Remember that episode of Full House, when Uncle Joey started dating another comedian and no one in the house could tell when she was kidding and when she was being serious? And she would walk in the house and say something simple like, "Wow, it's hot outside," only to hear a chorus of Tanners respond by asking her, exaggeratedly, "How hot is it?" Only she wasn't making jokes and she ended up almost breaking up with Uncle Joey because of the annoyance?
No? You don't remember that episode? Hmmm. Well, it pretty much sums up what it's like to interview a comedian, especially over the phone. You can never tell when they're joking or when they're being serious, and the last thing you want to do is laugh in the wrong spot and offend your interview subject.
So, imagine, then, what it's like to interview a comedian like Neil Hamburger. Hamburger fancies himself "American's Funnyman" "It wasn't being used, so we claimed it," he says and, on stage, he spews the kind of jokes that make you cringe. There's no big set-up, no routine; he just gets up there and offers some questions to the audience. And when the audience doesn't know the response sometimes, loyal Hamburger fanatics will cut him off and shout out the answer he'll offer the most inappropriate reply he can muster. Here's an example:
Q: "Why did God send Terri Schiavo to hell?"
A: "For the sin of sloth."
When Hamburger says something, you laugh because you hope it's a joke.
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
This Saturday, when Hamburger comes to town with the multimedia musical comedy act Pleaseeasaur, he won't be offering his act up at Loonee's Comedy Corner on North Academy Boulevard. Instead, he'll be doing so at The Black Sheep, a music venue.
For Hamburger, that's nothing new.
"That's normally what I play," he says. "A lot of the rock 'n roll kids, their minds are all scrambled. So they're the perfect audience for me.
"They like to laugh because their minds are shot from too much listening to all that screaming and horseshit, you know?"
But here in Colorado Springs, this is a fairly new occurrence. Here, audiences haven't seen comedians like Hamburger, guzzling booze and hacking a smoker's cough, on a rock stage that a metal act has graced the night before.
Earlier in the year, The Black Sheep hosted its first comedy night ever. The event was held in the middle of the week, and featured Denver comedians Adam Cayton-Holland and Ben Kronberg.
"That first one was mid-sized," says Geoff Brent, general manager of The Black Sheep. "It definitely wasn't a huge show or anything."
Still, Brent says he was encouraged enough by the attendance. So, when Soda Jerk Presents, the company that owns and books The Black Sheep, noticed the Hamburger/Pleaseeasaur act was coming through the region, it made sense to give comedy a second go.
This time, Cayton-Holland and Kronberg are booked to open the evening. And the event's planned for a Saturday night to encourage a higher attendance.
Brent is confident that with the acts his venue has booked, and with the slight modifications he's made, this second effort could set the stage for a promising comedy future.
"When you think of comedy clubs, you think of hypnotists, you know?" he says. "Most comedy clubs aren't doing anything edgy."
JP Hasson, half the team that makes up the infomercial-spoofing Pleaseeasaur duo, thinks Brent has reason to be confident.
"We've only done one comedy-club show in the 400 shows that we've done," he says. "At rock clubs, there's a sound system, there's usually some alcohol involved and, you know, the kids like to rock out. It's better. It's not this sort of forced, phony, brick-wall, stand-up thing."
A: To get to the other side
Pleaseeasaur is recognized among the more entertaining comedy performances touring the country. Picture a 37-minute set of musical commercials, infomercials and promotional spots for fake companies, all performed by one man (Hasson) wearing 12 different costumes, as a second performer (Thomas Hurley) digitally splashes a screen with cartoon imagery and real-time drawings.
Sound weird? It is. Hasson expects he'll have to win some fans over during the course of his performance.
"The first, I would say, two minutes, [the crowds] are in the process of being a little confused, wondering what's going on and why this is going on," he says. "Then, once people get a taste of all of the features, in the middle of the second song, everyone is transformed into gleeful attendees.
"And if not, then they're fucking jerks."
Hamburger's sets are equally out there. His influences: "Financial woes; health problems; somebody gave me a hard-boiled egg after a show and I put it in the glove compartment and forgot about it and that's been really rotting out real bad, and we've been trying to air the car out and that's hard to do. That's the kind of stuff an artist has on their mind."
It may seem an odd pairing, but with over a hundred shows together since 2001, the Hamburger/Pleaseeasaur act is well-practiced and finely tuned.
"It's great," Hasson says. "Things sort of peak, as far as excitement goes, during our set. And then things sort of drop off a cliff and then Neil comes out and there's this forced tension there."
Sure, that makes things awkward. But more awkward than a comedy performance in a rock venue? And does it even matter if you're laughing the whole time?
Hasson doesn't think so.
"Hopefully, this might give another touring comedy act a shot in Colorado Springs," he says. "Hopefully, it can build, because it's great when you can add a new stop on these tours."
It's also great when you can become one.
Neil Hamburger and Pleaseeasaur with Adam Cayton-Holland, Ben Kronberg
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Saturday, Nov. 10, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $10, all ages; visit ticketweb.com or call 866/468-7621.