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The Hilariously Off-Kilter Comedy of Neil Hamburger

by Mike Krings

Tags: Comedy, Music, Reviews,

neil hamburger

Comedian Neil Hamburger is back with an album of jokes and music that showcases his acerbic approach to making people laugh.

This one’s for all the shut-ins, diabetics, and people with uncomfortable foot conditions.

“America’s Funnyman,” comedian Neil Hamburger, has been known to rattle off a near-encyclopedic list of ailments (such as the aforementioned maladies) that might prevent people from coming to see his stand-up shows. With that in mind he’s bringing the laughs to you with First of Dismay (Drag City), a collection of his usual acerbic jokes about celebrities and one-liners that seem poorly constructed or like non-sequitors on the surface, but are brilliant in their simplicity. And, as any student of comedy will tell you, delivery and timing are just as important as the material. Hamburger is the type of comedian that can make a crowd laugh with excessive throat clearing and knock-knock jokes about the Red Hot Chili Peppers; in other words, his delivery is finely polished. 

First of Dismay opens with Hamburger berating a heckler who loses his courage to interrupt once he’s called out. From there he turns the vitriol upon himself with the disc’s first song “Your Town U.S.A.” A country-western lament about a busted career and self-loathing, the tune tells us your town—yes yours, dear listener—is the one in which laughter grows on the vine and gives a broken down comedian all he needs to keep going. While the songs may be written off by some as novelty, they are far from pointless indulgences. Delivered by a rock solid band, dubbed “The Too Good For Neil Hamburger Band,” the songs draw laughs but would be right at home on a dance floor full of two steppers. “Nickel Candy” and “Endless Roll” are the highlights, the latter a disco-funk complaint letter about a huge box of subpar trash bags. 

But of course, the biting celebrity jokes are Hamburger’s bread and butter. The celebrities here are some easy targets such as Steven Tyler and Carrot Top. Others are a bit more innocuous, such as Bobby McFerrin, who finds himself in the middle of a joke about buying used toilets on Craigslist. And lest one thinks Hamburger is a one-trick pony who tells jokes about easy targets, “He Spoke” is a five minute exercise about an historic Hollywood theater in which countless legendary entertainers performed, all wrapped up with a delightfully vulgar bit about world-famous mime Marcel Marceau. 

Neil recently took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with us over the phone about the new record, his hard life on the road, and his utter disdain for Pringles and Steven Tyler:

Photo courtesy Rich Jones, licensed under Creative Commons