Neil Hamburger gears up to let down


By Connor Rice

“Champagne comedy:” That’s how Neil Hamburger describes an evening of his special brand of humor.

The joke being, of course, that he is nowhere near as classy as a glass of champagne might be.

Nor as funny.

“We’ve got over a thousand jokes to draw from over the course of my show,” he said. “Jokes that I’ve told on television or in the motion pictures, or maybe jokes that I’ve told to gas station attendants earlier this afternoon.”

Hamburger, the sweaty, unkempt alter ego of comedian/musician Gregg Turkington, has made a name for himself based on telling bad jokes, keeping an atrocious sense of comedic timing and spilling armloads of drinks. Working under the self-assumed title of “America’s Funnyman,” he has opened for such bands as Tenacious D and Faith No More, appeared in major films and even had the chance to perform at Madison Square Garden. But these achievements might not seem plausible when he meanders onto the stage at 8:30 p.m. tonight at Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway.

Like his comedy, a conversation with Hamburger can go in any direction, and where it ends up is often hilarious. Hamburger tells tall, strange stories about his misadventures around America, claiming that his opening act has cancelled and accepted a larger gig in Luxembourg (untrue) or nonchalantly suggesting a run for DeKalb City Council to rectify the local parking situation. He aggressively insists that DeKalb parking meters seem to run until 1 a.m., something he hasn’t seen anywhere in the world, “except, perhaps, West Hollywood.”

“It’s very prohibitive to acts who are trying to park and innocently come to your town and entertain, and then find themselves having to park 20 blocks away because they can’t feed the meter when they’re on stage telling jokes,” he said.

His post-modern, on-the-spot nonsense is hard not to appreciate in some capacity. But unsurprisingly, his comedy is not for everyone. Derogatory, ridiculous comments about everything from Paris Hilton to T.G.I. Friday’s have bestowed Hamburger with a cult status akin to oddball performers like Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric. Those who don’t “get it” are sure to feel lost, and maybe even a little offended. He himself admits “the language does get a little bit salty from time to time,” and that those with weak stomachs might want to stay away. But anybody who can find the humor in venomously and senselessly deriding the band Smashmouth is sure to enjoy the entertainment Hamburger so begrudgingly provides.

But for as disgruntled as he comes off, he has a relatively good attitude about performing nightly for crowds that he suspects to be emotionally disturbed methadone addicts.

Hamburger, with a sigh, will be the first to tell you: “That’s my life.”