In his first book, stand-up comedian Stanhope delivers a sympathetic though unenviable portrait of his multiply addicted, much troubled mother.
“After thirty-some years of ruthless drinking, it’s more than probable that I’ve fucked up a few details.” So run the author’s first words to readers, a warning that substance abuse and blue comedy are in the offing. Stanhope’s comedy, growing from the tradition of Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, is built on sharp political and social observations mixed with the insistence on shocking with details of drug abuse, sexual escapades, and the like. His book is no disappointment in any of these regards: there are dog genitalia (“touching a dog’s dick is gross, and your mother touching a dog’s dick is far grosser, and gross equals hilarious”), oxygen tents, crack, deathbeds, adultery, suicide, and sundry other things not often mentioned in polite company. Stanhope pokes fun at himself most of all as he recounts a wandering, messed-up youth doing crap jobs while learning comedy by trial and error until hitting on some universal truths—e.g., “farts are the funniest things in life, and if you disagree, then you have no soul.” Underneath the humor lies an affecting character study of the author’s late mother, who, for her manifold faults, was his fiercest defender and ally. The book is Stanhope’s often rueful record of trying to come to terms with her while reckoning with his own emotions and trying to build a career through a haze of his own making. “In my head,” he writes, “she was just a bad drunk who felt abandoned and didn’t have the patience to wait for me to sort shit out. If anything, I begrudged her for the timing.”
Stanhope offers good evidence that if our own families are messed up, there’s always someone who’s got it worse. Lively and smart and, in the manner of the best comedy, as sad as it is funny.