Zany stand-up comedian Neil Hamburger is described by some critics as "the world's worst comedian."
His routine consists of jokes aimed at celebrities and his ex-wife, usually starting with "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and putting his enemies in the punch line. He interrupts his gag material by constantly clearing his throat and acting vaguely strange and unsettling.
A British critic once described Hamburger as "a phlegm-filled sack of putrid self-loathing ... the perfect satire of a slick, professional nightclub comedian."
Hamburger is in reality a character created by musician and comedian Gregg Turkington, the Australian-born, Tempe-raised former musician who will perform at Club Congress on Friday.
Before he created Hamburger, Turkington played in various post punk bands. Hamburger was born out of a series of prank calls Turkington made in 1993. He recorded an album of the calls and decided the character was good enough to create a full-fledged comic persona.
In a phone interview last Friday, Turkington spoke in the character and persona of Hamburger - curmudgeonly with a nasally snarl and healthy amount of cursing.
Hamburger has spent the past 17 years touring around the country, including several stops at Club Congress.
"This is the fifth or sixth time I've done a show at Congress," Hamburger said. "There is the history there with the gunfights and the hobo who killed himself and still haunts the place. There's lots of space, lots of seats, nice drinks and even hotel rooms upstairs if you want to go and take a nap."
There are certainly people who don't understand the Neil Hamburger act, and he has been booed off stages before. He couldn't care less.
"It doesn't matter what idiots think of me," he growled. "If they want to leave, they can get out and go to some awful dance club."
But he's not flattered by the "world's worst comedian" label.
"I don't know how that remark keeps popping up," he said with a scowl. "You get these bitter writers, a--holes really. Clearly my act can't be the worst around - otherwise I wouldn't be headlining Hotel Congress."
More flattering reviews have often seen him compared to Tony Clifton, the character created by comedian Andy Kaufman. Hamburger dismisses the comparison as lazy journalism.
"I don't see the resemblance between Clifton and me," he said. "I saw the guy's show and it was enjoyable but very different. A lot of you journalists are alcoholics and drug-stoned. I mean, I had one who compared me to Mariah Carey, and honestly I thought that was more appropriate."
One thing people can always expect from a Hamburger show is his railing against various celebrities. He loathes many, dismissing them as horrible people. Among his targets: Paris Hilton, who he says is a horrible person with "a terrible body odor"; and Rage Against the Machine, which boycotted Arizona in response to SB 1070. Hamburger snidely remarks that fans should boycott the band because of its "lousy music."
The Neil Hamburger act is just as entertaining as it can be polarizing, and he urges everyone to come out and see for themselves.
"There is no better deal in town than my show," he said.
if you go
• What: Comedian Neil Hamburger in concert, with JP Inc. opening.
• When: 10:30 p.m. Friday
• Where: Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
• Tickets: $5 in advance, $8 at door