Andy Kaufman, Sleep Comedy

Andy and His Grandmother whittles down 82 hours of Kaufman’s adventures with a tape recorder to 45 minutes of oddball gags, candid conversations, and a serial put-on of an unnamed girlfriend. It’s a rare glimpse into Kaufman’s methodology – one that will make uninitiated listeners wonder, “Aren’t comedy albums supposed to be funny?”
This record is an accounts of the “real” Andy Kaufman in existence, a serious feat considering his notoriously slippery relationship with what most of us call reality. Andy regarded the micro-tape recorder as a new way of capturing his hoaxing, and carried it with him everywhere. Real life was the ultimate frontier for him. 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.
A track called “Slice of Life” has Kaufman talking to one of the many women he bedded while on tour in the late 70s. “We just screwed and here’s the afterward conversation,” he announces, before continuing: “It didn’t look to me like you were enjoying it that much.” He asks her, “What happens if you got a baby?” to which the unnamed woman responds, “I’ll hop a plane to Toronto and get a little abortion.” Naturally, she asks for him to turn off the tape, but he’s adamant: “Why is it that nobody understands that the kind of conversations that nobody wants me to tape are the kind of conversations that should be taped?”
Later on, a series of phone calls show up in which Kaufman diabolically riles up a woman who doesn’t appreciate her feelings being used as some sort of meta comedy exercise. “You are fucked up!” she screams. “I want those fucking tapes!” The call is followed by Zmuda and Kaufman plotting how they could release the contentious conversations with this one tremendously angry woman as an album. “The concept would be funny because it’s real, but it would be dramatic at the same time,” Kaufman says, before excitedly suggesting to Zmuda, “Wouldn’t it be great if she killed me and you have the tapes?”
At the end of the album Kaufman and Zmuda discuss faking his death “when I’m more famous”, then joke about how he would come back after each hoax. “Then, when you really die, nobody will believe it,” Zmuda says. “So they won’t believe your own death. You’ll be immortal, go on forever.”

  • Consequence of Sound, Album Review
  • Ryan Dombal, Pitchfork, Album Review
  • Kyle Ryan, A.V. Club, Album Review

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