Doug Stanhope is a raw, in-your-face, and unapologetic genuine comedian, which is why he prefers rowdy and intimate audiences over comedy club audiences where people's comedy sensibilities tend to be less sophisticated. This is not to say that he wouldn't do well in front of a club. As a matter of fact, I saw him performing at the Brea Improv months ago and he did killed. But it was obvious to us that we weren't his favorite crowd. An indication of this is the subtle hint he gave the crowd which was, "I hate you people." It was a very subtle hint.
This is why the setting for "Beer Hall Putsch" is perfect; the audience is small, rowdy, and in the dark, as if Stanhope were telling secrets in a basement. Actually, there are points of the show that feel similar to this, such as the story he tells about assisting his mother in committing suicide. Not once does he go for the easy "shock value" joke, nor does he ever get too serious letting the laughs die out in order to have a "serious moment." He tells the story genuinely; these are his opinions on assisted suicide, morality, life, and death, and he doesn't care what your opinions are, because he's going to tell you his relentlessly. It is dark comedy at its finest.
While the stories about his own personal life are gripping, his opinions about societal issues are just as thought-provoking. Stanhope is an outspoken libertarian and anarchist, opting for third-party options over the current systems that are in place. Thinking outside-the-box in terms of politics has seeped into his comedy, where he provides alternatives that other comedians just aren't giving. For instance, when speaking about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, he takes a very non-typical approach. Instead of straight-out disavowing the movement as ineffective or embracing the movement as revolutionary, he speaks about supporting the intentions of the movement but lambastes their methods. He criticizes specific portions of the movement, such as the drum circles, and breaks down why these are ineffective methods of change. He then provides more specific examples of what he would do if he were in charge of the movement, and not only are his methods funny, but they could realistically work. Most comics would resort to pure philosophy and anecdotes. Not Stanhope. The amount of insight and evidence is astounding. Not only that, he does it in a way where there are rolling laughs throughout the entire bit.
At first glance, this sounds like a purely dark special, and much of it is. But one of the funniest bits on "Beer Hall Putsch" is also extremely silly, where Stanhope goes into graphic detail about fantasizing "having his way" with an NFL player after seeing his tights in HD television. When I say graphic, I mean graphic, meaning if I were to even quote portions of the bit, this article would be yanked immediately.
In many ways, "Beer Hall Putsch" is a perfect comedy special. It's a comedian in his prime and in his element. Many comics can try to be funny, or they can try to be genuine and controversial, but it's very rare that they're all three and equally strong in all areas.
Doug Stanhope's "Beer Hall Putsch" is available on Netflix.