andy and his grandmother


Eclipse Record of the Day: Andy Kaufman Andy and His Grandmother (2013).

The enigmatic comedian’s first album, released just this year and compiled from home audiotapes of Kaufman’s own conversations. Includes interstitial narration by Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live.

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302. Andy Kaufman's 'Andy And His Grandmother'

One of the things I still love about record reviews is that even after reading a 1200 word thing that makes you think, or presents the album in an interesting way, you can still be surprised/bewildered/disappointed when listening to a new album. I’ve always looked at reviews as something extending the experience of an album; the “second screen” experience if you will. But sometimes, reviews can’t really prepare you properly. 

Which is to say I wasn’t prepared at all for the actual experience of listening to Andy and His Grandmother, the debut LP, 30 years after he died, of comedian Andy Kaufman. I have been into reading/listening to/watching Kaufman since that Jim Carrey biopic came out in the late ‘90s (plus my dad being able to recreate bits from him all the time made me interested in him), so I was ready for this album. I read Alex Pappademas’ great piece on the album on Grantland. I read Ryan Dombal’s on Pitchfork. 

But then I got the thing home, and it’s basically just like listening to someone’s microcassette pranks, which of course, is actually WHAT THIS IS. Kaufman spent all of his spare time trying out bits on unsuspecting people and recording it. The audio is rough, Kaufman yells a lot, and the most inspired bit is Kaufman interviewing a woman he just had sex with and asking her about her technique. It was as brutal an experience to listen to as I imagine it would be for someone to listen to Macaulay Culkin’s Talkboy in 1992. 

The reviews made it out to be like the album was a gonzo masterpiece, like Kaufman’s shows at Radio City Music Hall in audio form. They are not. This is one of the toughest albums to get through that I’ve ever listened to. It was an album that made me self-conscious, like someone would judge me for listening to a guy yell at people on the streets on record. It left me wondering if it was even funny, which isn’t exactly the best thing for an ostensible comedy record.  

That said, I am glad I got into this. My 15-year-old self would have geeked to get an Andy Kaufman record; that’s the thing that prevents him from being considered one of the greats by my generation. He never had a definitive movie role, and he never had an album, or anything except for the SNL performances as physical manifestations of his greatness. His hilarity was all secondhand. His greatness was something you had to experience in the moment. Even if that moment was him yelling at you on the street.