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Neil Hamburger: Discounted Entertainer

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Whhhhaaaat do you call a sack of human phlegm leaking putrid bile over an Edinburgh car park? Miiiiister Neil Hamburger!

It’s one-liners in that style – more often than not at the expense of Britney Spears, and usually a lot more offensive – that comprise the bulk of this returning American room-splitter’s material. Morally repugnant droppings from a diseased mind, they are always vile and frequently shockingly funny. There are, indeed, enough jokes about rape to merit their own section.

Some of these are new, some reprised from last year’s show. However, it’s not the jokes that people come for, filthy and of dubious quality that they are, but Hamburger’s masterful, unique delivery and compelling persona.

Gregg Turkington’s creation is a grubby little man who tries to conceal his rotting mass of self-loathing beneath a cheap tuxedo and a pathetically flimsy showbusiness sheen in a desperate plea for acceptance. But comedy only makes him hate himself more: he knows his jokes stink, he shakes his head sadly at the though of what’s coming up, while the latest horrible punchline might be followed by a remorseful ‘oh boy’.

He strains his voice to put misplaced razzmatazz on some of the feed lines, repeating key words with different stress. This reaches a brilliant climax with a gag that starts: ‘Why do gay men…’ which seems to get stuck in an infinite loop as he tries the line over, and over and over again, as if afraid of getting to the punchline. There’s nothing going on but a pathetic man saying just four words over and over again, but it is stupidly funny.

Slightly less successful is a long story about going to an Indian casino. Hamburger is a one-liner man, not an anecdotalist. He’s far too reprehensible to want to spend time with, even in a story.

Indeed some people might find him difficult to spend time with in a theatre (or atmosphere-free converted car park, as Assembly Three is) – although a drunken ability not to be able to comprehend what was going on was most likely responsible for today’s walk-outs. Even so, it prompted Hamburger to split bitter insults at them, hurling small change in their wake as derisory compensation.

For those who buy into the cult of Hamburger, though, the outburst is just another example of his appalling genius.

Review date: 22 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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