Categories: Arts Comedy

Not concerned with mass appeal, Gregg Turkington thrives as Neil Hamburger

With his ultra-greasy comb over, garish lounge tuxedo and array of cringe-worthy one-liners, Neil Hamburger is going to offend some people. And that’s just fine for Gregg Turkington, the comedian who created the louche, ridiculous persona.

“I’m certainly prepared for the probability that most people will think what I’m doing is crazy,” says Turkington, who performs as the character at The Independent this weekend.

Turkington, who lived in San Francisco in the 1980s-90s, was inspired to try out Hamburger after witnessing unseemly oddballs who made up the low-stakes comedy circuit of Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos. He originally imitated the curmudgeonly comics by making crank phone calls, before moving on to comedy albums, and eventually taking the stage as the fully-realized character in a standup routine.

“It started with this preposterous joke that there really should be no audience for, but to me, they were really funny ideas,” says Turkington, who starred as a comic playing the Neil Hamburger character in the 2015 movie “Entertainment.”

He adds, “Now this character is pretty well known, has been in a feature-film — it’s kind of crazy how big it’s become.”

Those unfamiliar with the character sometimes find him off-putting or bizarre; Turkington says reactions to his shows vary from place to place and on case-by-case basis.

“I think it’s more interesting for me when I don’t know what to expect,” says Turkington. “Sometimes you walk into these small towns and you think people are going to tar and feather you, and they couldn’t be nicer. And I’ve opened shows in San Francisco — my town, basically — and people have been incredibly hostile.”

Interestingly, Turkington’s other famous comic persona is the opposite of Neil Hamburger.

Working with Tim Heidecker, he created an alternative “Gregg Turkington” character — an obsequious, clueless film critic with a love for VHS movies.

The comics’ movie review podcast “On Cinema at the Cinema” is filled with ancillary details and little analysis.

Although it started as a one-off bit, the podcast evolved into a mini soap-opera now airing on Adult Swim, with both characters developing as ultra-exaggerated versions of themselves.

Turkington concedes that “On Cinema” and Neil Hamburger may be confusing and difficult for newcomers. At the same time, he loathes being called an “alternative comic.”

“I just don’t think I could do ‘traditional standup’ any more than I could repair a Jaguar,” he says. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to make people laugh. It’s just a specific audience I’m targeting.”

IF YOU GO
Neil Hamburger
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 16
Tickets: $16
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.theindepdentsf.com

Will Reisman
Share
Published by
Will Reisman

Recent Posts

City leaders, workers rally against racial disparities at MLK Day march

San Francisco city leaders, including Mayor London Breed and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined hundreds of people on Dr. Martin…

2 hours ago

SF on the march in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

San Francisco city leaders, including Mayor London Breed and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined hundreds of people Monday in a…

2 hours ago

Kamala Harris was shaped by the crucible of San Francisco politics

When Kamala Harris looks back on her first campaign, a run for San Francisco district attorney, she remembers a brutal…

3 hours ago

Both quarterbacks in this year’s Super Bowl hail from the Bay Area

Neither of the Bay Area's NFL teams made this year's Super Bowl, but the quarterbacks that took their teams to…

4 hours ago

Salonen makes powerful SF Symphony debut

Esa-Pekka Salonen, slated to succeed Michael Tilson Thomas as the San Francisco Symphony’s 12th music director is 2020, already is…

5 hours ago

USF Dons point guard Frankie Ferrari named WCC Player of the Week

Senior University of San Francisco senior point guard guard Frankie Ferrari, while battling strep throat, led the Dons to another…

7 hours ago