'Funnyman' relishes unfunny image

A capacity crowd wedged its way into the confines of The Replay Lounge on Saturday to witness a type of entertainment rare for the club: comedy.

Neil Hamburger, an underground comic whose background is as much of an enigma as his material, aimed his act toward the hipster venue he was playing.

Traditionally, Hamburger portrays himself as a behind-the-times jokester dubbed "America's Funnyman." The tired observational humor captured on his handful of albums elicits little or no laughter from the audience, who often ignores or berates him. (Some say his recordings are entirely staged, with Hamburger the performance artist supplying all the additional sounds and voices.)

But fame within the indie music scene has led him to larger venues (sometimes stadiums) opening for nationally known bands. Thus his "jokes" have taken on a more blue-edged pop culture feel.

"Why did God invent Britney Spears?" he asked the Replay mob.

"So he'd have a method of transporting silicone into hell."

Hamburger found a unique way to silence hecklers. Walking onstage he loudly coughed for several minutes before launching into the routine. He did the same to silence would-be hecklers during the show.

Dressed in a rumpled tux, wearing black-rimmed glasses and sporting greasy, matted hair, the comedian provided an hour's worth of verbal humor. His best bits weren't necessarily conventionally funny, but drew laughs from the pure tackiness of his delivery.

"Why didn't Santa Claus give anything to Osama bin Laden for Christmas last year?" Hamburger asked.

"Because he blew up the World Trade Center ... No Sony PlayStation 2 for you, Osama."

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