Pleaseeasaur :: Now That's A Tasty Burger
HIGH PLAINS READER
By Adam Hagen
he story has been told many times and remains intriguing. Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" is performed in Paris in 1913 and incites a riotous melee. Tuxedo-clad symphony enthusiasts go berserk; women in expensive evening gowns are smashing violas over the heads of small children and all seem to regard Stravinsky's shift to rhythm a sacrilege that will eventually destroy music. If you ever wished that you could be at a performance based riot -- as I have many times -- come to Ralph's Corner on October 16 to see Neil Hamburger take the stage … and bring riot gear.
Neil Hamburger is a comedian, but to call him that belittles him as well as the work he creates. He is not a bland purveyor of popular comedy like Jay Leno who spits out assembly line rejects. Neil Hamburger's material is challenging stuff. It examines the very nature of comedy itself, becoming a critique of tired acts while at the same time being funny enough that, oftentimes, a whole audience will lose bladder control, assaulting the senses in a manner almost as complete as the last time someone opened that Pandora's box which is Christina Aguilera's laundry hamper.
Hamburger belongs to a line of innovators that includes Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Fred Allen, Ray Goulding, Bob Elliott, and whoever came up with the first "shaggy dog" story. He manages to be honest and surreal, probing the very boundaries of art until he makes Marcel Duchamp look like a stupid douche bag. Established comedians, accepted by middle of the road audiences, should retroactively thank Hamburger for the honor of having been able to pave the way for him. He is the lone samurai of stand up; a Toshiro Mifune who wields the microphone like a katana and levels the audience, casually handing Leno a wakizashi. His arsenal of jokes alone makes him a legendary figure, but other facets of his performance may be even more interesting.
His timing is avant-garde. It is slow and meandering, reminding one of the way Snoop Dogg rhymes a little behind the beat. Another hip-hop comparison may be made with Big Daddy Kane, because nobody would disagree that Neil Hamburger is kickin' ballistics. Hearing the cadence of his speech makes me think of an imaginary foreign language complete with false starts and vocal tics. Using this technique to his advantage, Mr. Hamburger confuses an audience into believing a punchline is forthcoming.
His persona is as complete as that of Groucho
Marx. Looking like a throwback to the heyday of Catskills club comedians, he behaves like a crazy hybrid, part Don Rickles and part Woody Allen; a demented animal that paces the stage and delivers high concept jokes, one after another until you feel that you can no longer take it. But like a howler monkey in heat, Neil Hamburger cannot be ignored. He simply commands attention by coughing into the microphone, and continuing with new material, connected to the previous by something that resembles a segue.
It is in these segues that Hamburger functions best. He uses them to satirize the awkwardness of average comedy performances. Most never realize the backward logic of comedy segue. It is meant to be a smooth transition between subject matter, but it seldom is. Neil Hamburger turns this device into a train wreck, and the beneficiary is the audience. His best material in this realm is the utilization of the painful sigh, or the insertion of his catchphrase, "But that's my life!"
Hamburger is also a prolific recording artist. Recording comedy albums used to be the goal of any comedian. Today, having a sitcom seems to be the only reason anyone even becomes one. Hamburger uses the album format to make us laugh, as well as to soothe when tragedy strikes. When Princess Diana died, Neil was there for us (perhaps even before Elton John), quickly releasing a seven-inch single in her honor. While the first side contains jokes about paparazzi, the second is a blank track meant to be played as a moment of silence. The groove on side two connects with itself three-fourths the way through the side so that it becomes an infinite loop, because we as a people may never get over our tremendous loss … even with that Elton John song. The instructions point out that the track may be played as a moment of silence for Sonny Bono if played at a higher speed. A Kleenex is provided with the packaging.
The show will function as a scathing pastiche of stand up dogma, as well as a roadmap for comedy's boldest frontier. By turning the focus of the performance back on itself, Hamburger is deconstructing his own method before our avid eyes, and represents what may happen in the future, by helping us destroy the past.
Don't forget your riot gear … or your Depends undergarments.
(Neil Hamburger - with opening act Pleaseeasaur - will hit the stage of Ralph's Corner Thursday, Oct. 16th. Admission is $6. 21+ show)