The ever-reliable Neil Hamburger brought his signature bag of takedowns to Northcote Social Club
Back in a 1991 interview, Angus Young of AC/DC (one of the few mega-star bands that have largely – perhaps entirely to my knowledge – evaded Neil Hamburger’s wrath) quipped that he “Only knows one solo, and I’ve made a career of it.”
In the same turn, the character of Neil Hamburger essentially operates on one joke: crass exacerbations of celebrity excess. There’s nuance within, deviations from the formula that only serve to slingshot impact back into the bread and butter takedowns. It’s a shtick that’s served well, tried and true, for over two decades, one of the most steadfast figures in American alternative comedy.
The world has changed in those 20-plus years. Neil Hamburger, thankfully, has not.
It’s easy to draw parallels between Hamburger’s bumbling repugnance and that of the current leader of the free world. It’s only Hamburger’s trademark phlegm-tearing growls that break the resemblance. Like Young’s solos, however, Hamburger’s routine is apolitical. Timelessness is toyed with, brilliantly broken by out of date references, and slightly more contemporary targets.
Tonight, he opens strong with a wickedly tasteless Clapton gag. The one variable for the routine is the crowd, and they’re on board – a bigger room than Hamburger’s run of 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival dates plays to his strengths. At one stage, an audience member spoils a punchline; a venomous dressing down follows from stage.
In greatest hits mode, Hamburger closes the night with his well-worn Red Hot Chili Peppers bits – undiminished thanks to the always impactful one-two setup.
The world’s gone to shit. At least we can rely on Neil Hamburger.
By Lachlan Kanoniuk