Neil Hamburger

Neil Hamburger isn't for everybody. The clueless schlub, doused in flop sweat and sporting a gel-slicked comb-over that looks like a fat, mashed spider, is the high-concept, lowbrow performance-art creation of Gregg Turkington. Hamburger is a caricature of a washed-up, struggling lounge act, the kind of parody of the desperate dregs of the entertainment industry popularized in the '70s by Albert Brooks and Steve Martin. He most explicitly recalls Andy Kaufman's grating alter ego Tony Clifton, but while Clifton was an awesomely involved one-note prank—just a despicable worst-case scenario of a comic—Hamburger's act is more layered. Yes, there's plenty of awkwardness, from the spilled drinks to the phlegmy throat-clearing into the microphone. And yes, there are plenty of tortured punchlines. But as Hamburger's act wears on, he begins to splice genuinely excellent jokes, still delivered in his strange stammer and growl. The occasional nugget of gold keeps audiences even more off-balance, as the joke is both on them and for them at the same time. Hamburger isn't content to simply bomb as a stunt; he keeps his crowds constantly off-guard, staging elaborate, almost dada-istic gags like recording an entire CD in Malaysia before an audience of non-English speakers. He's also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and in Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, as well as opening for the D, Iron and Wine, and a slew of other bands. But while he may rub elbows with the West Coast hipster elite, expect a gloriously low-fi, elaborately shoddy show at the Turf Club. 21+. (photo by Robyn Von Swank)
Sun., Aug. 23, 9 p.m., 2009

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