This Hamburger is as Funny as a Punch
in the Face
by Nick Stillman
Relatively speaking, Oberlin College is a bizarre place. The biggest
all-campus party dictates that students dress as members of the opposite
sex, everyone tends to become much more fired up over politics than
(photo by Areca Treon)
football and flamboyantly-dyed hair surprises
no one around here. Still, it would have been impossible for everyone
at Sunday’s Neil Hamburger performance to have been prepared for the
absurd antics awaiting them.
Hamburger, the enigmatic stand-up comedian who records for Drag City
records, delivered a performance notable for the fact that he was legitimately
funny. Not only was the crowd receptive — most of the time they were
in stitches, as Hamburger’s deliberately un-funny brand of humor struck
a chord with the near-capacity crowd at the Cat in the Cream.
Canned Hamm, the Vancouver-based karaoke band, began the show on a riotous
note. Consisting of two members — Big and Little Hamm — Canned Hamm
belted out delightfully cheesy ditties with the help of a cheap-sounding
beatbox and some catchy synth notes. While the songs themselves were
consistently hilarious, the funniest parts of the show came when Big
and Little Hamm left the stage to accost the audience.
During “Bubble Bath” Little Hamm left his post onstage to stand uncomfortably
close to select audience members as he sang his part. While the unfortunate
few were left squirming as Little Hamm pressed as close as he could,
the rest of the audience rumbled with uncontrollable laughter.
Canned Hamm received the biggest hand from the audience when they announced
it was the burlesque part of the show and proceeded to remove all articles
of clothing save a pair of scanty boxer shorts. Another awe-inspiring
highlight came during “Ringing the Bells of Sex” — each band member
marched through the audience mid-song in search of females willing to
relinquish their underwear. None cooperated.
Although Canned Hamm provided a nearly impossible act to follow, Hamburger
came through admirably. Strikingly dressed in black and stricken with
a terrible coughing problem throughout, Hamburger began the show with
an uncomfortably long moment of silence in honor of the late actor Walter
Mattheu. Amidst the ubiquitous throat-clearing — always directed into
the microphone— Hamburger periodically produced a crumpled piece of
paper from his pocket in search of material. For once, he found it.
Even when his punchlines failed, Hamburger recovered easily. After a
failed Brittany Spears joke, he paused and asked, “Could this be a generation
gap?” As fast as he had lost them, Hamburger had won the crowd over.
In fact, the crowd seemed to delight in Hamburger’s terrible jokes,
at times weakening the impact of his performance, which often consists
of long silences from baffled audiences. After the show Hamburger said,
“This is a wonderful career I’ve had. All the crowds are great.” (For
a full transcript of an interview with Neil Hamburger see page 14.)
Hamburger seemed to lose his cool momentarily when senior Dave Reminick
loudly requested “The Zipper Schtick,” an act from Hamburger’s album
America’s Funnyman. “I’m gonna tell the jokes when I want to tell them,”
Hamburger yelled, ultimately calling Reminick a “zipper prick.”
One of Hamburger’s themes was a series of biblically-oriented jokes.
“Why did God create the Red Hot Chili Peppers?” one began. When the
crowd collectively shrugged, he answered, “To help boost the sales of
heroin.” When some of his Christ jokes became pornographic in nature,
he justified it, saying, “This is sort of a young crowd and this sort
of thing seems to be popular.” Ultimately, Hamburger compared himself
to Christ, saying Christ was the son of a Jewish carpenter and that
a Jewish carpenter had slept with his ex-wife six months after they
had been married.
Hamburger’s encore act revolved entirely around Red Hot Chili Peppers
vocalist Anthony Kiedis. The joke built for several minutes, as Hamburger
detailed Keidis’ unsuccessful trips to a Los Angeles bar in search of
heroin. To the crowd’s delight, the joke ended with a halfhearted punchline,
as Hamburger himself seemed bored with the lengthy piece.
Although it was disappointing that the audience didn’t allow Hamburger
to struggle a bit more when his material took a turn for the un-funny,
the show will doubtlessly become a legend in the recent history of obscure
and occasionally excellent indie performances at Oberlin College.
Cenerentola Puts Twist on Classic Tale
Hamburger is as Funny as a Punch in the Face
Wright Talks Poetry
Ludacris Take Cleveland by Storm
Composer Adams Delivers Convocation
Presents Abstract Musical Structures
Talks Love, Rap and Comedy
Muse Performs Student Dreams
Library Exhibit Provides Different View of Books