By Steve Swim
America’s Funnyman is here to help you forget about your miserable lives. If you’re not familiar with Neil Hamburger, now’s your chance to fall in love (or hate) with the singular entertainer. Hamburger, known for his greasy hair, wide glasses and tacky tuxedos, has had his mug on both stage and screen for some time. You might recognize him from appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Poolside Chats With Neil Hamburger, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, Sponge Bob Squarepants and blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.
How long have you been on your current tour?
Fourteen, 15 years, it never ends, it’s just one goddamned show stacked up after another one, and there’s no time to really get any rest and that’s just killing me. But you have to keep going because the people need their laughs. And that’s what we’re selling here is laughter, and it’s in short supply worldwide.
What is your stance on hecklers?
I think if somebody is funny, if they’ve got something funny to say, we’ll tolerate it…momentarily. But most of these so-called hecklers are not heckling, they’re essentially just interrupting. And what comes out of their mouth is the verbal equivalent of a bowel movement. And it’s just incessant and annoying and nobody likes it. And I would say if you’ve got something to say then put together an act, get on stage and we will sit in the audience and enjoy your act. But when they come to the show to just yell the same two words or three words over and over again, all night long, nobody likes that. I don’t mind a good heckle if it truly is a heckle, but it never is, it never is.
Philosophically speaking, what do you think of the two-drink minimum
I think what you should drink is eight glasses of water a day, that’s how you stay young. Now these nightclubs with a two-drink minimum, that’s great if they were to just meet you at the door and say you’re going to be here for a few hours, we want you to drink two glasses of water, because that’s what the human body needs. But imagine my surprise when I found out that’s not what it’s about at all, it’s about selling these drinks, these alchohol drinks at inflated prices to people who really have no interest in that. I say if you’re serving a good drink, if your bar has a good drink, a drink that people like, that’s well made, with sanitary ice cubes in an appealing glass, maybe with some garnish. Could be a cherry, could be a lime, could be an olive, maybe with a couple of straws and stirring sticks. If you’ve got a drink like that that’s so delicious, it’s so good that people like it and you’re proud to serve, I say you don’t need to put a gun to their head and tell them they need to buy two of them. I say just have the drink for sale and you may find that somebody buys 10 of them if the drink is that good. Generally if you’re going to force somebody to buy two of something that means it’s probably not a good product, in which case you won’t last. Your business cannot last serving an inferior product.
Honestly, do comics get groupies?
Honestly, there are some fans that come to the show who will buy your merchandise and like to chat with you afterwards; that’s about as far as I’ve ever seen it go. And of course these are mainly, you know, shut-in type men, who have gotten out for the evening. For once in their lives they’ve left their homes and so we do applaud that, because nobody should live the life of a shut-in.
Did you have any major comedy influences growing up?
Those guys? If I were to mention any of these types of people it’s just changing the focus of your article. If I were to say yes, Abbott and Costello, I love them. The next thing I know instead of information about my show you’re writing about where to get Abbott and Costello’s DVDs. You see there’s no way I’m going to steer things in that direction, we’re trying to promote my show right now.
How do you describe the difference between working on the stage and being on the screen?
Well let’s face it, there’s nothing like a live audience. Real human beings laughing, having a good time. With the camera, you’ve got some slob behind the camera, and you’re just talking into thin air and it just feels like a big pile of nothing. Sometimes it comes out pretty good, as anybody who’s seen a good television show or a good movie can attest to. But if you turn the TV on, you can see that these people are bored out of their skulls. And unfortunately that boredom becomes infectious and we too, the viewer, are bored.
Tell me why people shouldn’t miss your show.
Well maybe they should. I don’t know what these people want. If your idea of a good time is to go out and watch professional basketball, then don’t come to this show, because there are no basketballs, there are no hoops, it’s nothing like that. If your idea of a good time is to sit in your chair and laugh your fool head off to some of the hottest jokes on the circuit today, well then we might have something for you. What we’re trying to do is put together an evening where you can come out and just really enjoy yourself…. And if that sounds like a good evening to you, then we are here to hopefully provide it. Again, if you’d rather shop for used clothing, we’re not going to be doing that at this show.