A self-described anarchist, comedian Doug Stanhope has a pretty clear litmus test for how far he'll go with a joke.
"Will this get me in immediate physical violence?"
The second -- and final -- no-no? Theft, from other stand-ups or himself.
"Have I heard somebody else do this before? Did I already say this in the set? Is this on an old album or not."
But that's pretty much it.
"There's no subject (off limits), especially if it's something I can defend," said Stanhope, 47, in a phone interview to promote his concert in Bakersfield on Saturday.
"You never know what somebody can be offended by."
Stanhope actually does know. He's been offending audiences with his irreverent style for years -- and hearing about it -- even before gaining a national following with his co-hosting stint on Comedy Central's "The Man Show."
But as outwardly caustic as the ribald comedian seems, there is a sense that no matter how far he's willing to go to provoke, he has no choice but to be himself: the ultimate everyman.
Needless to say, what you see is what you get, and what Bakersfield will get Saturday is material from his new special, "The Beer Hall Putsch" -- a title that means what exactly?
"It was Hitler's failed overthrow of the (German) government, where'd they'd meet in beer halls -- huge bars,1500 people -- and they'd all stand up and talk politics. He was a big headliner.
"But they wanted to get everyone to take to the streets to take over the government. A few shots get fired, a few people died and he ran ... and that's the analogy to me: I'm really good at riling people up in the saloon, but when it comes down to it, I don't really do (expletive)."
The only fear Stanhope cops to -- at least professionally -- is being irrelevant and repetitive.
"That's what keeps my face in a notebook and recording every night."
But is there a line even Stanhope won't cross?
"It's always anything goes. I can't come up with enough sensitive material. There's pretty much no taboos left."
But there is a caveat for the comedian, the one line he has drawn for himself:
"The toughest thing is trying to keep people anonymous in a good story."
Such as? Stanhope offered up the story of a drug-fueled encounter with a famous sports figure who shall remain nameless.
"It's such a good story but, again, I can't out a guy. I have stories that have friends that are so specific that if I ever did the bit, my friends would know who I'm talking about and that guy is married with children and it's ... such good story.
"But I can't leave bodies in the wake just 'cause I want a new bit."