Doug Stanhope: from telemarketer to TV star
Doug Stanhope, co-host (along with Joe Rogan)
of Comedy Central's "The Man Show," was one of the oddest
choices possible for his current job. The original hosts, Jimmy
Kimmel and Adam Carolla, gave the show an unmistakable frat mentality.
Their spirit was breezy and crude, not necessarily in that order.
Stanhope, a 13-year stand-up veteran, has a considerably darker
persona, one much further afield from the mainstream. Stanhope's
true tales of comedy horror often involve subjects including drugs
and prostitutes -- such as the time he got rolled by a transvestite
hooker in Phoenix -- and would seem more Charles Bukowski than "Animal
But someone at Comedy Central was apparently in the
mood for abrupt change, and so far that mood has paid off. Stanhope
and Rogan (no stranger to dark TV himself as host of NBC's "Fear
Factor") have continued the show's run in successful fashion,
garnering good reviews as they provide their spin on happy endings
and girls jumping on trampolines. For Stanhope, the show is more
fun diversion than career shift. The widely respected comic, who
got his first big break when he won the San Francisco Comedy Competition
in 1995, has no desire to turn television work into his primary
vocation. He sees himself as a stand-up comedian first and foremost,
not an actor or TV host, and says that a behind-the-desk gig a la
Conan O'Brien, David Letterman or his "Man Show" predecessor
Kimmel is nowhere in his future.
Bankrate spoke to Stanhope about the rough-road life
that led him to TV fame.
Bankrate: How long
had you been doing comedy until you were actually able to make a
living from it?
Doug Stanhope: I was
lucky. It was pretty quick -- probably six months before I was making
a living at it. And by a living, I mean living on people's couches.
I moved down to Phoenix about seven months after I started and got
a job as a house emcee at a comedy club. I got paid room and board,
but I didn't need much else.
Bankrate: So you weren't
making a living by conventional standards, but ...
Doug Stanhope: But
I wasn't working for a living, either.
Bankrate: In your adult
life, have you had any job other than comedy?
Doug Stanhope: From
18 to 23 I did mostly boiler room, semi-fraud telemarketing. Semi-fraud,
or actual fraud, depending on the gig.
Bankrate: How much
did you hate that?
Doug Stanhope: Actually,
I really enjoyed it, as opposed to any regular job. The first job
I got was when I moved to L.A. for a few months when I was 18. I
was going to try to be an actor. That never really went anywhere.
But that was the first boiler room I worked on, and I walked in,
and the boss had a water bong sitting on his desk. I said, "This
can't be too bad." Plus, I was probably funnier as a telemarketer
than I was ever going to be as a comic.
Bankrate: Just before
"The Man Show," how good a living did you make from comedy?
Doug Stanhope: I really
started to make decent money in 1995. Nineteen ninety-two is when
I started living on the road, just living out of my car. I did that
for three years. But then in '95, I did a comedy festival, got an
agent and manager in L.A. and I got a small development deal with
HBO. That's when I started making what you'd call a living -- I
could keep an apartment and get cable.
Bankrate: Were you
a headliner by then?
Doug Stanhope: I was
just starting to be a headliner in clubs.
Bankrate: What kind
of money were you making?
Doug Stanhope: About
$1,200 a week was normal.
Bankrate: What about
just before "The Man Show"?
Doug Stanhope: Well,
living in L.A., there's always free money, it seems. Since I moved
here, it seems I made 35 grand on nothing -- stuff that would never
air, doing pilots, stand-up shows. Just living here pays for itself.
Bankrate: What about
the road money at this point?
Doug Stanhope: Road
money since "The Man Show," even before the show aired,
just the anticipation of it, doubled or tripled.
Bankrate: How do you
manage your money?
Doug Stanhope: I
got a business manager. Money has never been a motivating tool in
my life. I'm not the kind of guy who likes stuff. That was one of
the most depressing things. When I first moved to L.A., I had just
spent three years living in my car, with all my stuff in my car,
just traveling around. They were the best three years, no doubt.
They were so much fun. I had just gotten the development deal, and
I remember having $14,000 in the bank, and I'd never had anywhere
near that, and a bank account, and I'm sitting there and I had a
TV and a VCR, and I didn't want anything else. There was nothing
else I could think that I needed. It was the most money I had ever
had in my life, and I had nothing to do with it. I didn't want anything.
I realized how little money means to me.
Bankrate: Are you doing
any investing with your new salary?
Doug Stanhope: At this
point, I haven't even talked to my business manager much. I've been
working so hard, I haven't dealt with anything but "The Man