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The Worst Comic Standing

Unforgettable cult favorite comedian Neil Hamburger beams into Brooklyn

Seeing Neil Hamburger, the mutated old-school nightclub comic persona created by Gregg Turkington, in a full length show, as opposed to various web clips and sample tracks, allows you to get another dimension of the humor of this character.

Appearing at Brooklyn rock club the Knitting Factory on November 11, between his twisted and dark jokes, Hamburger seems to have forgotten he shouldn’t remark on his disdain for the audience between bits of his material, punctuating with retorts to a would-be heckler, calling him a “prick” and an “asshole.”  

Yet without missing a beat, or at least after a few of his frequent loud phlegmy throat-clearings, he continues with a jaunty, “Hey gang,” as if he was introducing the next segment of a children’s show – then loudly declaiming “Why …” or “What …” prefacing his next question setting up his next punchline in his stream of putdowns of pop culture and music figures.  

With asides about how he is trying to provide wholesome entertainment unlike the “slovenly” bands who usually play the Brooklyn venue, Hamburger as a character has a huge ego like Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton character. Hamburger’s creator purposely undercuts this self-regard with all the aforementioned bile both around the jokes and in the jokes themselves, which are usually all so dark that they could never be mistaken as family-friendly.  

The Hamburger material is split between the aforementioned pop culture bits (like material on the Osmonds, Michael Jackson, Courtney Love, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dane Cook) and plain old delightfully sick comments, like “What do you get when you cross a pregnant woman and a pit bull? A Down’s syndrome baby.”      

That added dimension is there again in Hamburger’s encores, as he wanders offstage and you hear him comment, “I’m not going out again, screw these people,” but then concedes “oh, alright,” as he returned twice to lay out a few more ultra-sharp barbs.

All of this, in case you haven’t figured it out, is created as part of the show and the character. The jokes themselves may not seem tongue in cheek in the telling -- for example, Hamburger ripped on veteran alternative rock band Yo La Tengo to an audience likely to include many fans of the group -- but considering Turkington himself is an alternative rock musician, it’s in fact probably something of a badge of honor to be included in his act as Hamburger. He’s a unique performer, who brings a new creative dimension to the art of comedy, and true fans of comedy will get it.

Neil Hamburger has several DVDs and CDs. Here are a few:

 

   

     

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