Saturday, 16 October 2010



Neil Hamburger is a prince among little men.  Housing a permanent flu his is an awful act akin to Tony Clifton abusively attempting to make sense of the world.  And for that he is a very funny turn.

I have always had the impression that Hamburger was a happy accident.  Rather than being a going concern as a comedian, as an actual act, instead he was something of a figure of fun, a trick that would be played on live rock audiences in the name of meta comedy and stirring a crowd.  But then the act took off.

The first time I saw Hamburger was unsurprisingly at All Tomorrows Parties.  At that stage he was still pretty much exclusively under ownership of indie rock and to see him step out and rag on our rock heroes while insulting the audience was a beautiful thing.  It was an act of bravery by the man and an act of hypocrisy by the crowd.  Where were the people supposed to stand with regards to this act?  The instinct was to hate him, hate what he was saying because he was being insensitive but secretly we liked what he said.  A few years later I would see him again at All Tomorrows Parties and when at the end of the set he would throw his drink at some nacho eating arseholes and they ducked only for it to crash over me, I couldn’t aim blame at Hamburger.

Those guys were in the wrong place, they should have been at the Neil Diamond concert listening to him perform Hot August Night.

“What did Santa Claus give Paris Hilton for Christmas?”

This is a fun album.  Its comedy, its ballsy, its performance art, it’s a test of patience.  Recorded in February 2007 at Madison Square Garden, New York this is Hamburger serving as the warm-up act for Tenacious D.  He is not performing in front of a home crowd.  Indeed he is not even performing in front of his variant of rock crowd.  And faced with such a daunting task, most would go running.  Indeed some of the audience probably did.

It begins well with a nice exchange of salutations but then he drops a clunker opening with a rape joke about Paris Hilton.  The gasp is a wonderful thing to behold.  There are laughs but they are sinister emerging from the evil minorities of bad people and those in the know.  This was strange fruit.

With that for just over thirty minutes Hamburger proceeds to relish the opportunity to do just what he wants, say what he wants and antagonise to new heights.  In the words of Woody Allen through Alan Alda’s lips “if it bends its funny, if it breaks its not”.

His third joke of the evening is a knock knock joke with the most aggressive punchline to such a gag in history.  And at this point he begins addressing the situation; addressing Tenacious D and threatening disrupt proceedings with refusal to leave the stage until the mood picks up.  It’s just what the man deserves.

“What does the Godfather Of Soul Gerald Ford have in common with disgraced vocalist James Brown and activist Saddam Hussein?”

It doesn’t take long for the natives to become restless with their “lines of hatred”.  They don’t care that he is saying the most awful things about James Brown before redirecting his sights on Elvis Presley.

“Can we get some more laughs in the monitors?”

Track 3 is entitled “Shoulder Trouble 07”.  It is a wonderfully pointless nine second moment in serves, which in many ways encapsulates just what Hamburger is all about.

Moving on the material continues to test the levels/standards of taste with cancer, AIDS, retard and vagina jokes.  The intent is to offend but it doesn’t necessarily always happen.  We now live in incredibly stifled and censored times, regulation is everything, and nobody can say anything negative anymore.  And thus as a result awful things can only be said as if delivered on an ironic level.  And for that there is something in Hamburger that frees up the spirit, frees up the soul.  Then the biggest irony comes in the conservative audience (the Tenacious D audience) hating him for saying things that they apparently think while the liberal audience (the ATP audience) love him for saying things that ordinarily abhor them and would cause him to be ostracised by such a community.  This is deep.

Indeed by digging at McDonalds he is acting as some kind of lefty cliché.

A shout out to the Tenacious D crew later Hamburger further pushes the crowd’s patience suggesting that a wall should be built onstage to separate the good audience and the bad audience as a chant of “D” emerges from the masses as he asks if that was the grade they got in their exams before suggesting that they probably got a more positive score in their AIDS test.  You just can’t say these things but Hamburger the hero does.  And then he even pops at another comedy hero in the form of Robin Williams.

Not afraid to take on sacred crows track 7 is entirely devoted to Beatle Paul and one-legged thing that he married cleverly comparing these circumstances to those that were predicted in the song “When I’m 64”.  And finally after that tirade we get our first “but hey, that’s my life of the evening”.

The joke about Elton John and a sabre tooth tiger actually manages to get a round of applause.  The audience is secretly homophobic?  He then jokes about Angelina Jolie adopting in Namibia to another round of applause.  The audience is secretly racist?

“I have a few more jokes before we bring out Kevin Federline and the rest of our opening acts”.

After jokes about the Rolling Stones, Metallica and one man’s breathe smelling of eating human faeces he introduces Tenacious D’s curtain before storming to his finale of asking why Courtney Love won’t be having any cranberry sauce with her Christmas dinner.  And it is at this point he somehow manages to get the crowd on his side with a call and response chant of “cranberry sauce”.  People are so easily pleased.

He encores with a track entitled “His Deathbed” ripping on Colonel Sanders and Sally Field just to ensure that he leaves with no goodwill left in the house.  Incest jokes will do that.  And with that he is done and gone.

At the end of the day Neil Hamburger is an old school entertainer.  He is neither two-faced nor arriving with an agenda, he is not Simon Cowell or some reality joke, he is sincere in the style of Krusty The Clown.

He was paid $25,000 to tell these jokes tonight.

In all its characterisation, this is the real deal.

Thesaurus moment: mordacious.

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