Hamburger Jones, Unique in the Game
Trawling YouTube is a weekly look at one interesting story or oddity from YouTube. You ever go down a YouTube rabbit hole and suddenly you’ve wasted five hours watching every Madonna video? This is about those rabbit holes, but the comedy-related ones.
Hey, remember that comic who says “Hamburger” after every joke? He did Def Comedy Jam a few times? He was a reference in one of those Family Guy reference jokes? He says “Hamburger” a lot? Remember that guy?
If not, here’s the only (seemingly) official bio of him online:
Hamburger Jones is one of those really frustrating Google/YouTube searches where there are so many questions, but really only a few answers available. How did this guy make a career out of saying Hamburger? Why hamburger? What happened to him?
A YouTube search yields four videos of Jones doing standup. The first, from a 1995 episode of Def Comedy Jam, is the one that he seems to be best known for.
Again, information about Hamburger Jones is hard to come by, but this appears to be one of his earlier TV spots. This is the one that has all the lines people repeat when Hamburger Jones comes up, including the En Vogue joke and the Jamaican Parking Attendant joke. But notice that he gets a huge laugh before he even starts talking, just from people yelling “hamburger” from the audience. Obviously he was a legit touring comedian at this point, at least enough to have fans.
A few mentions online also refer to Jones as “a writer and comedian” so I imagine he might have done some miscellaneous writing gigs and/or writing for other comedians. His only IMDB writing credit is that Def Comedy Jam performance in 1995.
And then there’s the other Def Comedy Jam:
This one is still a bit of a mystery to me. He seems more established, more confident, and more comfortable with the audience, as though it’s in the early 2000s. But maybe that’s just because he’s not wearing that crazy 90s shirt. Indeed, this Tumblr seems to imply that this was the same taping as the Bernie Mac “I ain’t scared of you motherfuckers” set!
The author here claims that the order that night was Hamburger, Martin Lawrence, then Bernie Mac, maybe with other comic in between. Which would mean, you guessed it, Alonzo “Hamburger” Jones was one of the comics mercilessly booed to set up Mac’s famous fuck you of a set.
But! Hamburger has a pretty good set there it looks like. So I dunno, probably a different taping. In any case, this set does include his explanation of why he says “hamburger” all the time. It’s so he doesn’t swear. As the above Tumblr points out, this is Def Comedy Jam and Hamburger didn’t curse a single time. Damn!
This all somewhat flies in the face of the standard account of Hamburger Jones. Whenever he comes up, as in that Family Guy clip, he is dismissed as a punchline, a bizarre hack comic, a walking catchphrase; yet the material here is pretty sharp. I mean, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but there is certainly more going on there than just a catchphrase. He talks about going to church and how they really don’t give a shit about you, they just want your money. He does some pretty straight-up wordplay jokes that wouldn’t seem weird at all coming from, Zach Galifianakis (in, remember, 1995). He even does some physical comedy and impressions, e.g. his Busta Rhymes closer. Etc.
Here’s another video from the 90s, this one a “Yo Mama Battle” at the now-defunct Uptown Comedy Club on 131st St in Harlem.
Although he doesn’t win in the end, Hamburger does think quickly on his feet and he’s pretty confident about it. The most confident one on stage even.
And that’s what I think is funny about Hamburger Jones. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t think saying “hamburger” all the time is trendy or anything, any more than a pimp thinks his crazy pink suit and armadillo shoes are trendy. It’s a total anachronism, a rhetorical bet with hugely long odds that pays off big when he does win the audience over.
In the years since these videos were shot, Jones has apparently been laying low. No live cell phone videos online, no tour dates on an official website, no social media presence whatsoever. I considered the possibility that he had just quit standup. Maybe he just got tired of being the Hamburger guy. Totally understandable. But that can’t be the case because, although there is no video online, he’s made several appearances on Comic Unleashed with Byron Allen as recently as 2014. (This is a program on some outdated technology called “TV”???)
The 4th Hamburger Jones standup vid on YouTube is this one, from 2010, shot at the Lindenwood Diner (misspelled as Linwood in the video title) near Howard Beach, Brooklyn. The host introduces him:
This particular gentleman I’ll bring to the stage right now is somebody who set the trends for a lot of comedians who came after him, and since Def Comedy Jam he has kept doing comedy. He has never stopped doing comedy. He’s all over the world and all over the country, and it’s good to have him tonight. He’s one of those guys who’s unique in the game. Please put your hands together for the very funny, talented, trendsetter comedian Mr. Haaammm-burger.
We find Hamburger a little grayer, a little fatter, with some of the same crowd work (the fat guy in the crowd likes McDonalds) up top, and there are several cuts in the video to put together a good nine minutes. It’s impossible to judge the real energy of a room from a stationary camera at this weird angle, but Jones seems to be borderline killing here. And really, it totally adds up. He’s been trying to play this cranky old guy on stage this whole time, now he’s finally aged into it. He’s the perfect middle-aged black guy archetype who’s had it up to here with all these new rappers etc. Right down to the goofy antiquated catchphrase that all confuses all the young kids.
Also he says hamburger a lot hahaha.