Sunday, 4 September 2011
Last night went to see Neil Hamburger at the Soho Theatre. The very fact of venturing into the West End on a Saturday night was a genuine novelty for me, and I was amazed at how busy it was around there. Quite a good atmosphere though, and a decent venue - downstairs at the theatre. The audience was a little on the thin side and truth be told, I didn't know what I was going to see. I felt a bit like Bob & Terry (once again!) in the famous episode: not wanting to find out the result. To be on the safe side, I eschewed the front row out of a sense of fear.
I used to go to comedy a lot, before and during the period when my friend Charlie was trying his hand at making people laugh, and have had a couple of memorable moments heckling. Phill Jupitus once called me Knife Boy at the Comedy Store, because I looked at him with what he described as a psychotic expression on my face. That night, I was as much a prop for him as anything else, and he got a great deal of mileage out of me. An example of how to deal with a heckle. Another time (this time I can't remember the comic's name) I threw in a mocking 'ho ho' at a weak-ish punch line, and this really upset the guy. He became fixated on me after that, and was reduced to mocking my (admittedly awful) stripy jumper. An example of how not to deal with a heckle.
Last night, having never heard of Hamburger before, I didn't know what to expect. He shuffled on to the stage, very much in the mold of Johnny Vegas, dissolute and disgusting, clearing his throat, hair plastered over his forehead, and conducting a long, cumbersome business with 3 glasses of spirits under his arm. I have since read a little about the guy, and have heard him described as 'anti comedy', deliberately alienating his audience, and being subjected to bombardment by small change at rock gigs. His jokes are corny and vitriolic, mostly aimed at easy targets, and very few of them made me laugh. Two did - both of which were about Michael Jackson, and one of those was - IMO - the pick of the night's entertainment. It went as follows:
"What do you call a group of black men, wandering lost in the desert; lost, desolate, abject, hopeless meaningless and pointless...?
The Jackson 4."
The other was a pleasingly repulsive dig at Jackson and his baby dangling stunt, which made me laugh loud & long. Other than that, I failed to really get his schtick, and felt as if I was waiting for the act to really take off. Which it never did. I love irony, don't get me wrong, but this felt too contrived and without much of a point. The Hamburger character seemed ill-defined, and one could not quite grasp him. The small audience was undoubtedly a factor, and there wasn't a great deal of energy in those that they were there, comprised as it was of those (like me) who didn't know what they were going to get, and others (like the fucking annoying, constantly braying twat in front of us) who were pure fanboys. It appears to me that the character would really thrive on a genuinely hostile crowd such as those I've read about when he has gigged at Tenacious D concerts.
In all, an interesting evening, but not an unqualified success.