Where are you calling from right now?

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I don't know if you've seen the Super 6 motels, but this one is just outside of Paso Robles, California. We couldn't afford to stay in town so we're staying here after a pizza parlor show. There were a few days off so I have to fill them so we call these pizza parlors and get these shows set up, just to tell the jokes to people while they eat the cheese pizza, or, you know, mushroom pizza is another one that people like to get.

Yeah, those are good ones... but when the tour ends, where will you go?

The tours never end. I'm booked through 2028. There's really no reason to have a home except for in the hearts of those I entertain. But I'm very excited about March of 2028 because that is when I'll have paid off all the money I owe my manager. I signed a really bad deal.

So what's this tour all about? It's comedy and country music, right?

This is a very unique presentation. This is a 90-minute revue. It's a variety show. We pack in 150 jokes, unlike some of these newer comedians who talk for seven minutes about buying a bag of potato chips. We got the jokes; we got the songs. You'll get short little skits. All kinds of things are going on. It's really modeled after the old Hee Haw television show. So if you don't like music there are plenty of jokes, and if you don't like jokes there's plenty of music.

What's the band like?

These guys are some of the best musicians you've ever seen, so why they are backing me, no one understands. That's one of the things—you'll have a room where everyone is scratching their heads so much, wondering why these guys are playing with me, that the floor is covered in dandruff flakes! It looks like some sort of snowstorm has come in through the ceiling. It's a very strange phenomenon, but it's worth the price of admission just to see that.

So why the change to the country-western music?

We've done more comedy albums than Redd Foxx. Except, who's that hippie drug guy... George Carlin. He really needs to take a bath—but that's a whole other thing. Besides him, there aren't many comedians who have been making records as long as I have. So we wanted to do something different, and we looked at some of the great records that have been made in the past, by Telly Savalas who played Kojak, by William Shatner who played Captain Kirk in the Priceline ads, and of course, Leonard Nimoy. And so, listening to David Hasselhoff records and even Clint Eastwood records—there's a personality at work on those.

Sure.

That's what people want to hear. They want a souvenir. So if you like George Burns but you don't want to listen to him tell jokes while you're driving down the highway at 90 miles per hour, you buy the album of George Burns singing. That was the impetus of this: to tap into the whole celebrity vocal market. People don't even care if celebrities can sing well or not.

Can you sing well?

Well, I'm not Phil Collins. I'm not even a music fan. I'm a fan of getting out there and doing my comedy, but, let's face it, I don't know if you've noticed but most of the records that are selling these days are music records, not spoken records. And when we noticed this, after examining the charts over several weeks, we said: Hold on! The Collected Speeches of Winston Churchill isn't even on the charts. People don't want a record of talking, but what they do want is this "music," which has gotten very, very popular in the last few years. So we decided to get in on that whole bag. And I found some guys that not only follow music, but actually play it.

And you'll be in Seattle pretty soon. Have you ever played here?

Yeah, you've got that outer-space statue. That's where you guys have really won out. A lot of these towns, you go into them and it looks like you're in the past, but Seattle is forward-looking. We always get a warm response out there. They like to laugh. That's what people like and that's what we'll have: one joke after another, all night fucking long, to try to forget all their troubles. That's what it's about: the laughter and the jokes and the forgetting of all the horrible trauma that a lot of people in that town have subjected themselves to.

Some critics have called you the "world's worst standup." How do you feel about that?

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Well, those journalists have an agenda. They're trying to hurt me. And we've got an investigator who's investigated a couple of those journalists and has seen that they had ties with Carrot Top. They're on his payroll! The guy has made a fortune playing at the Luxor, the largest pyramid in North America. You've got to follow the money. It's all traced to a bank account in Florida, which, of course, is where Carrot Top resides. And now he's just trying to deflect his criticism to me. recommended

Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners is out now on Drag City. Neil Hamburger with the Too-Good-for-Neil-Hamburger Band play Sat June 14, Sunset, 10 pm, $10, 21+.

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