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Home Arts and Culture  Turn It Down: A survey of Lansing's musical landscape
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Wednesday, April 21,2010

Turn It Down: A survey of Lansing's musical landscape

Raw Hamburger

by Rich Tupica

Neil Hamburger is known for his dry, oddball stand-up comedy that often makes celebrities the butt of his punchline. His following has been growing since the release of his debut album, “America’s Funnyman,” in 1996. Since then he has performed with comedian Tom Green, opened shows for rock bands (including a recent stint with Faith No More) and toured the country non-stop.


Whom do you prefer performing with more: rock bands, or other comedians?


A lot of the comedians have severe mental disorders and emotional problems. It’s a real backstabbing crowd. Some of the rockers I’ve toured with are real druggies and sickies. Really, there is no way to win.




Do the rockers ever push drugs on you?


They don’t want to hang around with me. When I go out on the road with these druggies and sickies — I mean, some of these bands are going out after the show and pulling wings off flies, on Lord knows what kind of drugs. If I did that I would not be in tip-top shape for the following night’s show and I couldn’t do my job properly.




How does one become a great comedian?


You’ve got to get some seasoning. You can’t just go, find a dead cow in a canal and just sit there with a knife and fork and eat the cow while it’s lying there bloated in the canal with bugs all over it. You got to hang out at the canal, get a professional to cut it up and then take it down to the steakhouse and put some salt, pepper and MSG on it. You have to season the meat. It’s the same with comedy.




What kind of jokes do you tell?


I get to the topics that a lot of the kids that come to my shows want to hear. Which are jokes about the new rock-n-roll bands that are known for poor performances — like your Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks, bands like that. The kids have gone to the show, spent $45 for a ticket, and then sit there with their jaws on the floor because they are so horrified at the poor presentation of these assholes. So for me to come out and tell a few jokes about it, it helps the awkward situation.





When do you write jokes?


When you’re sitting there and your mind is racing with kind of bad, demoralizing thoughts of failure — then sometimes a joke just breaks through.When your head is clouded with misery, thoughts of impending bankruptcy, divorce hearings, poorly attended shows and poor-selling records, then a joke breaks through, and you work it into a set as soon as you can.



Since Michael Jackson died, have you quit telling jokes about him?
On the contrary, I threw out all the Michael Jackson jokes that I had and came up with a new set of jokes. It became a big part of the set this last year — sort of a tribute. They’re gags in a sense, but they also honor a great entertainer. A lot of the greats I couldn’t stand when they were alive. I hated them, hated their horrible music or stupid comedy, but when they die, that’s when you tip your hat and honor them with jokes.


Neil Hamburger
8 p.m. Monday, April 26 Mac's Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing $10 / 18 show (517) 484-6795






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