Neil Hamburger | Review by Steve Bennett
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Neil Hamburger

Note: This review is from 2014

Review by Steve Bennett

Festering hatred for himself spews out in a discharge of bilious jokes, leaving a foul stench of bitter failure seeping through the venue. Yes, Neil Hamburger, the leeeggggendaaary Neil Hamburger, is back in town, and playing a converted car-park of the Underbelly.

In his mind, though, this is the venue of legends worthy of his imagined ‘America’s funnyman’ status. You literally wouldn’t believe the showbusiness royalty he says have trodden these boards, or the unspeakable horrors the dark underground room also witnessed. Well, here’s another one: Hamburger’s act. It offends even him, but he ploughs through it, to try to silence the inner pain.

There are a smattering here who aren’t in on the cult, walking out after the sixth or seventh needlessly brutal joke about some minor pop and rock figures. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Jefferson Starship or Lynyrd Skynyrd all get what they almost certainly don’t deserve, as the deliberately antagonistic grouch mixes obscure references, convoluted set-ups and dyspeptic punchlines. In a nod to this century, the electronic dance music of DJ Diplo gets a roasting too, as Hamburger selects another peculiar target.

He claims he saw the Monty Python farewell shows before coming to Edinburgh, describing the experience as a brief encounter in which old men sat around a table, ignoring any demand for old material. That’s not a trap an entertainment pro like Hamburger is going to fall into, and we get a rerun of some of his most pungent one-liners.

Howls of eager anticipation greet the start of each new ghastly joke, with a call-and-response to his familiar ‘What do you call…’ set-ups; though he’s not that happy with our unenthusiastic part of the knock-knock jokes. ‘The burden is on you!’ he says, absolving any responsibility for the evening’s entertainment. ‘Let’s try to have fun here, people.’

But amid all the contempt for such degenerates as Jim Morrison comes his lionisation of Whitney Houston, the subject of an increasingly convoluted puns about her death, until the whole gig becomes a twisted, forced tribute to her talent.

There’s no surprise to see that such a tragic, lonely wastrel, wandering from town to town, humiliation to humiliation never fundamentally changes, but Hamburger, the pitiful creation of Gregg Turkington, is a genuine one-off; a unique, appalling voice that anyone with an interest in comedy needs to see at least once.

Review date: 17 Aug 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Underbelly Cowgate

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