Comedy is diverse. You have comedians like Brian Regan who discuss trivial but funny issues, and don't use profanity. You have eccentric comedians like Mitch Hedberg who rely on delicate but cleverly phrased one-liners. Ray Romano and Jeff Foxworthy discuss family life. No doubt, it's all funny; but every once in a while you get someone like Doug Stanhope, the embodiment of the abyss, way beyond Bill Maher's cynicism. Stanhope is nihilism.
When people think of nihilism, they most likely think of chaos, failed hippie communes, and in general misdirected angsty teenagers with nothing to do. Stanhope escapes this by embracing an optimistic twist to nihilism. The jokes he tells, you definitely wouldn't tell to family and friends, and you probably don't want to anyway because Stanhope is there just for YOU.
He acknowledges the establishment is screwing you over, so drink on the company dime. If you get fired, steal something. He tells extremely lewd sex jokes and does a piece on the Iraq War. In all of this, I don't believe he insulted anyone but himself. I like this. Race or prejudice/stereotype related jokes are funny but they create some tension. Even when you're alone, you think to yourself as you laugh nervously, is that really funny? But Stanhope does something rare. He destroys his own ego. This is self-deprecating humor at its best. He doesn't rely on anyone but himself to make you laugh. He allows you to just relax. You don't have to censor your laughter anymore. To me, that's comedy. Carlos Mencia and some others seem to think comedy is all about tension. It isn't. Comedy, for me, doesn't consist of making fun of other races or constantly pointing out the stupidity of others. That trick is overdone. Read Nietzsche. Who's he making fun of? Read Plato, who's he making fun of behind all that flowery prose? Dumb people. We get it! People are dumb. But it's not funny. It's like listening to a George W. Bush joke, over and over until oblivion knocks on the door.
What comedians need to understand is they're comedians, the audience isn't. The audience still has to censor itself. With Stanhope, this isn't necessary. Stanhope doesn't rely on overused stereotypes or observations to make his point. Instead he points to himself. This offers originality and extremely obscure situations that would never happen. There's no tension anymore. He allows the audience to enjoy a good cup of black humor, without thinking twice.