Neil Hamburger – Dr El Suavo – Toff In Town (Sun 1 December 2013)



How does one go about reviewing a character such as Neil Hamburger? On one hand, the High Road, we must keep in mind that Hamburger is the creation of Gregg Turkington, who has been behind such cultural détournements as Faxed Head and Zip Code Rapists, that Neil is nothing but a construction, an obstruction and an important signifier that all cultural landmarks, celebrities and pop cultural identities are as much of a construction as Hamburger is himself.

On the other hand, which we shall call the Low Road, we must take Hamburger on his merits and assess him as providing a cutting, distasteful and hilarious window to view popular culture through, to throw steaming bags of shit on and to laugh at with impunity, because no matter what we think it cannot possibly be worse than the thoughts of this deranged “entertainer”. Either way, the critique provided is relevant. Which route you choose may very well depend on how sensitive you are to unbridled tastelessness.

Comedy is a strange beast. Like any other form of entertainment, the things one determines as funny varies incredibly from person to person. Like music, literature and film, some people are happy to just absorb what is put in front of them and accept that as good/entertaining/acceptable, therefore explaining the popularity of Maroon Five, Dan Brown and Everybody Loves Raymond. Other people, the weirdoes, look a little further for their entertainment, ending up spanning the diaspora of art, inhabiting the fringes and embracing that strangeness. Neil Hamburger is perhaps the strangest of all these beasts, simultaneously cranky and curmudgeonly railing against pop culture and it’s protagonists, while providing an incredibly witty and cutting insight into these very things. Hamburger as an art form parodies the ridiculous excess of celebrity, channeled through incredibly distasteful gags and an unpleasant, phlegm drenched, garbled, muttered and shouted delivery.

That Hamburger’ schtick has remained relevant for almost two decades is little wonder, considering the instantaneous nature of the modern celebrity, its immediate delivery to your multitude of mobile devices and how quickly these celebrity characters come in and out of fashion and favour. Hamburger’ oeuvre tonight revolved around some constants in his work, Eric Clapton, Brittany Spears, Madonna and Gene Simmons. A large and rather hilarious segment built up around the education of our Australian audience about American Idol, and it’s judge, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. To give more detail would be to ruin the gag, so let’s leave it there. To my surprise, Hamburger didn’ touch on some more recent celebrity failures such as Kanye West, but did feature a nice segment on “dance music” for the “drug crowd” that was expected at the show.

El Suavo

As might be expected, Hamburger spent a decent amount of time reprimanding certain members of the audience for their manners and appearance, the very same audience members that were such a boon to co-headliner Dr El Suavo. For the uninitiated, El Suavo is to magic what Hamburger is to comedy, poorly performed tricks delivered with a continual running commentary which El Suavo attempted to persuade us was “social commentary” and not bad comedy. El Suavo’ jokes, ahem social comments, were generally puerile, and his magic was so inept that is was a wonder that he had any entertainment value whatsoever, but despite the overwhelming odds tonight’s performance by Dr El Suavo was not only entertaining, but downright hilarious.

As an adept of inept magic myself, I find great solace in the fact that El Suavo has managed to sustain some sort of career out of this dog’ breakfast of one-liners, alcoholism and parlour tricks. It is little wonder that Suavo and Hamburger have become such formidable touring companions, each compliment one another through some aspect of terrible. In this cultural climate of quick and easy perfection, take the current popularity of auto-tune for example, it is refreshing and heartening to see these two, er.. gentlemen taking their craft to the people. The entertainment in El Suavo’ set comes from his ability to allow the audience to feel one, or even five steps ahead of the magician. Each of his tricks are inevitably ruined by his own hand before they even begin, but El Suavo continues through them to our delight. Highbrow he may not be, but entertaining? Yes.

Neil 2

Neil Hamburger and Dr El Suavo are headed around the country over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for them. While they will probably be playing clubs and bars of people expecting their bad taste hilarity, one wonders if they have booked into any regional RSL clubs, under the radar, to perform for audiences that might not be so forgiving at the horror upon the stage. That I would like to see, El Suavo battling a drunken redneck after a few too many Fourex’ after a long day shearin’. Bloody oath.

If you have yet to make the acquaintance of Hamburger or Suavo, be sure to get along to one of their many shows. If you have experienced them before then you know you’ll be back again. It’s hard to imagine having an opportunity to laugh so much over things so wrong, so very very wrong. But that’s my life….

Jason Heller


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