t getting paid anyway. It would have been better to not play at all for nothing than to play to nobody for nothing. But the story was invaluable. I might not be famous but I could one-up or match any comedian’s story of the smallest crowd they’ve ever played. Nobody for nothing.

People who ask me now for advice about doing stand-up comedy as a profession without having ever stepped on a stage baffle me. Why would you want to skip those ridiculous early days of fucking up and fucking off and skip straight to having to do it for money? I did it as a dare to myself and it took me weeks just to drum up the courage. Asking how to do it for a living is like asking how to be in the X Games before you learned how to ride a bike. Learn to ride the bike first to see if you like it. And be prepared to fall down quite a bit and hurt a lot, knowing that the odds are you will never be X Games good at it.

I got good enough that I found my way out onto the road, playing to a few people more than nobody and for a little bit of money. Off and running.


April 18, 1993

Cheyenne, Wyoming, was big city for me and Wiley Roberts on that closing Saturday night on a tour of obscure western towns. It’s certainly the only town on that tour that you would have ever heard of, anyway. Lord only knows what horrible gags I thought were funny back then, much less what the people in Cheyenne thought was funny in comparison. Some places, you can be a celebrity just for being willing to actually go there.

I don’t recall the show at all but I know that the next day my car wouldn’t start and we couldn’t find a shop open on a Sunday to fix it. Not only was I stuck but I was also Wiley’s ride, so he was stuck as well. Serves him right for making the opener drive on this boondocks tour. The car—actually an old Chevy LUV pickup truck—was so badly rusted that you could watch the pavement go by through the gaping holes in the passenger-side floorboards. Enjoy the view, Wiley.

The car shitting out meant that little or nothing of the week’s money that I’d mined out of those Rocky Mountain Podunk towns would probably be left after they gouged me to repair it. Not wanting—or being able to—pay for a hotel, I went back to the bar we’d played and fortunately found the same bartender who’d worked our show. I spun my tale of being shipwrecked and stranded over free beers until she eventually offered up her couch to stay at her place. And with Wiley being included and being the headliner, I deduced that her couch would be Wiley’s and I’d be on the floor. Nothing new and not a problem. Beats a cold, broken-down car.

“I hope you don’t mind animals!” she said and I didn’t flinch when I should have. We drank the day away waiting for her shift to end and then she drove us to her place—which, naturally, was in a trailer park. If I could describe it in detail, which I cannot, it would be no funnier or entertaining than what you would picture when I say “Wyoming trailer park.” Yep. It was just like that. Along with a lot of people. Some of them children. And then there were the animals. Six dogs, eight cats and a pig. I’m lowballing the guesstimate on the cats and dogs. I’m deadly accurate on the number of pigs that lived in the trailer.

You mean the animals all lived inside the trailer?

Oh, yes. Lived, slept, ate and shit in the trailer. Shit everywhere like they’d thrown it as confetti for New Year’s and there it still lay in mid-April, cold and hard to greet the coming spring.

The animals all rushed out to greet their master for dinnertime and the trailer seemed like an ark. I don’t know my pigs but had to assume that this was one of those Vietnamese potbellied pigs that were all the rage as pets at the time. But I’d also pictured potbellied pigs to be small, pink and cute like a Disney cartoon. This one just seemed like an ugly, hairy, grunting, stupid pig-sized pig. I’ve heard that pigs are extremely intelligent compared to other animals and I have no reason to doubt that. I’m simply saying that this particular pig seemed stupid. Not everybody’s baby is a prize.

All of the beady animal eyes were now on the mom as she retrieved their food—which all came from one impossibly large thousand-pound sack and was spilled directly onto the linoleum kitchen floor where the stable circled around and gorged. If Wiley and I had been polite at all when we first walked into the place, we had drifted into spewing laughter by now. Every walk to the beer cooler was a dance around the minefield of animal shit and the degree of difficulty grew with every drink, as did the hilarity. Stranger still was that our hosts thought our laughter itself was the amusing part. They saw nothing out of the ordinary in the way they lived. They looked at us like we were some kinda high-falutin’ city folk who were witnessing real America for the first time.

Fortunately for me that night, Wiley was a drinker too. Sober people have a harder time finding the amusement in these types of situations. I was also fortunate that Wiley was a better drinker. Meaning he could drink more and longer. It’s the only way I can imagine I pulled off stealing the couch. I must have passed out first.

Wiley found himself a spot on the floor just in front of the couch where people’s feet usually go, hence a small swath of feces-free acreage. As I was waking up in the morning, I opened an eye to Wiley just as the pig was trying to maneuver his way over Wiley’s sleeping head. Wiley woke up in a fit with the pig high-centered and stuck on the side of Wiley’s face, his stubby back hoofs unable to vault him the rest of the way towards the remaining pile of animal food in the kitchen.

The next day we sat back at the bar waiting for the car to get fixed, rehashing the details of the night before. And that is the only reason I can tell you the exact date that this happened because, on the news behind the bar, David Koresh and his followers in Waco, Texas, were all being burned to the ground.

That story was towards the beginning of three years of living on the road, aimless and without any expectations. There were other stories but if I had to sum them all up into one, it would be being famous enough to sleep with a pig for free.

I wanted to call Wiley to see if he had any other detail to add to this story but Wiley is one of those old friends who you really only have that one good story you share. Every time you cross paths over the years, you hug it out and eventually you say, “Remember the pig???” and then you exhaust your laughter with a moment-closing phrase like “Oh, man. Those were the days.”

The silence kicks in as you both scrape for something more to say. You have nothing. You fake that you’re late for an appointment.

New comedians email me quite often for advice. I don’t have any. Early in my career I was giving advice to an even younger comedian after an open mic. Joey Scazzola, a comedian just a little bit more experienced than me, pulled me aside and said, “Hey, don’t ever tell these kids what to do because all you’re doing is telling them how to be more like you.”

That was the best advice I ever got. If a young Russell Brand had asked me for advice I would have told him to quit and buy an ice cream truck. Everybody has a different sense of humor, both audience and comedian. It makes me crazy when I hear someone say, “He’s not funny” without acknowledging personal preference. Even comedians do this. Even I do this. I’ll catch myself saying something isn’t funny even when I’m giving advice to some comedian that I know is only telling them how to be like me.

There is no good advice.

Nothing that ever happened in my career was by design. Every credit on my resume is like every stain on my reputation was something that happened randomly, like stepping in a pile of dog shit. All by accident. Run on instinct and take it as it comes. There was no long-term plan. It has always been living in the moment and Whac-A-Mole. That isn’t to say I haven’t worked my ass off but I never knew why or to what ends.

There has never been any kind of system that worked consistently. Maybe you try to write about your life. Maybe try to write about current events. Out of the creek in between, you might find something unimaginable that you couldn’t have ever “tried” to write. But you wouldn’t have ever found it without the trying.

Sometimes you’d have a certain number of drinks before the show and kill only to repeat the same recipe a night later and find yourself slurring. Sometimes bits that consistently destroy inexplicably lie down and die on the night that counts. And later you realize that that night didn’t really count at all.

There might be a day where you work out your material so succinctly, adding all sorts of new tags and dead-on segues that you can feel it killing while you write it. But that night the show goes in a different direction. There are hecklers and spilled drink trays and some guy has a seizure during the middle of your act. You prepared but you are so completely in lockstep with what you’ve memorized and imagined that you can’t adapt. And you suck. You should have written seizure jokes.


On Sale
Dec 4, 2018
Page Count
352 pages
Da Capo Press

Doug Stanhope

About the Author

Doug Stanhope is a veteran of over twenty-five years of stand-up comedy who has successfully dodged mainstream fame using his uncompromising brand of humor to build a cult-like following around the world. He tours extensively and has recorded over a dozen comedy specials. Stanhope resides in the US border town of Bisbee, Arizona, with pets who have people names, in an absurd relationship with his gal pal Bingo.

Learn more about this author