Flagpole’s Neil Hamburger Q&A: Outtakes and Rarities

This week Flagpole had a chat with the hardest-working (by financial necessity, he says) comic in show business, Mr. Neil Hamburger. Of course, his manic, disturbed ranting and raving wouldn’t all fit in print, and so we offer this online supplement.

Flagpole: You talk about lawsuits, and that brings us to the topic of your Twitter feed. You could maybe be accused of libel in certain situations when you write in response to big corporations. Why such an active, negative campaign on Twitter against these corporations?

NH: Well, in the first place, none of it is libelous, because everything I say is true. Now, what’s not true is the garbage that they’re putting out there about their horrible products. And so I’m merely just defending myself, defending the people that have to read this stuff from having their whole week ruined from having to read this garbage. There’s nothing libelous about what I’m saying at all. In fact, I stand behind every word of it. And I don’t think that these people can stand behind every word of the garbage that they send out, I’ll tell you.

FP: I’ve noticed that the Taco Bell Twitter account has been getting a lot of attention recently. They’re trying very hard to be clever and witty, and do you think that the people at Taco Bell actually have an imagination? Are they hiring young people? What’s the story with those people?

NH: Well, who knows who’s actually doing this. I’m sure it’s not the CEO and I’m sure it’s not whoever it is that developed the ghastly recipe for refried beans, the main component of which is powder. They’re just big bags, cement bags filled with powder that they’re stirring up with tap water to make these beans that they’re slopping on their tortillas. Those tortillas have more ingredients than a casserole. I mean, it’s a chemical slurry that goes into those things. So I don’t know who’s actually tweeting, but I do know this: their attempts at humor are poor. Their attempts at engaging folks are also poor, evidenced by the fact that these companies have fewer followers than even I do, you know what I’m saying? So what I don’t understand is why you’ve got billions of dollars in the bank, you’ve got billions of customers buying the slop that you’re dishing out, why don’t you leave the Twitter and that sort of thing to people who are actually entertaining and have something to say? And just stick to serving slop to pigs, which is what you guys are good at, you know what I’m saying?

FP: It looks like you have two new records out this year: Incident in Cambridge and Live at Third Man . Are they straight-ahead live comedy albums, or is there something different or out of the ordinary about them?

NH: Normally when we try to release a record, they’re not straight live records at all. In fact, we’ve tried to avoid releasing records of that nature, because—you know, who cares really about somebody just taping a show and pressing it up. But in this case, in the case of the Nashville one [Live at the Third Man], it was a very special evening at a very special venue, and a very special event. We had the restrictions in place that it was being recorded live directly to analog tape, in which you have to keep your set to exactly twenty minutes, because that’s the length of each side of a record. And so that was a fun little thing to play with, and so we believe that the record came out quite good. And of course when you’ve got a top producer at the helm, things tend to come out good, because these guys know what they’re doing. It’s not just some slob in the back of the club with a Walkman cassette recorder in their lap. It’s high quality production all along. So we feel very strongly that we’re offering a quality product with that record.

The other thing that you mentioned is a strictly internet, who-gives-a-shit sort of release for the digital creeps. It’s a download-only thing. It’s a recording of a show from some years back. You know, there’s people that won’t buy records, that won’t buy cassette tapes, that won’t buy compact discs. It’s all got to be this digital shit, which you can’t hold in your hands, you can’t pass along to a child, you can’t wrap up in a beautiful red-and-green Christmas wrapping with Christmas trees and things on it, little teddy bears, and put it under the tree. It’s this invisible format which we don’t really have a lot of confidence in. Now, in the case of Live at the Third Man, that was only a record. You’re actually going to have to carry that thing around with you for the rest of your life. It weighs a quarter of a pound, at least. But in the case of this Cambridge release that you’re talking about, it’s just a bunch of dots and dashes, and I couldn’t give a shit what happens to it.

FP: Well, thanks for talking with us, we’re happy to see you returning to Athens.

NH: Well, it would be nice to get back there again and walk those lonely streets and have a couple of drinks or two and get out and entertain you folks. We do appreciate you bringing this act to the attention of the students and the non-student locals.


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