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Laughter as savior

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | AUGUST 20, 2009 7:05 AM

Greasy hair, pit stains, and a tuxedo. “America’s Funnyman” Neil Hamburger knows how to impress people, although his nickname may not tell the whole truth.

“That was just available,” he said. “And it’s been very, very useful. You can get folks in with a title like that, you know? It’s certainly nothing you have to earn, per se — these titles are available to purchase.”

Hamburger will bring his rough standup to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., on Saturday with JP Incorporated and the Dr. Eli Calico Medicine at 9 p.m. in a rare comedy show at the venue. Admission is $10.

Hamburger carries traditional comedy to his live show, relying on rapid-fire jokes rather than sharing anecdotes about his life. Nicole Yalaz, Hamburger’s publicist, believes his show needs to be experienced rather than explained.

“There is nothing better and more offensive than seeing Neil Hamburger perform in the flesh,” she wrote in an e-mail. “On stage, he cradles three or four gin and tonics with a protective glare during his entire act. Between filthy deadpan jokes, just like grandpa, he clears his throat and coughs — often to silence the loud hecklers in the audience.”

Hamburger’s jokes lie in the realm of antihumor, often focusing on such subjects as celebrities, his ex-wife, and obvious (and crude) observations. He’s unclear as to where the jokes come from — they just do.

“There’s no inspiration anymore, it’s mostly perspiration,” Hamburger said. “The jokes just drop in, you know? You might be sitting there with horrible thoughts in your mind, thinking about financial obligations or how painful the mattress is you’re sleeping on that night because a lot of them are, and then suddenly a joke pops into your goddamn head, and you’ve got to write it down quick or you’ll lose it, you know? And that’s the way a lot of this works.”

Recent years have been good to Hamburger, and he has landed guest spots on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and in the Tenacious D movie Pick of Destiny. He attracts a young-adult, art-oriented crowd and believes people come to see him to escape their problems.

“They come out to the show to laugh, to forget their woes and troubles and difficulties and addictions,” he said. “And a lot of times, I can do the job. A lot of times, these people are such a goddamned mess, and I come out and tell a few jokes and see the first smile on these guys’ faces, sometimes the first smile in a year, you know? In that way, I believe I’m doing some type of missionary type of work and should receive some sort of peace prize, because, as you know, a lot of people have a lot of problems, and if you can help them forget those problems for just a moment, you’re invaluable.”

In a world of fake celebrities, Hamburger hopes to emerge and cleanse the world of people such as Miley Cyrus, who he says is entertainment vermin. He pictures himself as show business’ savior.

“It’s much in the way that Christ went up on the cross and died for the rest of us,” Hamburger said. “I’m going up on stage and dying for those in the audience. You think you have a problem when your house is infested with cockroaches? How about when your TV is infested with this vermin that calls itself entertainment.”


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