The Daily Iowan

Unique comic Neil Hamburger is coming to Iowa City

The comedic character Neil Hamburger can be found at the Mill this weekend, performing his signature style of bizarre comedy.

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Austin Yerington, Arts Reporter

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On March 16, Iowa City has the opportunity to experience alternative comedian Neil Hamburger at the Mill.

Gregg Turkington’s Neil Hamburger is a comedic character who can divide a room. His avant-garde performances mixed with his black anti-comedy is a choice that can tickle some or enrage others, but for Turkington, that’s the point.

“You get people everywhere that hate it, people everywhere that want to kill you, people everywhere that thinks it’s boring and trivial, & useless,” Turkington said. “It’s my idea of putting forth an idea of what I think might be funny. And that’s that.”

Turkington is a writer, comedian, and actor who many may know from his work on Adult Swim’s “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show,” “Great Job,” and from 2015’s “Ant-Man.”

He created Neil Hamburger through a series of prank calls bits in the 1990s that led to his first record. Fast-forward a dozen comedy albums, a feature-length film, and performances at such venues as Madison Square Garden, and it becomes evident that Turkington has a loyal and devoted fan base.

“It was not about pandering toward the general audience,” Turkington said. “But more toward to putting out a show that only a few people would like, but those few would really, really like it.”

Turkington has been a comedian who loves to put on a show that he would find funny. He has no interest in putting out a show that he would view as a “traditional,” observational-based standup routine.

“I just don’t find it very interesting. I’m not interested in hearing things that I agree with, and that making for a satisfying evening,” he said. “I don’t really care if we share the same observation. I want something funny to happen.”

This character-based show is very reminiscent of famous 1970s comedian Andy Kaufman, with Kaufman and Turkington using characters as a way to both entertain but also challenge the structures of what came before.

“Andy Kaufman is a good reference,” Turkington said. “He was doing performance art, character comedy, and that’s different from [comedians] who just come up and talk about their day or their problems dating.”

The drive to be unique in spite of the audience Turkington says comes from having had a strong connection to punk rock in the past, not the music so much but the ideology.

“An attitude of tearing down the structure that was in place that created really boring rock bands at that time,” Turkington said. “That attitude works well with comedy or anything in life.”

This punk-rock attitude is the foundation of Turkington’s comedic ventures.

“You’ve got to be trying to put out what you think is the best thing, and a lot of people won’t like it, and that is fine.” Turkington said. “I’m not saying my taste is the best taste, but it’s my taste.”

Different taste is something that many will politely say when critiquing Neil Hamburger, but at many live performances, the audience will not be so polite. With many experiences involving booing, screaming, and throwing things at him, Turkington is no stranger to people responding with a negative reaction.

“Sometimes it’s as easy as a couple of people in the crowd really hating it and are booing and screaming things, and then other people follow their cue,” Turkington said. “But then you talk to people afterwards, and they will say, ‘I really liked it, but I didn’t say anything, I just sat there enjoying the show.’ Like with many things, the squeaky wheel gets the grief.”

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