It has to be the motliest crew of comedians to ever share the same rental car. You've got Todd Barry, the low-key, sexy-voiced veteran, a frequent guest on Letterman and Conan and a guy who's shared the big screen opposite Mickey Rourke and Paul Rudd. You've got your devilish up-and-comer, Brendon Walsh, known for his elaborate pranks and hipster beard. And then you've got, well ... Neil Hamburger.
There's just no easy way to describe that last one. A comedian's comedian, he's one of the funniest and strangest acts we've ever come across. One part celeb pundit, one part anti-humor performance artist, Hamburger is the alter-ego of former avant-punk musician/label owner Gregg Turkington. Basically, he's a caricature of a cheesy, washed-up, '70s lounge act, complete with a greasy combover, throat-clearing coughs, and horribly hilarious one-liners that range from badly timed groaners about "his ex-wife" to the just plain tasteless. Naturally, his worst jokes are some of his best, simply because of the bewildered crowd reaction: usually a mixture of awkward silence, tense giggling, and a handful of outright boos. And his best jokes? They're so awful you laugh out loud and immediately want to take a hot shower in holy water.
"This is the hottest ticket in town," says Hamburger about Thursday night's line-up. "These are genuinely funny people. And I tell you what, if you're going to travel with somebody, I'd much rather travel with a genuinely funny person than a genuinely morbid person. If you're traveling with funeral directors, for instance, it's going to be a lot of discussion about draining bodily fluid out of a body before filling it up with formaldehyde to preserve it during burial. And that's the type of discussion that will bring you down. Whereas these guys, they just fire off one joke after another. If you ever have the opportunity to travel with Todd Barry and Brendon Walsh, I really do recommend it."
That's strong praise from a guy who's toured with both Tenacious D and Faith No More, and who recently recorded an album (Live at Third Man) produced by none other than Jack White. But, of course, we didn't call Hamburger to talk about funeral directors and embalming fluid. We called to get the dirt. First up: Todd Barry.
Now, to most people, Barry is arguably the most recognizable of the three comics on this tour. You've seen him playing bongos on Flight of the Conchords. You've watched him verbally abuse Louis C.K. on Louis. You've heard his velvet-smooth voice on Bob's Burgers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. And remember Mickey Rourke's asshole boss in The Wrestler? Yep.
"I would say his energy level is low to medium," says Hamburger. "I mean, he's not one of those guys who's going to get up there and stick his finger in a light socket and start pissing all over everyone in the front row, you know, with his hair on fire, and dripping blood out of his nose and out of his mouth. That's not the type of show it is. This is a very relaxed man, who is very, very, very funny. And quite honestly, he's been one of the top comedians for many years. My God, you guys are lucky that he's coming to your town, you know? Because he doesn't go everywhere. I go everywhere. I mean, I've got a map here, and I stick a pin in any town that exists and try to get there."
Well, no dirt there. So how about the new guy to the scene, L.A.-via-Austin-via-Philly comedian Brendon Walsh?
"He's lived all over the place," says Hamburger. "I mean, the guy has got a million tales. He used to be a sailor, in fact. And then he graduated to captaining a ship. And then from there, he went and bought the whole company. And now he owns a line of cruise ships, that just sails between Providence, R.I., and Nassau, Bahamas. He's a multi-billionaire who just does this for fun. And I think we should all be fortunate that that's the case. Because he's got a lot to offer."
Oh, do go on...
"But I think that his cruise ships that he owns...," he hesitates. "He's made a lot of money owning these cruise ships, but some of their policies regarding their workers are quite bad, from what I understand. I've heard that there's some slavery going on. 'Cause the ship is registered outside of the United States. Some of the chefs, some of the bakers, some of the pastry chefs and things, have filed suit against Brendon for being enslaved. And I think that they're probably going to win the suit. So he might not be on the tour. He may be in jail for the rest of his life. I don't know."
"It'd be too bad if he is in jail, because he's funny. But I tell you, it's good for the other prisoners, because he will make them laugh."