Monday, September 10, 2007

Neil Hamburger/Pleaseeasaur, September 9th, 2007

Last night we saw Neil Hamburger and Pleaseeasaur at the Middle East. This was third time seeing each act. (And this will be my third time writing about them, so use the little search box at the top to read about the other times.)

I fell in love with Pleaseeasaur after one song the first time I saw them. Now, I'll gladly sell off children/organs for a chance to see them live. You've got one guy behind the scenes working the slide projectors. And you've got the main dude switching from one costume to the next, singing songs. The songs are basically fake commercials for different fake products or fake services. I saw an interview with the guy, and he talks about how he was influenced by late-night infomercials, calling 1 AM to 5 AM his "PPT"--Personal Prime Time. This guy totally speaks my language.

What makes it great is his delivery and overall "pitchman" persona. It would be funny anyway, because the slides in the background and the costumes will crack you up even if there were no soundtrack. But the guy has his schtick down. And these aren't just four-line jingles. He's written several masterpieces. Granted, they're about limousine services, Asian food, and cobras, but they're masterpieces nonetheless. My new favorite is "Action City News." You can hear some of his tunes here, but it's so much better to see him live. (Providence tonight, Portland, Maine tomorrow.) So if you can't do that, get a DVD. Also, it helps if you're a child of the 80s like me.

If you don't know Neil Hamburger, I'll fill you in. This is a nearly forty-year old dude who performs as an aging, ugly, sweaty, depressed, and most important, awful stand-up comic. When he started out with this character, that was the whole joke: he's funny because he's not funny. The albums would feature him playing to a (fake) unresponsive audience who would only speak up to heckle him. Yet the unfunniness was pretty damn funny. Now he actually goes around playing shows to audiences who know exactly what to expect, and therefore are encouraged to act like the audiences on the albums. But, again, it's just so funny that the audience laughs their asses off the whole time. It's a challenge for him to come up with a joke people don't laugh at. When he pulls this off, he gives the "I'm so horrible" frown, and everyone laughs again.

Some might think a routine that's purposely bad is a cop out: If you fail, it's okay, you're supposed to be bad. But this guy's expected to make us laugh with his badness. If the badness is good, it works, if it's bad, it doesn't. Which makes the successful performances even more impressive. Last night, Neil's big target were the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "What's the only thing worse than a new Red Hot Chili Peppers album?" "Nine eleven." So true. And that's the whole act. "Why did Paris Hilton...?" "What do you call it when Britney Spears...?" And then he tells the audience how bad they are and throws his drink at you. It's great. Try the Hamburger. (New interview with him here.)

Tonight I'm at Fenway for the Neil Hamburger of pitchers, Curt Schilling, against "Dunna Nunt, dunna nunt, dunna nunt, dunna nunt Oh let the sun beat down upon my face."


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Location: Rhode Island, United States