Neil Hamburger

Great Moments At Di Presa’s Pizza House

[4] Only
America’s self-proclaimed funnyman, Neil Hamburger, could come up with
something like this. Part stand-up comedy, part mockumentary and all completely
fucking absurd, Great Moments At Di Presa’s Pizza House tells the story
of a doomed pizza parlor, narrated by Hamburger himself and interspersed with
a revolving-door cast of witnesses (including customers, city health officials
and managers). Whether it’s the new owner talking about not renaming the
parlor after the original owner died because he didn’t feel like printing
new menus or Hamburger himself telling jokes like, “Why did God invent
herpes?” (Answer: “So Robin Williams would have something to give
his female fans that they couldn’t just turn around and sell on eBay”),
Live At Di Presa’s, is, unlike the management of the failed pizza house,
consistent-and consistently funny. (DRAG CITY)

SESSION With America’s Funnyman, Neil Hamburger.

The last
time you were in AP, it was a Guest List column where you reviewed CDs by other
comedians-do you remember that?

Well, I remember having to listen to a bunch of garbage and having to write
something about it. The mind, you know, isn’t as sharp as it was, so I
don’t remember the particulars.

You reviewed
the first David Cross album, and since then, his career has really taken off.
So, what have you been up to?

Well, I did do a show with him, a couple of shows at some point. But his star
rises; mine is on the wane. I would like to get some sort of television thing
going, if you could set that up-some sort of sitcom or something; that
would be teriffic. We did have some interest for a while with Tom Green; he
was trying to get something off the ground for us, but I think because the country’s
headed into a depression, that wasn’t possible. So that, that crumbled…

Could you
talk about the idea for the new album? It’s the first one that isn’t
straight stand-up.

No, it is a very different thing. We felt strongly that it’s important
to grow and move in a new artistic direction. You know, as an artist, that’s
something you have to do when nothing else is working. So, I had been performing
many years at this particular pizza restaurant, and they originally commissioned
us to do some souvenir recording that they could sell by the cash register,
sort of an impulse buy for the locals.

How much
of Di Presa’s is true, and how much of it is fictional?

Well, a lot of it is true. We did a lot of on-the-spot interviews, and we have
hundreds of hours of stuff recorded; but to try to make the record more entertaining,
we did go into the recording studio and try to “sweeten the tracks,”
as they say in the business. I’d have to say a good percentage of it is
true: somewhere between 68 and 78 percent.

Are you
planning on incorporating any of this into the live shows?

We wanted to have a traveling pizza cart with us for this pizza-house tour that
we’re embarking on, and have a guy who could actually sell slices of pizza
to the audience during the show; but after that whole thing in Rhode Island
with the fire and all that, we decided it wasn’t a good idea to bring
some sort of traveling oven into these nightclubs. A lot of them have cardboard
walls, basically, and that’s not something we would wish on our fans-or
anybody, for that matter.

Do you
think that Di Presa’s would be a good introduction to your work?

Do you think so?

No, not

Yeah, me neither. It could be a good introduction to people who are interested
in learning the history of the comedy pizza-parlor circuit. You know, for students
who want to study these types of pizza parlors, there’s a lot of history
on this.

So, would
you say this album is educational and entertaining?

I do think so. You have the history of the California central valley; you also
have the history of pizza-parlor circuits, and the men who worked those circuits
and ended up broken down and in despair-such as myself. If you’re
looking for just a quick laugh, maybe one of the other records would provide
that a little bit better. That’s for you to decide in your article. Hopefully,
you will recommend something other than more David Cross.-Jonah Bayer