July 13, 2013

REVIEW: Andy Kaufman – Andy And His Grandmother [LP]

Andy Kaufman

Review by Chris Gedos

Andy And His Grandmother, the looong-overdue first LP from late great comic/actor/humanoid Andy Kaufman, is a powerful intellectual document for anyone interested in the creative process. For Kaufman, whose performance was so forward thinking that it still makes the avant-garde look passé, the album reinforces that for Kaufman’s life and art were the same, that the constantly shifting organism of existence provides for the most telling glimpses into human psychology. So for Andy, what better way to preserve these transcendent moments than to keep a micro-tape recorder running surreptitiously? Indeed, the great writers don’t create, they draw from existence. And as much as Andy chose to display his extraterrestrial likeness (most famously as Lakta Gravas on Taxi, an offshoot of his foreign man routine on SNL, who first premiered on the show’s fourth episode in 1975), there’s this infatuation with the kaleidoscope of the human palette omnipresent within Kaufman’s work.

One such track off the LP, “Slice of Life”, Kaufman is at his most confident: after sex with his girlfriend. After he gets past the pretense of “make believe that it’s not on”, referring to the recorder, the first line of the “performance” (that is, documented life without script or pretense), he challenges his “audience” (in this case, his girlfriend) with “it didn’t look to me like you were enjoying it that much.” A hilarious and universal motif, but in the context of reality it gains a painful beauty. He continues: “it looked like you were just lying there and like you wanted it to be over soon.” He continues into the topic of marriage, and when his girlfriend says she doesn’t like to joke about marriage, the shock of silence is detectable in Kaufman’s absence.

Produced, edited and sparingly narrated by Vernon Chatman (voice of South Park’s Towelie and co-creator of Wonder Showzen), Andy And His Grandmother has been pared down from 82 hours of material. Given the album’s final track, “I Want Those Tapes” which features Andy’s now-ex telling him to ‘fuck-off’, I’m afraid there’s even more unreleased hours devoted to Andy’s sociopathy, contemplating his death and future immortality.

Andy And His Grandmother is out this Tuesday, July 16th, via Drag City records. An essential listen for both fans of Kaufman’s genius and critics of the celebrity age, which Kaufman’s work foresaw.

Andy Kaufman (via Drag City)

A classic Andy Kaufman moment on Letterman:

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