When he answers the phone Monday afternoon from his Best Western hotel room, comedian Neil Hamburger, true to form, explains that he's just finished ticking off yet another group of people.
"I was having an argument with these guys at the motel that I damaged their ice machine. They have security footage of me using it at 2:30 in the morning," says Hamburger, speaking with his characteristic nasally drawl. "It's not my fault a black, tarry substance came out when I pressed the button."
If the comic's anecdote smacks of the bizarre and sensational, it's because Hamburger's entire 20-year career has been orchestrated that way. The Neil Hamburger persona is the invention of 45-year-old Californian Gregg Turkington. Onstage, his character sports a greasy, terrible comb-over, a constantly sweaty brow, a black tuxedo and bow tie, and eyeglasses broader than his ears. He looks and sounds like a dork transplanted from the 1950s vaudeville circuit. The difference, of course, is that his retro shtick is laced with F-bombs, and he thrives on the vocal displeasure of his audience.
"My fans have very depressing lives, watching the YouTube videos of people juggling three baby pandas," says Hamburger, who will perform Wednesday at Miami's Sweat Records. "I did a show in Philly recently, and this blabbermouth in the audience wouldn't shut his damn mouth. He had the verbal equivalent of someone throwing up in the toilet, destroying the ebb and flow of my routine."
Turkington created the Hamburger character in the early '90s, after a decade spent in California post-punk bands. "I am not a Pavarotti, and I'm not Phil Collins," says Hamburger, who has toured with the likes of Margaret Cho, Weezer and Tenacious D, the latter show captured on his 2007 comedy album, "Hot February Night." "This is not a trained voice. But I did recently perform with Mrs. Cho."
On Neil Hamburger's most-recent album, 2012's "Incident in Cambridge, Mass.," the comic continues to excoriate his audience. Between spasms of dry heaving, he delivers a joke that sends the crowd into a chorus of cheers and boos: "Why did Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper all retire from the music industry in 1959?
"Well, because their vocal cords were all damaged in an accident," he says.
Neil Hamburger, with "Major Entertainer" Mike H. and Daniel Reskin, will perform 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sweat Records, 5505 N.E. Second Ave., in Miami. Admission is $10. Call 786-693-9309 or go to SweatRecordsMiami.com.