Doug Stanhope brings his brand of "cringe comedy" to Fort Lauderdale

Some comedians make you chuckle in a politely appreciative way. Then there’s Doug Stanhope, who will say something so outrageous or controversial that your initial reaction is pure shock – before the hilarity hits you and has you howling in spite of yourself.

The Most Fearless Man in Comedy takes the stage Friday night at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale, where he’ll bombard the audience with his gleefully offensive brand of “cringe comedy.”

Stanhope talked to about the show, messing with pedophiles’ heads and his near-run for the presidency in 2008.

So what’s a Doug Stanhope stand-up show like?
I guess it all depends on who you are. It’s drunken chaos, normally, and abuse and obscenity and hatred and fun. It fits a niche market. Every time there’s a shooting, I search my Facebook to see if they’re fans.

Has that happened yet?
No, I haven’t had any of the big names. In fact, that was a crushing blow when Christopher Dorner, the LAPD cop that went on a rampage killing cops, left an eight-page manifesto in which he named eight or nine different comedians, and I was sure I’d be on the list. And no! Don’t know how Ellen DeGeneres makes that list and I don’t.

That must be embarrassing.
Yeah, that hurt a bit.

So are you really the Most Fearless Man in Comedy?
No, I’m terrified all day long. Just as scared as s—. That’s where the hate comes from – it’s rooted in fear. It just comes out as hate. I get a sweet spot of comfort after between six and nine cocktails, but it’s never fearless.

Were you always the class clown, funny guy, meant to become a comedian?
Not classic class clown. I was a class clown, but the dark one. If there were trench-coat kids back then, I would have been one. I had the kind of humor that sickened girls and made other guys kind of creeped out. I was the kid drawing really dark pictures in the back of the class.

So what’s your greatest talent, other than being funny?
I’m a pretty good party host. I think I thrive at that. I don’t really have much to say to people, so I’m really good at making sure everyone’s drink is fresh, “how you been?” “how was the drive?” etc. OK, great. Oh, gotta check – the music is off. Gotta refresh the ice!

Your book “Fun With Pedophiles” – really cool idea. How much did you enjoy doing that, baiting then berating those sickos?
That’s the only stuff that I’ve ever done that I’ll go back to and actually laugh as though I’m reading somebody else’s work. It’s the only stuff that I really can say, “That’s f—ing funny.” I’m not a big fan of myself, riddled with self-loathing, but that stuff I still think is really funny.

I just should not have named it “Fun With Pedophiles.” There should have been a red flag that said, “Uhh, people probably don’t wanna punch “pedophile” into a search engine using their credit card on Amazon.” I’m sure that hurt sales incredibly.

Is there anything you won’t do for a laugh – anything off-limits?
If I don’t think it’s funny or believe it’s true. There’s jokes that are just jokes. I do have some kind of moral compass – it might seem way off by society’s standards. I wouldn’t say something I didn’t mean or take a point of view just for a laugh. You see a lot of guys – if you have a weekly political show, you have to be mad about something different every week. You can’t be mad about that many different things. And I’m not mentioning Bill Maher by name.

Speaking of politics, how serious were you about running for president?
I was serious when I was gonna do it just for fun. And then when I got talked into doing it on the Libertarian ticket, that’s when it became completely unfun and unfunny, and I bailed.

What if you had gone through with it and actually won?
That’d be wicked funny. There’d be a lot of people out of prisons, that’s the first thing. In fact, it might have taken the first four years to do all the pardons – just to sign them. I’d just wake up at 8 in the morning, have my coffee and my egg and toast, and just start signing again. And then I’d have to learn how to sign lefty, because my right hand wouldn’t work after a few days. And then I’d move to my feet, and I’d be featured on some special episode of Oprah Winfrey – The Boy Who Could Sign With His Feet.

And then on my last day I’d make it legal for felons to vote, so all those people I let out would elect me for a second term. Then I’d close every military base on foreign soil.