Meat is murder

Comedy is pain for Drag City artist Neil Hamburger

OOOH-OOH, THAT SMELL The stink of comedy is strong on Neil Hamburger.

OOOH-OOH, THAT SMELL The stink of comedy is strong on Neil Hamburger.

Photo By Lizzy Kate Gray

Preview: Neil Hamburger with the Becky Sagers Moxie’s Café/Gallery Mon., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.

Two jokes by Neil Hamburger:

“AOL’s buying up everything—have you noticed? Why don’t they just hurry up and merge with the IRS and be done with it? Then, we can all just give up and go off to die while they take what’s left of our money and buy more dildos, or whatever it is those AOL executives do.”

“I went to see an aromatherapist, and she had bad breath! But thaaat’s my life!”

Put that to the tone of Hank Hill’s voice from TV’s King of the Hill, add in a little “wild and crazy guy"-era Steve Martin and an endless stream of nervous mumbles, coughs and various asides, and you get a picture of what Neil Hamburger does.

He gets pegged with the so-bad-it’s-funny tag, but judging by his latest CD on Chicago’s indie-cool-kid label Drag City, Laugh Out Lord (with the subtitle: “Forgive me Lord, for this Album, but I needed the money!"), that is only half the story. Jokes like “Aromatherapy,” above, are so bad that they’re just bad, kind of like a less-caustic version of Andy Kaufman’s alter ego, the slimy lounge singer Tony Clifton. But then there are the jokes about Hamburger’s sad American life, with bad motels, worse audiences and the inflated influence of pop culture and corporations, that are often right on the mark.

Discussing his upcoming Moxie’s show, Hamburger (in a recent telephone interview) hoped that the venue might be a “1920s theater that’s been restored, and maybe the mayor will be there to give me the keys to the city.”

Finding out the venue was a café and that he’d be playing with Chico rap duo The Becky Sagers, Hamburger was still excited.

“This could be historic, in the same way getting a parking ticket is.”

Sort of excited.