Neil Hamburger is more than just "America's Funnyman."
He is the absolute best worst comedian of all time.
Between you and me, Mr. Hamburger doesn't actually exist. He's a figment of comedian Gregg Turkington's wild imagination. However, Turkington is known for his Andy Kaufman-like devotion to becoming immersed in his role, which means you never see him break character.
That character -- a cartoonish, depressed, and existentially sloppy stand-up comedian from a timelessly retro parallel universe -- thrives on awkward silence and desperate cries of displeasure like a normal entertainer feels encouraged by applause.
Hamburger's unique and simple but genius spin on anti-comedy has made him a cult favorite in both comedy and the indie arts, landing him a record deal with postpunk stalwart Drag City, tours with Tenacious D and Weezer, and, uh, musical collaborations with Margaret Cho.
Sweat Records' in-house monthly comedy showcase, Casa de Ha-ha, normally boasts short sets, no cover, and an eclectic smattering of truly up-and-coming and/or off-the-beaten path talent. On March 6, Case de Ha-ha will also be able to brag about hosting the meta-comic for an ultra-intimate in-store appearance.
We spoke with Neil via phone to find out just what exactly it means to be America's Funnyman.
New Times: Have you been to Miami before? Have you had any notable experiences here, performing or otherwise?
Neil Hamburger: I have been there many times. I had to be scraped with a shovel off the floor at Mai-Kai at least a couple of those times. You have those great disco acts like KC & the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees. I always hope that some of that magic will rub off on me. While I am not by any means a "Pavarotti," I did a record last year of duets with the comedian Margaret Cho. My dream for the future is to one day make a record of disco-type material, with real horns and strings and things, not like these drug records the techno-pig crowd are into.
Do you tailor your routine to the locale? What do you find funny about Miami?
All my regional humor is in good taste and strictly positive.
Do you have any preshow rituals?
Just watching the hands of the clock move slowly toward showtime and trying to stifle any feelings of dread.
What kind of people go to a Neil Hamburger show?
Those in need of a laugh, which is what I try so hard to provide. We have audiences from 8 to 80, though the show is not recommended for children.
Tell us about working with Tom Green on his web talk show. How did you come to be involved with that?
Tom and I agree that it's important to keep folks entertained through any medium possible. That was the most modern format there was at the time. It was very exciting to be put into the "hot seat" on that show and to work alongside legends like Brooke Shields, Brian Austin Green, Justine Bateman, and Thora Birch.
What did you enjoy about the Poolside Chats format?
Getting to interview the greats while drinking cheap booze by a swimming pool with a nefarious past.
How would you improve upon it now?
I would try to get paid for my efforts.
What is the secret to a good joke?
You wouldn't ask a magician or short-order cook to reveal the secret of his tricks, and you should not ask me to reveal mine.
What does it mean to be "America's Funnyman"?
It's strictly a marketing gimmick.
Neil Hamburger. Presented by Casa de Ha-ha and Sweat Records. With special guests Major Entertainer Mike H and Daniel Reskin. 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6. Sweat Records, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $10 through sweatshopmiami.com and $12 at the door. Cocktails by 42 Below. Visit sweatrecordsmiami.com or call 786-693-9309.
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