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Preview – Neil Hamburger at The Pearl May 30 2024

Neil Hamburger at the Biltmore, July 10 2010. Robyn Hanson photo

Neil Hamburger at the Biltmore, July 10 2010. Robyn Hanson photo

Preview – Neil Hamburger at the Pearl, Vancouver, May 30


That’s a question that my friend John and I have been batting around since hearing that America’s (self-proclaimed) funnyman, Neil Hamburger, was back on tour and coming to Vancouver. 

Admittedly, a Neil Hamburger appearance is cause for some grudging enthusiasm. The offbeat persona of Greg Turkington, Hamburger is an anti-comic – an over-the-top caricature of the kind of showbiz hack that even Merv Griffin would have thought twice about inviting on his show. 

But where is Hamburger’s place in a world of Netflix is a Joke? Stand-up comedy – the good stuff – is ubiquitous on streaming channels. Even in local nightclubs – and maybe in most big cities – standup is having a moment, with a proliferation of comedy nights. (I wrote about one, Big Dog Comedy, recently for the Vancouver Sun.) 

Neil Hamburger is very much a product of his time, the kind of act that could only have come out of the ’90s ethos of not selling out and making fun of those who did. Hamburger was so obv. a parody of someone who had sold his soul to the showbiz machine long ago. But who except people who have hung onto their Sonic Youth CDs will appreciate his shtick? And even then, will these aging Gen Xers appreciate it enough to not only buy a ticket but to go downtown!? 

Well, I will!

Because, you know, I could use a good laugh. And I remember seeing ol’ Neil back in the 2000s and at least once laughing so hard I cried. 

Different times? We’ll see. In the meantime, here’s a brief bio of Neil Hamburger. And God help us all. 

Neil Hamburger at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, July 10 2010

Neil Hamburger at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, July 10 2010

Neil Hamburger: a brief bio

According to Wiki, Turkington – a San Franciscan who started out as a zine publisher before playing in bands and starting an independent record label – originated the character via a prank call on the 1992 album Great Phone Calls Featuring Neil Hamburger. After three more Neil Hamburger records he began receiving offers to perform as the character for live shows. He seems to have begun doing Neil onstage around 1999, following the release of the Hamburger “live” platter Left for Dead in Malaysia.

Some of Neil Hamburger’s notable appearances/projects include the internet talk show Tom Green’s House Tonight (2006–2013), his own show called Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger on The Channel at Tomgreen.com, a cameo in the film Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny as well as opening for the band during its Pick of Destiny Tour, and a 2008 album of country music originals and covers recorded with musicians like Prairie Prince of The Tubes and Todd Rundgren‘s band and Rachel Haden from That Dog.

In 2015, the Rick Alverson film Entertainment featured Hamburger on and offstage. In a review on Vulture, David Edelstein called the flick “one of the most pretentious, pointlessly grating movies ever made.”

Edelstein said that he’d been unfamiliar with the Hamburger character before seeing the film, and after “certain images remained anchored in my mind” he listened to other Hamburger performances. “I came to admire the audacity of Alverson’s conceit: to take this greasy, unprepossessing, essentially one-joke figure and build an existential tragedy around him… Sadly, I loathed it almost as much the second time…”

In 2021, Neil Hamburger won Best Guest Host of Tim Heidecker‘s podcast Office Hours. (And can I just add here that Heidecker wins MY award for worst interview of the decade? After three monosyllabic answers via phone to preview an appearance in Vancouver I thanked him for his time and interviewed a local artist instead.) In 2023 Turkington released Neil Hamburger Presents: Seasonal Depression Suite, described in The Fader as “a strange hybrid of celebrity-record parody and bona fide musical revue.”

I’m not sure when the last time he was in Vancouver, but it may have been well over 10 years ago when he performed at the Biltmore Cabaret in 2010.  

Opening the show is hometown boy Robert Dayton, whose history of Canadian glam, Cold Glitter, will be published by Feral House June 18.

For tickets to Neil Hamburger at the Pearl in Vancouver visit ticketweb.com.  


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