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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 House."

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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 Show."

 

 
-- Posted: Feb 10, 2004
   

 

 
 

 

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