Thursday, July 20, 2006
Neil Hamburger Interview
Neil Hamburger, it would appear, is really suffering for his art. His face bent in an expression of mild annoyance at least but more often he portrays disgust or excruciating pain as he sweats his way through one of his unique comic performances.
I was having a Neil Hamburger day as I struggled to get this interview. The temperature here in Sacramento was in the triple digits, and I’m not sure any of those digits were a zero either. Then Neil phones in an hour and half late. It’s hard to sneak my interview in with out the boss noticing if Neil calls when the damn boss is there. But no problem, I rushed over to my lap top, set it recording, conducted the interview, said goodbye and then discovered I’d recorded exactly five seconds of the interview. I still don’t know what happened. Maybe it was just the Neil Hamburger magic. I’m nervous as I type this. What misfortune is yet ahead.
Luckily I did without a recorder for years, and so I typed while talking with Neil in case of just such and emergency. Here’s the interview as reconstructed from my hastily typed notes. Enjoy.
And for more information on Neal's appearance in town, and on the Wasted Weekend click here.
I answer the phone at work with my professional voice, stating the name of the roofing company that employs me, always a great way to start a professional interview.
NH: This is Neil Hamburger.
KLJ: Neil! Great! Let me just get my recorder started here. It’s gas powered, so I’ll need a minute.
NH: Oh, so you’ll be having to pump your legs while we talk. Sorry to miss the interview. I hope it's not too late. I hope you didn't already go off and do an interview with Carrot Top or anything.
KLJ: No problem.
NH: We've had some technical difficulties here, some car trouble. If anyone there in Sacramento knows how to work on cars, if they can maybe bring some parts to the show, maybe we can get the engine replaced there.
KLJ: Well you’re here as part of Wasted Weekend so there should be plenty of gear heads around.
NH: Yeah, well that would be great if someone knew how to replace an engine.
KLJ: You know they’ll be crashing some cars as part of the crasharama?
NH: Yes, I hear it's going to be quite a violent show which I found a bit unnerving actually.
KLJ: So you won't be crashing any cars on Sunday? (Oops, it's actually Saturday)
NH: No. I've crashed enough cars. It gets very expensive. I drive 700 miles a day.
KLJ: You'll be performing here with bands. I notice you tend to perform with rock bands. How does this work out for you?
NH: Well let's face it most of these kids, after all that blaring guitar noise and what not, their hearing is just shot, and the kids that like this kind of music you know a-lot of them have emotional problems, so there's nothing as soothing as the human voice. And comedy is therapeutic. It does them good to laugh.
KLJ: So you’re like a doctor.
NH: Yes. I'm like a physician only without the great pay, and the beautiful wife, and the short hours and the big house and the free pens and paperweights.
KLJ: These free pens worry me. When I’m at the doctor’s office and he’s prescribing me some anti-depressant, the very medicine named on his pen, I worry that I’m just taking pills to keep this guy stocked in pens.
NH: Well pens are expensive. You know, one thing the American media overlooks, they report on the oil shortage and what have you, but they don't mention there is an ink shortage going on. Ink has gone up tens of cents.
KLJ: Should I bring my doctor some pens?
NH: I think it could help, you bring maybe twenty pens and a couple of paper weights and maybe you'll get out of there without being prescribed anything other than some fruit cocktail.
KLJ: What kind of prescriptions are you on these days?
NH: I can't afford prescriptions, prescriptions are expensive you know. But the 99 cent store has a lot of good stuff, the aspirin and what not, and these products for females to help with the female problems, they actually work on men too, to help with the headaches… and the despair… the depression… and the dizziness… and the muscle degeneration. They give you that nauseous feeling.
KLJ: Well I appreciate the health advice, especially useful for those of us with no healthcare. Do you mix the pills? Any combinations you recommend?
NH: I can't really afford to take more than one or two a day, but they're all the same. They all give you that same nauseous feeling, and that nauseous feeling is better than what I feel most of the time when I'm up on that stage.
KLJ: We appreciate your suffering to bring us the laughs. How did you become “America’s Funnyman?” Did a president bestow this title on you?
NH: We saw that America's Funnyman was available so we grabbed it. Some creep, some sick derelict already took neilhamburger.com and he's not even doing anything with it, just waiting until he can contact me and try to shake some money out of me for it. He’s a lowlife. These lowlifes just grab up these names so they can try to exploit someone later.
KLJ: I know, I wanted to create a site but hotmouths.com is registered, but there’s not even a site there. It’s ridiculous. I notice you’re performing outside the US more and more. Are you trying to become the Coalition Forces’ Funnyman?
NH: (Ignoring my lame joke) I have a new DVD coming out, The World's Funnyman. We taped in Australia and a little bit in Canada, so I’m taking the comedy to the world, and the name was available. I've been performing in Australia and New Zealand and the U.K. and up in Canadia (sic). And there aren't a lot of funny people in these places you know.
KLJ: So you’re going to Canada where the people are obviously a bit more sophisticated than we are down here and then to New Zealand and Australia where they’re complete savages. Do you have to change your material for these different audiences?
NH: My biggest problem is the time change. It’s what, 17 hours difference in Australia and I drive 700 miles a day, so at one in the morning there I’m waking up in bed, grasping for the steering wheel. But comedy is the same, you know, they’ll catch the references. They know gang bang. They know vomit.
KLJ: Thank god for the vomiting gangbang. So you don’t say Kangaroo where you might have said Paris Hilton then?
NH: I do a little of that, a regional reference here and there, maybe adding the names of some of their local celebrities.
KLJ: You’re pretty hard on celebrities.
NH: They ask for it.
KLJ: Have any of them ever responded to your jokes about them?
NH: No, none of them have responded. I was just on tomgreen.com last night with Brook Shields and I got to tell her some of my jokes and she was gracious enough to laugh at them.
KLJ: So the celebrities haven’t been angry, how about regular folks, people with a feminist bent who maybe don’t really get the humor?
NH: Of course there's always the people who'll throw a drink, or throw a shoe, but I don't think it's any kind of activism, it's alcoholism.
KLJ: So no protestors or anything?
NH: No, I haven't had any kind of organized protests, not yet, but if you go and put this on the internet you'll give people ideas. You shouldn't print this or we'll have that happening and I have legal troubles enough.
KLJ: I certainly hope this interview doesn’t cause any harm. If there are protestors at any of your shows I’ll expect to hear from your lawyers.
NH: Well my lawyers may be contacting you anyway.
KLJ: Well then, I’ll just move away from that question. Can you tell me how you got into comedy?
NH: Well there was a need for comedy in the world. The world was getting worse and so I was called on to give people a much needed laugh.
KLJ: Are there other comedians you look up to?
NH: Oh I don't care for any of these other guys out there. You know, they're taking food out of my belly.
The dead guys are okay, because there's no competition, but these live guys, they're making money, and taking food out of my belly and they're sleeping with women that I might have been able to sleep with. And when they're driving 700 miles they're doing it in a private jet, so you know I don't need to give them any more credit they get too much credit as it is, so I'm not going to help them out here.
KLJ: I bought your album Raw Hamburger. I was lucky enough to find it on vinyl. Are they still pressing your stuff on vinyl or is all CD?
NH: There's always new product, but I'm not real involved in that end of it, you know I handle more of the trinkets. I don't see a-lot of money from the records, there's too many other people involved. I have the key chains and the paper weights and the fruit cocktail.
KLJ: Is the fruit cocktail in heavy syrup?
NH: Yes it was. It was a good product. We've had some problems with that, we've had to take it off the market but I still stand behind it. A lot of these kids buy it just to put it on their mantle and they’ll never open it.
KLJ<: You seem to be happy that you’ve attracted a young audience.
NH: Yes, the young of today are the old folks of tomorrow, and they'll keep buying, so you want to get them young. That's why we have bibs now.
KLJ: So, records, bibs, fruit cocktail, will we be seeing the Neil Hamburger sitcom or major motion picture soon?
NH: I'd like to do a major motion picture. We did a short film a ten minute film hoping to get some interest and some money in doing that. You know it takes money to do a film. But I'd love to do a sitcom or a film.
There's not a lot of money in this. Sure I'm famous but I don't' see a lot of money and there's too many people taking it, lawyers, my ex-wife. She gets some money because of some comments I made about her on one of my records. In fact I do extra things to make some money, washing cars. If anyone would like to have their car washed, I keep a little soap in my car, if there's a hose and a bucket I do a really good job. And I’d enjoy that kind of work.
KLJ: Well there should be a lot of dusty cars out at the Crasharama on Sunday if you can stick around. (Again, I got it wrong, Crasharama is on Saturday.)
NH: Well that might work out.
KLJ: Anything else you want to say to Sacramento?
NH: Let's get a good amount of enthusiasm going and make this a great show, let's make it a night to remember.
So, Sacramento, Let’s do it. Wasted Weekend is upon us, and Neil will be part of the fun appearing Friday night at Old Ironsides, (10th and S Street). For more information on Neil's appearance in town, and on the Wasted Weekend click here
Neil Hamburger's site, www.americasfunnyman.com
More Neil Hamburger video clips HERE.
My interview with Bob Newhart HERE.
My interview with Ryan Styles HERE.
My hero Francois Fly interviews my other hero The Unknown Comic HERE.