One And Done: The New Big Ball With Neil Hamburger

the new big ball with neil hamburger
I recently became a huge fan of Neil Hamburger’s after catching him live with his new show No One Loves A Hater at the Soho Theatre, and so tried to track down any and all tv appearances by him. Unfortunately there aren’t a huge amount, he’s appeared on a few talk shows and cameoed in a couple of others, but bar the web series Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger he’s not had his own series. He almost did back in 2010 though, when Adultswim made this game show pilot that he hosts alongside muscular assistant Linda, played by the well known bodybuilder Jane Trcka.

For those unaware of Neil Hamburger, he’s the comedy creation of Gregg Turkington (of On Cinema fame), a slightly sleazy and slightly rubbish comedian who often clears his throat in a revolting way and tells bad jokes at the expense of others. He’s part of the anti-comedy genre where characters are created who are deliberately odd, and only funny once you click with their unusual attempts at humour. For me he’s easily one of the best examples of anti-comedy and this pilot shows him at his very best, as hosts a bizarre game show and has little respect for those taking part, calling the contestants pigs or swine in a beautifully dry manner.

From the get go he has little time for them, when introducing the first contestant Ben. who claims he’s a comedy fan, Neil hits back with “No, you’re not a comedy fan, no, you’re an arsehole” and constantly mocks another, Rodney, for being bland, telling him “Your mind is blank. Your personality is blank” in a less than charming manner, which all contributes to making it so funny. He’s a little kinder to the other contestant, Tracy, but in typical Hamburger style when she tells him she’s from Santa Clarita he concentrates on the macabre, saying “There was a murder there recently, a little child…That’s too bad”.

As well as Linda he has Corbin Bernson (of Major League 1 and Major League 2 fame) to supposedly help out, though as Corbin’s in an isolation booth he’s unable to communicate with Neil and so mostly ignored, much to his frustration. The various rounds of the game are equally as daft, with questions like “The Motion Picture Monster’s Ball featured Halle Berry making Love with?” and the answers being either “Scott Bakula, Billy Bob Thornton, Alcoholic Michael Caine or Disgraced Comedian Billy Crystal”. There’s a couple of physical games as well, including one where they have to catch “blue balls in a ball sack”, it may not be the smartest innuendo ever but Hamburger’s delivery of such a phrase generates laughter, as does his sarcastic comment made after the game – “Now that wasn’t up to standard” – while his disdain for Rodney continues when after winning the round he tells him “Rodney, congratulations, you’ve somehow cheated your way to temporary first place”.

As Ben at this point is in last place he’s given a chance to catch up, though it’s in a grimly humourous manner as Hamburger talks about how Ben’s “Cousin Douglas died from prostate cancer, it was a long courageous but ultimately futile battle” and how Ben has to shoot a ball with a pellet gun which may or may not reveal the emotion he felt relating to Douglas’s death. As Ben fails to do well in the game Hamburger instead reveals one of Ben’s disgusting secrets, saying “Isn’t it true Ben that you were recently discovered masturbating in the restroom of a popular family restaurant?” before telling him “Back to the podium you sick creep”. Which just made me wish all game shows were like this rather than the saccharine nonsense we normally get.

There’s two final physical games after this, one where they have to insert matching eyeballs in to a mannequin’s head, then rip it off and shoot it in to a basketball hoop, and another which Hamburger introduces by saying “Our pigs must navigate through a sea of noise makers wearing these high magnification glasses, and then they have to extract a ball from one of their designated sleeping babies using one of our trash pickers.” So yes, it’s bloody funny stuff throughout, made all the better by the fact that when a contestant is eliminated he’s carried off in a headlock by Linda, with Hamburger throwing his drink at him, and the eventual winner of the show only walks away with a one way courtesy coach trip to Primm, Nevada.

Written by Tim Heidecker, Jonathan Krisel, Doug Lussenhop, Jon Mugar, Gregg Turkington (aka Hamburger) and Eric Wareheim, AdultSwim made a real mistake not picking this up, I’m a huge fan of the channel but all too often their content is shitty animations with a fair amount of shock value that rarely entertains, and this would have been something very different to the work they normally create. It’s not something that could have run and run, and they’d have had to create different games each week to keep it interesting, but given the talent involved if it had been commissioned I have no doubts that it would have been a cult hit.

Alex Finch.
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You can watch the show here.

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