Before I begin, there are two things you need to know:
1 – I have a horrendous history of talking to celebrities/”celebrities”. I should have learnt my lesson long before I decided to talk to Neil Hamburger. There is nothing to discuss with someone you have nothing in common with except their life work. There is only one opening line: “I like your music/films/jokes about shit and vaginas”. Then what? They stand there looking like they’ve heard the same thing one million times already because they have heard the same thing one million times already. Then you both stand there feeling like the air has been sucked out of the room and then you turn red, awkwardly laugh and say ‘Oh gosh! I bet you’ve heard that one million times before!’ except you’re dying of nerves, so you probably actually say ‘Oh gash! I bort you’ve heard that one billion tomes before!’
2 – Neil Hamburger, if you are unfamiliar, makes jokes about shit and vaginas. Together. With added Julia Roberts. It should not be possible to shame yourself in front of this man. This man’s entire career is based around the fact that there is nothing he won’t say aloud. Also, hacking coughs.
I discovered Neil Hamburger through an old manfriend, who sold himself as having encyclopedic knowledge about obtuse music and/or pop culture and I fell for it hook, line and sinker and for the most part, it served me well.
We used to see Neil quite often, either opening for some band, or random stand ups he’d do in weird little pubs. Usually he would perform after Dr El Suavo who is a magician who once stroked my old manfriend’s face with a very realistic and large dildo as part of his act. Actually, I believe it may have been on this night that I shamed myself. Let me set the scene:
We are at a random pub in the Blue Mountains. Dr El Suavo is performing magic onstage, before stalking the crowd looking for someone to “volunteer”. It is one of my greatest fears to be chosen to “volunteer”, so imagine my horror when this maniac circled me as the pub’s PA played a very pornographic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Also, I think the good Doctor was drunk. I was sober and terrified and of course, he picked me, dragged me onstage, put a bondage mask on me and a giant hat shaped like a condom and made me buckle him into a straight jacket. I didn’t realise I had a giant condom on my head and as I wept behind my mask, I gently stroked it, assuming it was just your run-of-the-mill hat. The crowd laughed. My manfriend looked at me condescendingly. The Doctor flailed around, jerking around until he was out of the jacket and then released me into the crowd, where I took my seat, broken and was offered no sympathy from my manfriend. The Doctor circled us again, this time wielding a giant, very realistic dildo. My legs instinctively clamped shut and I started to sweat. He sneered at me, and then, almost lovingly, stroked the side of my manfriend’s face with the dildo, the tender part of the face, right up close to the mouth. It was my turn to look on condescendingly.
It was in this atmosphere that Neil Hamburger took the stage. If you’ve never seen Neil, I won’t spoil it other than to say his purpose is to make your feel incredibly uncomfortable, and it works best when most of the audience have no idea who he is, which was the case this night. He slayed them, if by slayed you mean he insulted a large portion of the room and spent a large chunk of his allotted time hacking his guts up louder than the hecklers could heckle. It was brilliant.
After the show, he was sitting on the stage, signing things and chatting to the crowd and I thought to myself, well, I’ve had a huge condom on my head, a stranger put me in a bondage mask before I strapped him into a straight jacket and my manfriend had a plastic penis very close to his mouth. What harm could there be in making some small talk with a celebrity on a night like this?!
The answer to this question should have been ‘there is so much harm that will come from talking to anyone in this atmosphere’, but instead we approached the stage and fuelled by a masochistic desire to make some connection with this man whose entire existence was designed to repel me, I spoke.
‘I find you really funny!’ said Julia to the comedian.
Ah, we were off to a great start.
He looked at me through huge, dirty glasses and from beneath a greasy comb-over. I panicked and grasped at straws, both physically and mentally, as a small, silent crowd of fellow Neil Hamburgerites looked on, uneasy as this tall, red, awkward woman stuttered at their idol. Suddenly it came to me. My manfriend had told me that the man behind the Neil Hamburger persona co-owned Ipecac Records, whose news section I found mildly amusing. I lie. I didn’t even find it mildy amusing, it had maybe made me smile once. I was about to lie to a celebrity.
‘You’re record lable’s site made me laugh the other day!’
‘Really? Which part?’
‘The news section mostly, you know, on Ipecac?’
This is the part where I should have taken the nearest beer bottle, broken it, inserted it through the front of my throat and removed my voice box, taken my voice box into the ladies bathroom and flushed it down the toilet. Never, never act like a know-it-all fanboy douche bag. Do not name drop.
‘Hmm…I don’t really have much to do with that website actually. Here! Have this sticker!’
The worst part about this story was that while I walked away, kicking myself for going the fanboy douch bag option, it wasn’t until years later that I made the most horrifying discovery of all: the reason Neil Hamburger was (admittedly very politely) confused by my Ipecac reference was because Neil Hamburger is played by Gregg Turkington. Ipecac Recordings was co-founded by Greg Werckman. My blood went cold when I realised this and I looked at my soon-to-be-ex-manfriend with disgust.
It would be like if someone left a comment here, congratulating me on my Photoshopping skills over at Perez Hilton because they assumed that as our names shared a few letters and our Photoshopping skills both extend to drawing white penises next to people’s faces, we must be the same person.
I shared this story, which I have honestly never been able to bring myself to tell anyone before, because my friend Pete ran a half marathon on the weekend and I promised that if he raised $600 for The Black Dog Institute, which helps those with depression, I would write about being the world’s most giant loser. So there you have it, in all its horror.