Of course, when you're talking Hamburger, "flopped" is relative. Built on a foundation of excruciatingly unfunny material, his shtick elicits awkward silences, throat clearings, coughs and heckles (even on his records). Unreal caught up with Hamburger at his L.A. home on the eve of his "Summer of Laughs" American tour.
Unreal: Some of the laughs on your CDs seem to have been added later, electronically.
Neil Hamburger: Well, the shows I do, there's always a good cross-section of laughter. I'm not a technical person, but during the mastering process, a lot of times the recording of the applause, you get distortion, which can rattle the insides of your ears. So they take these tapes into the studio and "sweeten" them just a little bit. If you had 100 people laughing and screaming but the recording is distorted, you remove that and you put in a tape of 100 people laughing and screaming, which is exactly the response that I got.
Why do you think your fan base is composed almost entirely of hipster white guys?
I think it's because we haven't had a lot of the material translated into other languages yet. I have a new DVD coming out, Live at the Phoenix Greyhound Dog Track, and we have a Japanese translation track on that, and a Spanish translation track. I think after that you'll see a lot more of, you know, your different racial types in the audience.
This is your first gig in St. Louis?
Well, I haven't been there before, but years ago I was at Disneyland here in Los Angeles; they had an attraction where you stand in the center of a dome-shaped room, and they had fourteen cameras mounted on a dolly and they basically traveled around St. Louis on this dolly. And so I saw the famous Arch, and, of course, the Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is of course probably quite different than it was in the Sixties, because the quality in some of these fast-food chains has really slipped. But anyway, I felt that I was in St. Louis, and had the tour. Do they still have the roller coaster that goes on the Arch, or has that been taken down?
They took that down, unfortunately.
Oh well. I'll have a look at it anyway.
You're being booked at some of L.A.'s best comedy clubs.
Well, I am playing at the Los Angeles Improv next week. That's where Jerry Seinfield and some of the others--
-- I think it's Seinfeld.
Oh? Well, anyway, a lot of the bigger people have been on that stage, so, you know, if it doesn't go well, the failure is multiplied.
Dial M for Moron
Now that the sagging economy is propped up, everybody has a job, the WMD have been found and all the terrorists have been rounded up and sent to camp for the summer, our elected officials in Washington have gotten down to the real work of government and created legislation to protect Americans from the clear and present danger of telemarketers.
This national "don't call us" list (which the Riverfront Times successfully beta-tested a few weeks ago) supersedes Missouri's own "no call list," but don't worry: Our state legislators worked overtime to come up with a bunch of other nuisance calls they could protect us from. After all, it's so much easier to block calls than it is to balance budgets, fix the schools or come up with a universal healthcare plan. Prepare to enjoy the silence, Missouri.
· Booty calls are permissible only within the first year of breakup; no calls after 3 a.m. (Valentine's Day is exempt)
· College students seeking parental loans may not call until second semester (calls during rush week are exempt)
· Calls from mothers to single daughters over age 30 requesting information about potential spouses and/or possible grandchildren are limited to two per year; neither call may come on daughter's birthday or anniversary of last breakup
· Single women may not call their married friends to lament their never-ending loneliness or gripe about their shitty relationships more than once a month; husbands may end this monthly call at any time, as it only leads to trouble for them.
Life Among the Luddites
As of last month, anyone with a computer can look up some 7,000 state Supreme Court cases filed between 1783 and 1871. The online database, compiled by interns hired by the Supreme Court of Missouri Historical Society, is available at Secretary of State Matt Blunt's Web site, http://www.sos.mo.gov/.
One can only hope those interns soon find jobs in St. Louis and St. Louis County, where the courts remain in the Stone Age of computerization. That's right: While you can go online to browse court records relating to Dred Scott and Lewis and Clark, you still have to trek to the courthouse to find out about cases filed after the Nineteenth Century.
Cases from each of the state's 45 circuit courts were supposed to be available on line by next year, but the computerization project started in 1997 is far from finished.
Why not put existing courtroom databases, now accessible only from courthouse computers, onto city and county Web pages? Paul Fox, director of judicial administration for St. Louis County, says that takes time. "I've got my computer people working on it," he says, predicting that at least some county court records will be online by year's end. In the city, Circuit Clerk Mariano Favazza, who has managed to put records involving landlord-tenant disputes online, won't say why he hasn't put anything else on the Internet.
Of course, the rules are different if you're a lawyer: For nearly ten years, licensed attorneys have been able to use their own computers to search public court records in St. Louis and St. Louis County. Linda Oligschlaeger, membership services director for the Missouri Bar Association, says the lawyers' dues help pay for the online system. "Do you have a lawyer on staff?" she suggests. "It would save you a lot of trips to the courthouse, that's true."
Who You Callin' Hipster?
The Hipster Handbook, written by Brooklyn -- that's Brooklyn, New Yawk -- resident Robert Lanham, purports to be the ultimate source for tips on what's hip (e.g., complacency, cosmopolitans) and what's not (aerosol deodorants). There's also a Web site, hipsterhandbook.com, which allows visitors to ascertain their own hipster quotient by answering a few dozen impertinent questions.
But who has time for it? Here in St. Louis, we like to keep it a little more real. Without further ado, Unreal presents the "Are You a St. Louis Hipster?" quiz. Because after all, hipness is relative, even if your relatives aren't hip.
1) Which type of hat would you most likely be found wearing?
A) The tall striped kind favored by characters in Dr. Seuss stories.
B) The green mesh kind that say "John Deere."
C) Rams, baby!
2) KFC or Church's?
C) I don't eat fried meats.
3) What do you do when someone calls you a "hoosier"?
A) Throw them over your knee and spank them like a baby.
B) Raise your can of Milwaukee's Best in a toast.
4) You went to Wash. U.
The hip answer to each question is B. A score of three correct answers qualifies you for membership in this exclusive club. Godspeed, STL hipster!