NEIL HAMBURGER – 2 live sets
“Neil Hamburger”, implant American’s Funnyman, thumb is actually the Tony Clifton-esque stage persona of Gregg Turkington, a San Francisco musician who, 10 years ago, started to perpetrate what is to me one of the funniest performance art gags in American comedy. Daytrotter.com sez:
“Hamburger is a purveyor of the least common denominator joke, going below the belt frequently and pulling his hand back up to find that heâ€™s got something stinky, but altogether hilarious in his grasp. I purposefully took a friend who had never heard of Hamburger to the show, warned him little about what he was going to witness and then enjoyed hearing him laugh at the jokes about shit and Courtney Love, one after the other that made for a night of off-color, side-splitting wrongness. Entering the stage from the faux green room, Hamburger came out in a ratty tuxedo, with a lime-topped drink in his hands and his hair greased over with Vaseline or some other slimy hair treatment. He made quite the entrance. When he reached the mic, he let out one of his signature throat-clearing hacks and a stream of slobber escaped from his mouth and rolled down his suit. My thought: Perfect. He jumped right in with some new material about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. He sticks to his claim that he gets all of his material â€“ especially all of the heroin news about Love â€“ from the USA Today, the nationâ€™s Bible. About Jolie and Pitt, Hamburger asked â€“ in his conventional riddle format, â€œWhy did Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have their baby in Namibia? Well, that way they had a scapegoat when the baby turns out to be retarded.â€
Without beating a dead horse (too much), Hamburger ran down the roll call of maligned and overexposed celebrities, funning on their faults and perceived downfalls, ragging on their celebrity and their omnipresence. The jokes are so crass and crude and fantastical that theyâ€™re hilarious just in their telling, in their derivation. The fact that Hamburger thought many of these jokes in the first place is essentially what makes them funny. His down-on-luck, boy-Iâ€™m-faltering-up-here persona adds to the fire and makes his vaudevillian, lounge singer look the very definition of clashing. Though we know heâ€™s not really a guy in a tuxedo (because that would mean he would be portraying a sense of style and properness, the man of the ballroom) and heâ€™s actually just in a bar with nothing too fancy on tap, the jokes come out of him with a little shock value, as if your grandmother were telling you to not be such a pussy. He spins the pronunciations of Doobie Brothers, cranberry sauce and Paris Hilton sex video in the same delicious and wavy octave-jumping spurt that makes the words a joke that defies convention. Then when the Worldâ€™s Funnyman (his new DVD of the same name is set for release in August on Drag City) tells me that Ronald McDonald is a well-known collector of Old West weaponry and that Michael Jackson turned down a $10 million offer from McDonaldâ€™s to advertise Happy Meals because â€œhe doesnâ€™t at all find obese children sexually appealing,â€ I become a diehard.”
Hamburger’s act has been documented on many albums for the Drag City label, as well as a handful of DVDs and TV apperances. His brand of anti-humor never fails to leave me convulsing with laughter. My favorite Hamburger joke, which I heard him tell live at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood a few years ago: “Why did Julia Roberts rub shit on her vagnia? Because she was horny.”
I must tell you, though, that the two live sets below are not of the greatest audio quality, and if you want a good representation of the man’s work, then you should probably first seek out some of his Drag City albums, and watch some clips of him on YouTube. The sets below are probably only for diehard fans to have in addition to his discography.