Andy and His Grandmother
Release date: July 16, 2013
Andy Kaufman is back from dead. Though rumors have persisted for years that the late comedian faked his own death in order to pull the ultimate joke on his fans, thanks to the record label Drag City, the eccentric icon is alive again. And there’s an album to prove it.
Put together from tape recordings made by Kaufman with the aid of a micro-cassette recorder between 1977 and 1979, Andy and His Grandmother is the first comedy record to be released bearing Kaufman’s name, albeit after his lifetime (or so he’d have us believe). Instead, according to press materials, the project was pieced together by producer Vernon Chatman, who sequenced the album with snippets from over 82 hours worth or tapes that had been kept by Kaufman girlfriend Lynn Marguiles. Close Kaufman friend Bob Zmuda chipped in with the liner notes, and Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader provides narration throughout.
But just what does an Andy Kaufman record sound like? Unlike other popular comedians of his time like Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and George Carlin, Kaufman employed a more unorthodox brand of comedy during his heyday that often featured unyielding commitment to bits, no matter how much the audience might cringe or become confused. One noteworthy moment was his habit of physically reading the novel The Great Gatsby to live crowds as a form of punishment. When asked if the playing of a tape might be more preferable to his reading, many in attendance would shout, “Yes!” at Kaufman, who would respond by playing a tape of him reading The Great Gatsby.
There are examples of such limit-testing moments included on this record. The track “Andy Goes To The Movies” details a story involving Kaufman’s supposed violent ejection from a movie theater, which occurred because Kaufman refused a security guard’s order to leave the premises due to the fact that he was still watching the film’s credits, and therefore the movie was not over. It’s a riveting performance that includes plenty of vulgarity and sound effects, which sell the idea that the story is 100 percent true.
Elsewhere, the more experimental cut “Sleep Comedy” features a routine of comedy that is meant to be enjoyed by a listener who is sleeping. As of this writing, this writer has not yet attempted to listen to the track while snoozing. But playing the routine while awake equates to six-plus minutes of surprises including an imaginary conversation between Kaufman and Federico Fellini, the playing of distant trance-inducing instruments and dubbed audience laughter amongst other bits.
“(Honk) vs. (Dog) A” and “(Honk) vs. (Dog) B” are prime displays of Kaufman’s affinity for pushing other people’s buttons. Each track centers around the comedian goading two women, who may each be dating Kaufman, into confronting each other over the phone through miscommunication and verbal abuse. While certainly not the funniest two numbers on the record, these cuts also show the absurdist slant the comic often used to turn everyday moments into social experiments, where he would test the limits of all involved.
Listen to a teaser for “Andy and His Grandmother” here:
But perhaps more than any other moment on Andy and His Grandmother, the second half of the closing track “I Want Those Tapes” will equal the jackpot for Kaufman fans and conspiracy theorist alike. During a recorded conversation with an associate of his (likely Bob Zmuda, press materials aren't conclusive), the comic begins brainstorming about the idea of faking his own death.
“We could fake it,” Kaufman says referring to his own demise. “When I’m more famous we could fake it. We could do stuff like this.”
The bit is expounded upon to include a surprise return, possible use of a wrestling mask, and a fake name. But the heart of the idea remains true. No one will believe it when Kaufman actually dies. Instead, he will become immortal. The specter of him his return will hang over audiences for years, guaranteeing the comedian his last laugh.
Now with the release of his first album, Kaufman will have many laughing along with him. And that’s the perfect tribute to a man who spent his life dissecting comedy. I’m sure wherever Kaufman is such news is putting a smile on his face.
For more information on Andy Kaufman and “Andy and His Grandmother” please visit http://www.dragcity.com/artists/andy-kaufman
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