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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This week in press releases: Andy Kaufman

For those holding onto the belief that Andy Kaufman faked his own death 29 years ago, here's further "evidence": a new comedy album by the master of the put-on is coming out soon. That's right – new. It's fun to believe he'll return one day asking what the fuss is all about, but highly unlikely (see death certificate on the right – click to enlarge).

I was a big fan of Kaufman when he first hit the scene. I'm not sure where I first saw him but I think it was on one of Dick Van Dyke's shows. As I recall, it was a variety type show but it was set in his house in the desert and Hope Lange was his wife. Makes no sense as I type it, but I think that's it. Then not long after that I saw him on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show doing the same Foreign Man routine. It was his first time on and he killed. I knew what was coming because I'd seen him a week or so earlier but still thought he was hilarious. I wasn't as into his wrestling shtick but I still thought it was funny the way he'd play the bad guy.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this upcoming album. Having used microcassettes a lot myself, I can't imagine the sound quality will be top notch, but I'm sure the best engineers worked on improving it. But if it sounds like a studio recording, I'm definitely jumping on the faked-death bandwagon!

Here's the low-down:

For Immediate Release 
Andy Kaufman changed the worlds of comedy and performance in the 1970s, showing fans and friends alike a determination to follow put-ons into territory no one had ever even considered "comic" before. His fervor was so intense that when he passed away suddenly in 1984, it seemed as if the ultimate disappearing act had been staged; one that some people believe is still ongoing, with the reveal soon to come.
Among the many things that Andy achieved in his lifetime (and in the years following), a phonograph album release, the staple of stand-up comedians in his time, never happened - until now. Andy and His Grandmother is material never heard before, a skimming from 82 hours of micro-cassette tapes that Andy recorded during 1977-79. Andy regarded the micro-tape recorder as a fantastic new way of capturing his hoaxing, and carried it with him everywhere, for use at any given moment. Real life was the ultimate frontier for him, and these tapes demonstrate the heart of Andy's comedy. With gusto, he involves those closest to him, as well as total strangers, in put-ons, falsehoods and other provocations, pushing the limit on logic and emotional investment in everyday situations from the trivial to the deeply personal until any suspension of disbelief is out of the question for all involved, and everyone becomes fully immersed in whatever scenario Andy is suggesting as the new reality. 
With so much material on hand, Drag City turned to a writer, producer and comedian whose resume indicated to us that he was a true child of Kaufman's twisted talent. Since the late 90s, Vernon Chatman's work has been experienced by television viewers and aficionados of South ParkWonder ShowzenXavier: Renegade AngelThe Heart She Holler, andDoggie Fizzle Televizzle, as well as fans of the Drag City DVD release Final Flesh. Vernon dug deeply into the tapes, working with editor Rodney Ascher (director of the notorious, controversial, and even acclaimed Room 237 documentary) to come up with a concept for a single LP that would include several dozen excerpts. Along the way, Vernon produced several tracks, adding effects to pieces that were clearly unfinished (in particular, "Sleep Comedy") and drafting SNL's Bill Hader to provide narration for the journey. The finished album, with liner notes from Vernon and Kaufman cohort Bob Zmuda is a work of comedy for our times - one that was performed over thirty years agoAndy And His Grandmother is out July 16th on Drag City.  
1. Andy Is Making A Record
2. Andy And His Grandmother
3. Andy's Land Live
4. Andy Loves His Tape Recorder
5. Slice Of Life
6. Andy Goes To the Movies
7. Kick In the Pants
8. Andy Can Talk to Animals
9. I'm Not Capable Of Having A Relationship
10. Hookers
11. Andy And His Grandmother Go For A Drive
12. Sleep Comedy
13. [HONK] vs. [DOG] A
14. [HONK] vs. [DOG] B
15. Andy Goes For A Taxi Ride 
16. Andy's English Friend Paul 
17. I Want Those Tapes

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