Review: Gregg Turkington's comedy alter-ego Neil Hamburger at Lincoln Hall in Chicago: He's here to entertain and he is incredibly, impressively unfunny.
by David Compa
Grease-slicked hair stripes across his forehead in a blatant comb-over. He spills half of his drink setting it on a music stand and pours the rest on his head a few minutes later. He loudly and abruptly clears his throat, pauses, and then clears it again. Ladies and germs, this is Neil Hamburger, the boorish, often shrill, tuxedo-clad, sad-sack alter ego of comedian Gregg Turkington. He's here to entertain and he is incredibly, impressively, exquisitely unfunny. And that's the point. Neil Hamburger — whose non-sequitur-laden act plays out like a brutally crushing mockery of Jay Leno crossed with a bitter, washed-up drunk on a bar stool — is a near-perfect case study in the upside down world of anti-comedy, where groaners are golden and agitation is an art form. Often compared to Tony Clifton, the churlish entertainer created by the late Andy Kaufman, Turkington's creation is much less cocksure but equally abrasive. The entire premise of anti-comedy is predicated on the notion that if you travel far enough down the rabbit hole of humor you'll sail past funny, borderline, bad and even plain old terrible and emerge on the other side with so-bad-it's-good and disaster-as-art-form. If you accept this theory, Hamburger's your guy. As Hamburger, Turkington has over the course of 25 years released a series of bizarre albums (with titles like "Raw Hamburger" and "Left for Dead in Malaysia"), appeared on offbeat Cartoon Network shows like "Adult Swim" and "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" and even starred in a feature film (2015's mostly well-received "Entertainment"). He's also toured the country several times over. As part of his current tour, he was in Chicago on Wednesday night, crisscrossing the stage in Lincoln Hall's intimate auditorium with a drink alternately in his hand and tucked into the crook of his arm. With frequent grimaces and heavy sighs, Hamburger worked through an hour of painfully plodding material that drew cheers, heckles and, believe it or not, laughter. "What is the most disgusting thing about eating sushi off of Britney Spears' chest? The sushi probably came from Panda Express." His jokes are eye-rollingly bad, but there's a certain