Neil Hamburger is the reigning king of anti-humor, a title that's earned him plenty of fans, twice as many enemies, and not nearly as much money. When he takes the stage, which he does more than 300 times a year, he dons the same outfit he's worn every night for over a decade: a shabby tuxedo. He sweats profusely and clears his throat constantly, wrestling with a ball of phlegm that might be older than his suit. "Why does KFC sell its chicken in a bucket? So you have somewhere to throw up after you eat it." Audience members groan, boo and curse his name. But this isn't some downtown open mic or a tiny theater -- it's Madison Square Garden and Hamburger is opening for Tenacious D on its arena-sized tour. In fact, it's not the first time he's played crowds this big. He's performed at massive outdoor music festivals around the world, and opened for the likes of Mr. Bungle. Usually, though, he plays smaller venues, and on Sun., Sept. 2, he's coming to Gooski's.
After opening for Tenacious D, how have you been keeping your momentum?
We've been using the tag America's Youngest Comedian. People want to see these young hotshot comedians and I think that's a good phrase to get people into the door. Attendance has gone up since we've started using it. Walkouts have been up too, but that doesn't matter once you've been paid.
Charity events attract big crowds as well. Have you thought of aligning yourself with any not-for-profits?
Certainly. See, if you get a phone call from a woman and she says, "We're collecting for the Diabetes Fund," she gets paid from your donations and that's totally legal. Plus, there's all those administration fees, but I'll do it for the low fee of 1 percent and will pass the rest to the charity. If the American Cancer Society calls up, I guarantee the administration fee's going to be a lot higher than 1 percent. So, in that sense, I believe I'm America's Biggest Humanitarian. And that's a phrase we'll use as well.
Sounds like things are really going your way.
It certainly couldn't get any worse. Looking at my schedule for the next few weeks, I'm doing three shows a day and I have one day where I'm in three different states.
What if a large rock fell on you? That would certainly be worse.
That might not be as bad. The large rock is painless and doing these shows is not. A small rock, now that I wouldn't be into. That just puts you in the hospital with a slow death. But a large one, that'll take you right out.
What's the smallest audience you've performed for?
We've done a few of the two-person shows. We did one at the University of Tasmania and two people came. We bounced back in another show in Tasmania where about 40 people showed up.
Do you ever cancel a show because of poor attendance?
No, the show must go on. They paid their money and they want their show. In that case it was free, but they showed up and I have to honor that. I gave just as much to the two people as I gave to the 17,000 at Madison Square Garden.
I guess that makes you the world's youngest, most generous and most honorable comedian.
Why, yes it does. Thank you.
Neil Hamburger. 10 p.m. Sun., Sept. 2. Plus music by Pleaseeasaur and Zombo. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $???tk. 412-681-1658
- Neil Hamburger greets the public.