|A QUICK CONVERSATION.
Gerant Kenneth chats
with Neil Hamburger.
At what age did you decide that you wanted to be a stand up comic and how long now have you been working the circuit?
I’ve been on the circuit pretty much all my life. There wasn’t a decision to be a comic, this was something that I was pushed into by a youth guidance counsellor as a form of therapy to exorcise my demons.
Has it worked?
No, it has compounded my demons.
A lot of entertainers say that the road is tough, do you agree with this?
It is tough, it’s terrible, it’s loathsome, but I have no choice. It’s an endless loop that I’m stuck on. While it maybe terrible I don’t think at this point I would know what real life is about.
It’s all part of the therapy…
It’s sort of like these guys that are in prison for thirty years for armed robbery, and when they finally get released they don’t want to go ‘cause it’s all they know. It’s sort what it has been like for me. I’m on the road, I do 365 shows a year, 365 years a decade. It’s busy time.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences while touring?
Ohhh boy!…. Well you know, you remember some of the smaller things, like when you get to a club and they’ve got a bowl of beans for ya, you know what I mean? Simple kindness’s like that that make it so much more pleasurable, but ah, there’s been some ups and downs. I’ve had some big shows, some of the big tours here in Australia in fact with ah, Mr. Bungle, remember them? Remember those guys? Remember their hits?
They were the Bill Haley and the Comets of their generation, and then I’ve toured with Frenzal Rhomb, I got to do the Big Day Out, what a hell hole that is! All these kids all hopped up on tomato soup and ah the whole thing? The sweat and the filth, the partial nudity, the whole thing, but then I’ve had some good shows too. I got to play some prestigious venues like the Fillmore in San Francisco and The House of Blues in Los Angeles, and Zero’s Pizza.
Do you prefer a co-operative audience or is there something extra that you get out of a responsive crowd?
We want the crowd to be happy. Have you seen the Mel Gibson The Passion of the Christ film?
Yes, I saw it just the other day…
You know how the guy Jesus in the movie ends up crucified for everyone else’s sins, this is what it is like being a stand up comedian. These people come to the club in a foul mood. Their work is terrible, their relationships are crumbling, the drinks are too expensive, the bathrooms here are dirty, and so what happens is that if I can make these people laugh they’ll forget their cares and they’ll leave in a good mood, but, these horrible, horrible problems that they’re facing have to go somewhere, they just don’t disappear. In actuality, they end up with me. I take on all their burdens, and so that’s why sometimes I feel as though I’m being crucified on stage.
That’s a heavy weight you carry…
It is, but ah, that’s my job. And that’s my life!
You have bee labelled the anti-comic as if there is a presupposed idea of what comedy actually is. Do you believe that there is a formula that one must follow in order to be funny?
I think that there is a formula that these guys, you know Jerry Seinfield? Some of these people have this formula, and ah, we follow this formula from time to time and I think that if you can break out of it a little bit, it breaks up the monotony of the stand up comedy scene, and the monotony of life in general. We do try to do what ever it takes to get that smile and that laugh. Some people will say that Neil Hamburger is terrible, this was the worse thing I have ever seen! But then if you get one of these little monitors and attach it to their lips you will see that their lips were quivering. And if you attach a monitor to their sides you will see that their sides were splitting. So these people are full of shit.
What exactly made you the man that you are today?
Incessant touring! Non-stop crumby shows at filthy hell holes. Pizza parlours where they’ve run out of flour so they’re making the pizza on a cardboard disc. Places where you ask for something to drink, and they ask you to cup your hands and then bring a hose from around back. These are the kind of places I play. Casino’s where the machines have run out of coins, so when you get the jackpot dirt comes out!