Review: Andy Kaufman Has a New Album Almost 30 Years After His Death

Cover from new Andy Kaufman release titled
Andy and His Grandmother, the new release from the late Andy Kaufman

The name “Andy Kaufman” conjures many images. He was Latka Gravas, the man-child mechanic on Taxi, the comedian who lip synced the words to “The Mighty Mouse Theme” on Saturday Night Live, the tropically clad conga-playing performance artist, the wrestling enthusiast despised for fighting women, and, of course, the ultimate insult comic, “Tony Clifton.” In reality, Kaufman was a supreme improviser who made his entire life into a skit. There was nothing that wasn’t comedy to Kaufman. He was always on, and so was his tape recorder. That’s what we hear on Andy and His Grandmother (Drag City/Process Media), the first release culled from over 80 hours of Kaufman’s personal recordings made between 1977 and 1979.

If you’re 30 and older, you probably had the opportunity to see Kaufman do his thing (whatever that thing was at the time) before he died on May 10, 1984 of kidney failure caused by large-cell lung carcinoma, at the age of 35 (Kaufman was so good at what he did, that there are still people who believe his death was faked as part of a long-term performance art project). Younger audiences witnessed Kaufman second hand when Jim Carrey portrayed him in the 1999 film Man on the Moon. What few have heard, until now, are these legendary Kaufman tapes. Knowing what we do about Kaufman, he most likely recorded incidents like scaring his grandmother with his dangerous driving (hence the album’s title), post-sex pillow talk, and loads of angry phone calls, to cause trouble, to instigate. That’s what Kaufman was, a provocateur whose candor could be startling.

On Andy and His Grandmother, Kaufman is confrontational, discomforting and silly; he has conversations with a disgusted traffic cop, a groupie with whom he’s had sex, and an oinking pig.  This isn’t funny in any conventional way - often, it’s as raw and cringe-worthy as it is giddy. Yet, isn’t that what Andy Kaufman was all about?

Photo courtesy Drag City Records

Posted on Friday, July 19, 2013