On Sunday night I went to see Neil Hamburger (with special guests) live at The Satellite, a small venue in LA’s Silverlake neighborhood.
For those unfamiliar with Neil Hamburger he requires a little explanation: he’s not a “real” person but a comedian character played by Gregg Turkington. Neil is a sad sack, third rate comic who appears to be a relic from a forgotten era. On stage he wears large glasses, an ill-fitting suit that looks like he probably woke up wearing it, and his damp hair is swept over his forehead. He frequently whimpers and coughs directly into the mic and constantly spills the many drinks he has cradled in his elbow.
The genius of the character is that he subverts the audience expectations of this seemingly cranky old man by telling dirty knock knock jokes, jokes in the form of questions with tasteless punchlines, and/or intentionally bombing with an idiotic punchline after a long and convoluted set up.
Most of his jokes come at the expense of celebrities — especially musicians. A few examples:
- Why does Eric Clapton close his eyes during his guitar solos? Well, because his audience is so ugly.
- What do you get when you cross the members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers with an octopus? Junkies with eight arms to shoot up into.
- What does the movie Oceans 13 have in common with rapper Tupac Shakur? Both were shot in Vegas.
Neil also has recorded a few music albums over the years. My personal favorite song of his is “The Recycle Bin,” in which he angrily denounces people who put non-recyclable stuff into recycle bins.
The evening began with Todd Glass. His set ran a little long, but his overall message was about how comedy should be inclusive rather than punching down, and making fun of comedians who can’t wrap their heads around the concept of improving themselves. He was joined by a band on stage.
The Puterbaugh Sisters arrived on stage next as “conjoined twin” ghosts. Halloween is a serious thing in LA and they used it to their advantage. Most of their material covered the problems they were having dating, being dead conjoined twins and all.
Jamie Loftus had a quirky set about eating eggs that included a PowerPoint presentation. She brought a brave member of the audience to play her dad in an embarrassing sketch.
Second to last, Natalie Palamides had a Halloween themed comedy set where she was dressed as a witch. She cast some “spells” and stole the soul of one member of the audience, only to return it after deciding he was too boring.
An unbilled performer whose name I can’t recall came out to test out a short routine he was preparing for an upcoming episode of Conan. It needed work, but that’s obviously why he was testing it on a small audience.
Finally it was time for Neil Hamburger to hit the stage. He started out with some new material, some seemingly improved jokes complaining about the Halloween decorations behind him, finally followed by a set of his classic material — mostly making fun of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Neil’s set seemed on the shorter side, although to be fair I wasn’t exactly checking my watch or anything, and the show did unfortunately get off to a late start.
This show seems to be a monthly thing at The Satellite as there’s another show scheduled in November. For all upcoming Neil Hamburger shows, visit his “unofficial” website, AmericasFunnyman.com.