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Laugh, Riot

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"Now, we did work on a screenplay, me and one of the top screenwriters on the East Coast, and we're trying to get the interest of some movie studios. Did you see that movie a few years ago with Chevy Chase and Farrah Fawcett?"

Um, no.

"Well, I think we can do better than that," he says confidently.

So who would he tap to play the lead role?

"I'd like to play myself, ideally, because of the salary that goes with it. I think actors have enough roles. You give that part to some actor, and it's just taking money out of my pocket."

Current plans also include a musical project with ex-Meat Puppet Derrick Bostrom, who's collaborating with Hamburger during his upcoming trip to Phoenix.

"I'm not sure what Neil wants to do," says Bostrom, who claims to have known Hamburger since his earliest performances in San Francisco. "I think he wanted to do a kind of novelty song, topical humor thing. But Neil's concept of what's topical is a little . . . unpredictable."

("You know that hit song 'Disco Duck' that's way up in the charts? That's the kind of thing I'd like to do," Hamburger explains helpfully.)

"We used to see Neil all the time, when the Meat Puppets went through California," says Bostrom. "The guy's a pro, he's Mr. Show Biz, he shows up in a tux everywhere he goes. It really used to amaze me that he could do that, just throw two tuxes in the back of a car and then hit the road. I hated the road; I don't know what Neil's take is on it, but he seems to get something out of it. I think he's become a lot more jaded than I ever got, though. A lot of times when we'd see him, the audience would be a punk crowd who seemed to get off on heckling him. But he never really let it get to him. His idea was, well, they came out and got to have fun, even if their fun was insulting him. At least they had a good time."

The duo will lay down tracks at Bostrom's home studio in early August, but Bostrom pleads ignorance when asked about their scope, or the schedule of their release to the public.

"At first it was just going to be a single," he says, "and then Neil wanted to do a longer, Eminem-type novelty song, so we started thinking in terms of an EP. I have no idea what he eventually wants out of it."

Even with his partial newfound fame -- recently, Hamburger's become a sort of underground celebrity among the indie rock set, touring with bands like Australia's Frenzal Rhomb -- Hamburger continues to report receiving snubs from the unlikeliest of sources.

"Steve Martin's people asked us for a videotape, I guess in connection with [Martin's] new TV show. But as far as I know, he just used it to tape baseball games. Which is pretty sad, because I think the guy's got enough money for a blank tape. I was in a Walgreen's earlier today, and I think they were only $1.99 for one tape. But I don't know where he lives, though. Maybe it's more expensive there."

Living comedians as a rule get mostly short shrift from America's Funnyman: "I tend to like the ones that are deceased, because then you can give the respect without the competition. But still, you don't want to give these people too much credit, because they don't reciprocate." As for the comedians who are still working, "You have to watch out for those guys. What I've got, they want for themselves. I'm always getting people coming to the shows with cassette recorders, to steal my material.

"Or, like for example, I've had bookings in Quartzsite, Arizona [pop. 2,085 --Ed.]--not one of your great entertainment hot spots -- and I've had those bookings stolen from me by some of these Hollywood so-called legends, who just didn't like to see an up-and-comer with a booking. I mean, it wasn't a big pizza parlor, not a national chain, but suddenly I was off the marquee and these people were in there. So the next thing you know, I'm off the bill in Quartzsite."

We won't ask him to name names, but if he did, would we . . . ?

"Oh, yeah. These are people you see on your TV every day of the week. Really, it's happened more times than I can say. It's true. The same thing happened in Wickenburg."

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Eric Waggoner