This was totally unplanned. I thought of it at the last minute, and it relied heavily on audience participation.
Before I get to that story, a little setup and history is required.
GO ALL THE WAY BACK TO 1985
In 1985, there was no famous comedian named Doug Stanhope. He may have been just getting started. I’m not sure.
What I DO know is that in 1985, I was finishing my second year of college in Muncie, Indiana at Ball State University. There was this man who owned a record store called Repeat Performance. He was very invested and helpful with regard to the local music scene. Everyone who played in a band loved this man, Jon Rans.
Jon even opened an all-ages club that featured music but did NOT serve alcohol, called The No Bar and Grill. I would often go there and check out bands.
On occasion, the owner’s son Ian, who was only 8 or 9 years old at the time, would stand on a milk crate with a megaphone, introducing the bands.
FLASH FORWARD TO 2005
In late July 2005, I started working at MySpace. One big mistake I had made right off the bat was letting everyone know that I worked there.
On my profile, I would post some pictures and stories about my time in Muncie in 1984-85. My posts caught the attention of Ian Rans, the once young boy who had grown up to become the host of his own talk show, “Drinking With Ian,” or “DWI” for short.
Ian found my posts, since he was [and still is] the keeper and curator of all things relevant to the Muncie music scene when his dad was there. He was also deeply entrenched in the comedy scene, as well as entertainment in general.
Ian wrote to me on MySpace. “Hey, my good friend Doug Stanhope is having trouble with his private group on here. Can you look into it?”
Since I was a Quality Assurance Engineer at MySpace, I decided to take this as a challenge. I worked to replicate some problems, got the developers involved, got a fix in place, tested it, and had it deployed.
Shortly after I fixed it, Doug Stanhope himself contacted me and invited me to his annual get-away in Panamint Springs, California, an area of Death Valley where you can get away from everything.
I was familiar with Doug Stanhope, since he had taken over The Man Show with Joe Rogan when Season 3 started, replacing Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel.
I would later attend a total of three Panamint Springs outings. This was where we could party hard and have no connection to the outside world. This meant NOT being on MySpace for a full week.
At the end of the week, we would all drive to Las Vegas and go to a club named after the owner, Tommy Rocker. Doug and some of his comedian friends would do a set at Tommy’s, which would put a nice cap on the entire experience.
WHAT IS A CALL-BACK?
Now that you have the history, let’s get into this long-distance call-back prank.
What is a call-back?
This is something comedians do. They will tell a joke or story at the beginning and move on. This is called “the set-up.”
Later, they’ll have another story or joke, and the punchline will reference that first joke. That’s the “call-back.”
Now we can get into the actual call-back prank.
Doug was opening for Artie Lange in Las Vegas in 2007. A bunch of people were going out to see him, so I decided to drive out with my girlfriend and go see him. Since Artie was the headliner, I had to buy $60 tickets for the show.
Stanhope was the last opener before Artie Lange took the stage. He was trying to do his act, but the crowd wouldn’t have it. They were chanting the entire time he was doing his act.
“Artie! Artie! Artie! Artie!”
Stanhope got pissed, and rightly so! He yelled at the audience about how he didn’t need this shit, and he was going to head over to Tommy Rocker’s to get drunk off his ass. In true Stanhope form, he told the audience to fuck off and walked off the stage.
My lady and I stuck around a little bit for Artie’s set. I hate to say it, but it was boring. It was just him repeating things he had said on Howard Stern over the years, with the audience saying it along with him. We left after about 20 minutes and went to Tommy Rocker’s.
While at Tommy’s, Doug mentioned that he was going to be doing a show the next night at a club called Spaceland. He had to do this because he had a special coming out on HBO and he wanted the LA Weekly to promote it. They said they would do that, but only if they could put a local angle on it. Hence, the Spaceland show.
We had a wild night in Las Vegas, hit the sack, and headed back to LA the next day. I timed it so that we could get to Spaceland in time for the show before going home.
By the time we got to Spaceland, the club was already getting rather full. If nothing else, you can call Stanhope’s fans loyal and energetic.
We sat down and I ordered a beer. Right after my beer was brought over to our table, I had this crazy idea. Most of the audience wouldn’t get it, so I’d have to explain, and fast, because I had to get EVERYONE possible in on this in order to pull it off.
I start approaching people at tables, explaining the prank, and asking them to participate.
After about 10-15 minutes, my job is done and I sit down. I can’t recall if there were any opening comedians that night. But eventually, it was time for the main event.
The Emcee took the stage. Noting that their next act was “fresh from Las Vegas” and mentioning the HBO special, it was time for the main event.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big LA welcome to Doug Stanhope!!!!”
People start clapping, as he starts to walk on the stage. But then the crowd starts chanting after he gets on the stage.
“Artie! Artie! Artie! Artie!”
They keep this up for just long enough. After it dies out, Stanhope looks around. He makes eye contact with me. I give him an evil grin.
Before he explained this Las Vegas incident to the audience, he says, “Fucking DrumWild.”
Below the announcement is a Stanhope video featuring one of his MySpace bits. It’s only appropriate.
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