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The beauty of “Poolside Chats with Neil Hamburger” is the over-arching technical distractions, communicative disruption of the callers and anomalous-humorous confrontations perpetuated by the shows host Neil Hamburger. That is to say, overworked by “garbage” minded call-ins, faulty microphones and having access to an open bar, Hamburger assaults, demeans and controls the show creating and effectively working his comedic slander through a, what could be called: semblance of failure.
The episode with the talented musician/actor Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham) perpetuates this semblance of failure by starting off with microphone problems followed immediately by a slew of humiliating phone calls, a bloody drug-using Billy, an uninvited Andy Dick and the presence of “the pool guy” who lurks in the background throughout almost the entire episode. Moreover, credits roll midway and one guest, distracted, licks a spider.
E.M. Cioran in his book “The Trouble With Being Born” wrote, “An existence transfigured by failure.” It is this transfiguration that “Poolside Chats” seems to feed off. That is, the beauty of this show is its insistence upon failure (the failure of interesting callers and the failure of electronic equipment that plagues almost every episode), its utilization of failure (by always calling attention to it) and a general sense of humorous dis-comfort reliant upon the tone of disaster.
Moreover, it is the unpredictability of the “obscene voice” that is the most unsettling aspect of this show. That is to say, the voice of the callers float over the scene, disruptive and unpredictable adding to the uneasiness of the experiencing of the show. The viewer cannot see the callers, but must suffer the gaze of the host and his guests. The disconnection of voice and body creates an ominous yet comedic atmosphere.
Cioran also writes: “Failure, even repeated, always seems fresh; whereas success, multiplied, loses all interest, all attraction (Cioran 79).” It is this repitition that this show flows through and forever refreshes. This show is intimate, unrehearsed and chaotic, plentiful with a brutal and awkward honesty.
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