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Whether you admire or loathe him, Andy Kaufman’s often times polarizing act caught people’s attention. This two part collection shows off a great deal of what people loved or hated in the man’s performance. While not personally a fan of what Kaufman did, nor would I remark on it as genius, he displayed an interesting way of connecting with and getting under the skin of his audience, in this collection using professional wrestling as both a stage and a tool.

First he skewered the film My Dinner with Andre in his own My Breakfast with Blassie, where he takes retired pro wrestler “Classy” Freddie Blassie to breakfast in a plain Los Angeles diner; no five-star restaurant, just rush hour eggs and bacon. Blassie, whose age begins to show as the video wears on, puts on either a fantastic performance as a cranky old man, or simply is one and the video catches him at his best. He harps on Kaufman for his nutritional disregard, flirts with waitresses and goads Kaufman into nearly starting an altercation with some pushy fans, and remains a fascinating subject all the while. In between these actions he proudly tells of being so good at his job as the bad guy that he has been repeatedly stabbed by overzealous wrestling fans through the years. While it is entertaining, this is basically where the piece ends and it feels like a lot of Kaufman’s work to me: a big fuck you to a segment of the population (fans of pretentious film in this case) while offering little else in terms of comment. Or maybe his comment was simply that eating with a wrestler is at least as good a subject as theater’s Andre Gregory, if not better, which I would agree with having seen his evidence. I would like to have had breakfast with Freddie Blassie; it looks like a great time.

A little more straightforward is the second feature on the disc, I’m from Hollywood, an account of Andy Kaufman’s time spent actually working in professional wrestling. Declaring himself the “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World,” Kaufman defended his championship by wrestling random women from the audience. Given how ugly and non-choreographed these “matches” looked, and Kaufman’s love of blurring reality with his audience (he allegedly spent weeks in traction to sell a faked injury) my gut reaction is to believe he just did pull random women out of the audience to wrestle. On the other hand, it is wrestling and everything is premeditated, and it took Kaufman’s death for Jerry Lawler to break his silence that the Letterman incident was staged. Either way Kaufman isn’t the draw in these scenarios; it’s his audience and the way they eat out of his hand. Using the cheapest possible tactics (showing the Southern people what soap is, suggesting no one knows how to read, the eponymous “better than you” claim of the film), Kaufman had people howling for his head. He really knew how to work his audience, though I‘m not sure what kind of feat that amounts to really. Looks like Blassie had a perfect student in Andy. 3 stars total, a good look at this period of Andy Kaufman’s career.


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