Five things you must not miss this week, including comic Neil Hamburger and new albums from !!! and Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan.
COMEDY Hot February Night, Neil Hamburger
Despite his efforts, Neil Hamburger isn’t America’s worst stand-up comedian. The character (played by Gregg Turkington) is a sweaty, phlegm-filled parody of (or homage to) the tired tropes that give yuksters a bad name. The anti-comic’s regrettable puns, anticlimactic set-ups, offensive rants, and sheer confusion elicits a mix of laughter, groans, and jeers. But even with all his wheezing and hamming, he's never as cringe-worthy as, say, Dane Cook at his best; at least Hamburger's awful shtick is an intentional one. August 24
MUSIC Strange Weather Isn’t It, !!!
Much like Kevin Bacon in Footloose, !!! invaded a small, tightly knit community with a zealous ban on dancing. As card-carrying members of the so-called “post-punk revival,” the band used infectious, ESG-influenced rhythms to teach the surly kids of underground music how to uncross their arms and enjoy themselves. Strange Weather finds !!! still fighting the good fight, happily determined to convert any remaining non-believers. August 24
BOOKS The Tiger, John Vaillant
When not writing in the serene pages of The New Yorker and The Atlantic, John Vaillant pens the type of nonfiction that will scare the pleated khaki pants right off of you. The Tiger chronicles how one fearsome jungle cat terrorized a community of humans living in the Siberian wilderness. Yet at its core, Tiger isn’t just a story about a murderous predator, but also an artful explication of our co-evolution — and coexistence — with the natural world. August 24
MUSICHawk, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
Throw together one singing cellist from a fey Scottish band and one scruffy rocker from the Pacific Northwest’s grunge scene, and you have either a quirky Diablo Cody screenplay or a surprisingly pleasant collaboration. Fortunately, Isobel Campbell (Belle & Sebastian) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) have given us the latter with Hawk, the duo’s third release. Listen to stripped-down, folksy ballads like “No Place to Fall” and bluesy bar-rock like “Get Behind Me,” and you'll think they’ve been doing this forever. August 24
MOVIESTakers, John Lussenhop
The problem with movies like Ocean’s Eleven is that nobody believes real-life grand larcenists are as charming and handsome as George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Takers, on the other hand, opts for realism by casting convincing criminals (Idris Elba, Paul Walker) alongside actual convicted felons (T.I., Chris Brown). The film's nefarious band of brothers plots a spectacular heist, but one man (Matt Dillon) is out to stop them. No matter what goes down, though, fans of The Wire can just sit back and imagine that Stringer Bell is alive and well. August 27