Soho Theatre, London, 24/06/2019.
The alter-ego of the comedian Gregg Turkington, Neil Hamburger is best known as an anti-comic, the kind of comedian who mines laughter from being deliberately awful, but I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate way to describe him. Sure, a couple of the jokes are groanworthy – one about Eric Clapton putting semen in his coffee contained a punchline I guessed and which was particularly (if intentionally) dodgy – but many of them are beautifully constructed and have an unpredictable pay off, and isn’t that what all of the best comedy is about?
The show was advertised as Hamburger performing a music based set backed by a live orchestra, which was more than plausible as he did release an album late last year, but in fact it’s nearly all a standard stand up set which has a song at the beginning and the end. Not that I’d have had a problem with it being all songs, even though the lyrics weren’t packed with hilarity the way he performs them, and dances along with them, made myself and the audience laugh hard, and the irony of the last one where he repeats “No one loves a hater” despite having spent the last hour being exactly that is gloriously amusing.
That all said I’m glad we got to see his unusual brand of stand up tonight as it was consistently hilarious from start to finish. A show which was mostly Hamburger insulting various music based celebrities there were gags about the likes of U2, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Queen and Paul Rodgers, Hall and Oates and many many more, but even though they’re often harsh they rarely feel cruel, largely due to the way Hamburger performs them, acting like an old school comedian with his exaggerated delivery and at times making a sympathetic noise if he feels sorry for the people they’re at the expense at.
It’s not always the case though, he has a particularly vitriolic routine about the band Kiss that is so beautifully vicious he surely must dislike them, most of the set is made up of short gags where he asks the audience a question and then delivers the punchline, but in the middle of the hour he takes about ten minutes out to deliver a diatribe about why their music is so horrendous, who actually buys their records and why, along with an explanation as to why they wear their infamous make up on stage. It’s stunningly funny, his use of language is never less than ingenious, and his disdain for Gene Simmons is especially hysterical stuff.
Hamburger’s well known for dealing with hecklers and though he doesn’t exactly invite audience participation it’s become an element of his work, and though thankfully tonight only one audience member piped up on occasion Hamburger’s reactions and put downs were beautifully funny, and it only made the hour even more entertaining. It really is an unique comedy show, and one of the very best I’ve seen in a long, long time, I’d unfortunately not caught him before but seeing him tonight made me regret not doing so enormously, and there’s no doubt that from now on every time he comes to these shores I’ll be buying a ticket the moment dates are announced.