Doug Stanhope isn't exactly known for his subtlety.

Rather, the nationally renowned stand-up comedian is often abrasive and controversial. Despite that, he has a legion of loyal fans.

Local fans will have the opportunity to see Stanhope live when he brings his Last Gasp Tour to Savannah Smiles on April 3.

"Doug Stanhope wanted to come back to Savannah," says local comedian Shane Gray, who will host the show. "He hadn't been back in two years.

"His manager got hold of me and I told him I was working on getting a room," Gray says. "Everybody pretty much agreed that to have someone of this caliber in the comedy scene come in was a good thing."

Stanhope insisted on a venue that seated at least 200 people but was not a stadium or theater.

"On tours, he prefers not to do a stadium or theater-type show because it's too complicated to set up," Gray says.

Savannah Smiles was a perfect fit.

"There are very few venues in this town that are not theaters but have a capacity of 200," Gray says. "Most have a cutoff of 150."
Savannah Smiles has been in business for 14 years and has a 425-person seating capacity. In addition to providing live entertainment nightly, it also is available as a party venue.

Opening for Stanhope will be local comedians Rath Nastie and Chris Davison.

"There isn't much about Rath that isn't interesting," Gray says. "He's a local Savannah character, a local karaoke host, as well as a stand-up comedian.

"His trademark is that he wears a full-sized kitchen ladle around his neck and plays guitar on it. He tends to be outside in his pajama pants and he's also a very funny comedian. Nastie is definitely a Savannah personality."

For Davison, Stanhope's appearance is a rare opportunity.

"Chris is one of the hardest working comedians who does every show and open mic he can," Gray says. "He's hosting trivia and is in a Savannah improv group.

"He's working on a comedy album. He's been hitting it hard.

"On top of everything else, Chris is a very big fan of Doug Stanhope and the idea of him having the opportunity to do this is very appealing to him," Gray says. "This is someone he professionally looks up to."

Gray is looking forward to hosting the show.

"I like Doug Stanhope because he'd very Northeast and I'm very Northeast," he says. "I like his style."

For two years, Stanhope co-hosted "The Man Show" with Joe Rogan. He also hosted the infamous "Girls Gone Wild: America Uncovered" DVD, in which he cheered on drunken college coeds in various stages of undress.

It was Stanhope who created, in 2008, the website www.savingbristol.com, which was dedicated to raising money to pay for an abortion for Sarah Palin's then-pregnant daughter, Bristol.

In 2006, Stanhope did a bit at the Cat Laughs Comedy Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland, that suggested that Irish men commit pedophilia because Irish women are so ugly, which set off a firestorm of criticism.

His self-published book, "Fun with Pedophiles: The Best of Baiting," was released in October 2006.

The winner of the 1995 San Francisco International Comedy Competition, Stanhope edged out Dane Cook in the three-week contest.

His live show was voted "Best Comedy Performance of the Year" by Time Out New York in 2006 and 2008, and made the top 5 of the 20 Best Live Shows of 2009 by London's The Guardian newspaper.

When Stanhope scheduled a performance in Iceland's only maximum security prison, he also invented the Stanhope Defense for fans who would have to commit a crime to get in to watch the show.

But even when he does good, his motives are seen as suspect. Stanhope created controversy when he started a fundraiser for Rebecca Vitzmun and her family after their home was destroyed by a tornado in Moore, Okla., in 2013. It wasn't that Stanhope felt sorry for Vitzmun, who had identified herself as an atheist in an interview. He said he did it just to annoy her neighbors and others who had criticized her for her beliefs.

While Stanhope's comedy has led audience members to walk out in some cities, he has the support of such colleagues as Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais, who have said he is one of the best living comedians and that his fearlessness on stage is unrivaled.

Stanhope has a role in the film "Finally Famous," written and directed by Chris Rock. He released his sixth DVD, "Beer Hall Putsch," in September.

Fans should take advantage of this opportunity, Gray says.

"It's unusual to get a show this size outside the Savannah Civic Center," he says. "Generally, guys like Stanhope prefer the civic center or theater bookings.

"It's all about getting as many people as you can into a venue," Gray says. "He has a tendency to do more club and bar tours than other comedians. He is more accessible."

Stanhope even goes through Brown Paper Tickets to keep admission prices down.

"To get a guy on this level for a $25 ticket is almost unheard of," Gray says, "He's done multiple movies and comedy shows, radio shows and an even dozen comedy albums.

"He's not like a bush-league comedian; he's a well-known guy who has packed out larger venues," Gray says. "He's just making himself more accessible."