For those of you who have yet to have been blessed with the Neil Hamburger experience, allow me to briefly outline the energy that the man exudes. He is sloppy in every sense of the word. You can hear the bile sliding up his oesophagus. The drinks he cradles in his arm for the entirety of his set spill generously across his slightly worn tuxedo. The hair left on his head is stuck cement-like to his scalp, lathered in layers of hair wax to the point where an errant ember might cause his entire cranium to go up in smoke. This image is an apt one for Neil Hamburger for his set feels constantly on the verge of igniting into mania whilst never quite losing a masterful control over the audience on this Tuesday night at The Soho Theatre.
The hour we spend in Hamburger’s company largely consists of excellent ‘What Do You Call…’ jokes, delivered deadpan to a crowd well-versed in his dry humour. Drinks flow through the night as Hamburger searches for a buzz that he seems unable to find within himself. Gene Simmons does not emerge unscathed, making us wonder if perhaps he has wronged our host for the evening at some stage of his career. In all honesty, even if he hasn’t I can see why the man is so infuriating. I’ve never really ‘gotten’ KISS either. What’s the appeal of bland rock and roll delivered by a group of clowns? Hamburger touches on the lunacy of Hollywood celebrity and cuts it to pieces in an elegantly self-aware performance.
The seeming reluctance to stand before us becomes a somewhat intelligent take on the nature of fame in the modern age. Here is a man, displaying before us his hates and disgusts, wrapping them up loosely in the form of comedy, but largely using the time to tear to shreds those he sees as representative of the Hollywood Aristocracy. Whilst it may seem personal, really it is no different to what most of us do each day, privately ripping apart our idols whilst consuming their content blindly. Bono, Limp Bizkit, David Lee Roth – they all get a moment in Hamburger’s vitriol and rightly so – nobody should take themselves too seriously and yet so often these people do. Neil Hamburger’s set strips that all the way down, reduces them to the set up of a searing piss joke or a play on words and helps us to realise that these people are not the untouchable deities they make themselves out to be.
The set opens and closes with a song, the last being recent single for Drag City Records ‘Little Love Cup’. Hamburger asks us to ‘remember the golden rule – no one loves a hater.’ The irony drips from these lines as he delivers them. After spending an hour lapping up applause at hating on even the most obscure of celebrities, it’s clear that we love him because he is a hater. In our current climate, where everybody must be careful about the words they speak publicly, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a comic willing to lambast indiscriminately. We need more Neil Hamburgers in the world, not fewer of them.
Review by Alex Sarychkin
Photography by Aaron Jolly