Andy And His Grandmother
1-2-3-4-GO!/Drag City/Process Media
Obviously it’s fitting that Andy Kaufman’s debut comedy album (posthumous, or is it? – wink wink) is unlike most other comedy albums and is arguably an anti-comedy album since, of course, he was unlike most other comedians and more often/more likely an anti-comedian. This 48 minute eavesdrop on recorded conversations and phone pranks – including some staged fights and some real anger – has been whittled down from what was most likely an excruciating 82 hours. Kaufman made these tapes between 1977 and 1979 and left instructions for how he wanted it to play out – the aim at the time of recording was to source material for an album.
Now you’re only going to listen to this – and you’re only reading this far already – if you’re a Kaufman fan. And, therefore, you will get something out of this album. Whether you ever return to it for a second or third listen is, in most cases, unlikely I would guess. It really depends on how interested you are in the legend, how deeply profound you found his dada and gaga and anti-gagging.
There are moments here of near-poignancy but for the most part this is Kaufman at his most mischievous, annoying and difficult – a troll before we ever used the term there’s something strangely prescient in hearing these recordings now in the post-Candid Camera/instant-meme world we either live in or at least click on. Here Kaufman purposely sets about to rile people in silly pre-Jerky Boys phone pranks. He’s manufacturing anger with and without (mostly without) consent.
As always with Kaufman he loved the meta – loved showing you the behind-the-scenes, and that if someone was angry about the lack of joke that in turn could become the joke.
There’s a lot in a name and a brand of course – I went into this knowing I wouldn’t laugh, knowing it would be hard work, but I stayed, I listened and – at times – I loved it. Because I’ve spent so much time being baffled and intrigued by Kaufman and his mad (often brilliant) antics.
His commitment to his (performance) art was staggering, belligerent, inspiring and deeply odd.
And you’ll hear all of that here. And some second-rate clowning.
You’ll either switch it off within seconds or leave it on the shelf thinking that one day you may even be up for seconds.
This won’t be the introduction to Kaufman if you’ve heard the name and wondered about the fuss. This is for fans. And even the biggest fans of his work have all right to despise this. It is, after all, what Andy would have wanted.