INTERVIEWS

Neil Hamburger Will Never Sell Out!

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neilFor nearly two decades the identity of Neil Hamburger has been a well-guarded secret. With a greasy disheveled phlegmy approach to comedy Neil Hamburger has amused and disgusted audiences across the globe playing dives, off kilter venues and even playing Madison Square Garden in New York City. An exceptionally revealing recent interview (http://tinyurl.com/oqr5zk9) finds Neil Hamburger’s creator Gregg Turkington candidly speaking about his early years. SUSC was pleasantly surprised to find Turkington shedding away the Neil Hamburger character for a quick interview in advance of his CREPE PLACE SHOW SATURDAY JULY 25th more info here: http://tinyurl.com/onbyla7

SUSC: You have a great fan base here in Santa Cruz and you’ve been coming to the Crepe Place for a number of years.

GREG: Yeah. I think this is the fourth time. Always a good time.

The first time I saw you was back in 2000 or so, in Chico, California.

I think Canned Ham was on the bill.

The two guys who ran around and sang, “Who needs a hug?”

Yes. They are the best.

My wife and I still sing that song.

It was a catchy one. They knew how to write those hooks.

How was the premier for Antman? Was it unlike anything you’ve done before?

Well, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for a long time. But it’s not typical that any of it is at that level. It was mainly funny and bizarre. There was a paparazzi yelling out your name and soon as they get their photos, you take ten steps and there’s another wall of people yelling out your name. You definitely feel like a super important for a few minutes but then you walk a block after the event and nobody even looks at you, takes your picture or cares at all. It’s all an illusion but it’s a funny experience. They just want to get photos of anyone in the cast, otherwise they don’t give a shit. Nobody reading their publication cares to see photos of me. You walk in, get photographed and then you do a bunch of interviews. It’s silly. There’s a Vietnamese News Service and a Chinese News Service and a long line of people that want to talk to you, even though they would never want to talk to you in any other context.

You have a complex public personality.

I don’t know about that! But thanks for saying so. I have not really done interviews in the past. I didn’t want to. But after so many years I found I was getting bored with Neil Hamburger interviews in character. I felt interviews like that had run its course and it was time to switch it up.

You see the same thing with Stephen Colbert, the uber-Republican is just a facet of who he is and what he does.

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think anyone who does anything on the stage or in front of a camera. . .you cannot really believe that has anything to do with who they really are. Some of these sincere singer songwriters and sensitive guys are the biggest creeps you’ll ever meet in your life. But you sure wouldn’t know it from listening to them talk.

Well, in comedy a good example is Bill Cosby.

There’s exhibit A, huh? I mean Jesus Christ.

It’s an interesting backlash in an idol-obsessed culture where we build up certain individuals to be more than human and when they inevitably fall, we tear them down.

I grew up watching him and I couldn’t believe it was happening. But, I grew up watching characters he would play, I never saw a second of him for reals. I’ve seen him in plenty of movies and TV shows where he was playing a good guy. . .but they were only movies and TV shows. So why I would assume he was a good guy just because he kept getting cast in those roles that he was incapable of doing something wrong. Of course, I shouldn’t believe that.

That’s one of the great things about Neil Hamburger. No matter what kind of perverted stories would come to light about him, everyone would be like, “That makes sense.”

Right.

He’s like Teflon, what’s going to stick to Neil Hamburger?

I think the things that would bother me would be if people said he was doing advertising for somebody. That would be when I start seeing red. But if they just say he’s a terrible comedian and rotten person and vile and mean, I could live with that.

That’s in Neil Hamburgers resume under awards and achievements. Those are qualities.

Absolutely.

You’re labeled an anti-comedian, but that is a pigeon-hole that doesn’t really fit. Who else out there do you find to be inspirational?

Stuff that resonates with me are acts that have some sort of mystery to them. Something about the act needs to connect with me on a cerebral or personal level. It might be going to watch the Four Tops perform or it might be a comedian that comes out, pisses in a bowl and pours it on his head. It’s not tied down to any genre. But unfortunately these days that kind of act is increasingly rare. Things rarely impress me, but when I see those kinds of acts, I tend to want to work with them and I put them on the bill.

Why do you think rare and unique acts are becoming scarce?

There are so many people out there whose motivation is fame or stage time and they have no point of view. If there’s no point of view there’s no reason to watch it. There needs to be something to hook me besides somebodies narcissism and desire to have a career being onstage in front of people. And with musicians and comedians there’s an awful lot of that, these days.

How much do you try to control who is on the bill? Do you purposefully avoid being on traditional stand-up comedy line-ups?

I tend to have an opening act with me and I tend to not play a lot of comedy clubs because that environment doesn’t tend to work with what I do. I tend to play more music venues or small theatres. Which is why I like The Crepe Place. I ate at their original location in Santa Cruz years ago and its different then a lot of places I play. I’m fascinated with it, because it started out as a place I just liked to eat dinner.

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Interviews
07/22/2015

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