Iconic comedian Andy Kaufman is back in the news almost exactly 30 years after he began his final battle, or final joke, depending on who you’re talking to (or when). At the 9th Annual Awards show named in his honor, a 24-year-old woman came on stage and informed Andy’s brother Michael Kaufman that she was Andy’s daughter. This has spawned not only a number of contradictory statements to the press from Michael (first admitting he brought the woman forward and now admitting he was ‘hoaxed’), but an exponentially higher number of wildly diverging stories from the press itself on Andy and his legacy.

Before I join this re-burgeoning canon, I’d like to point out what the Andy Kaufman Award honors:

1. Originality

2. Creativity

3. Spirit

4. Execution

With all this in mind, there are a couple of films that come at the man’s legend from two different angles: one as living, and other as undying/undead.

My Breakfast With Blassie (1983) deals with the living legend. Directed by the couple Linda Lautrec and Johnny Legend, the strains of Erik Satie’s ‘Gymnopédies’ underly a reading of the Dadaist manifesto from the beginning. The film deals with Kaufman and wrestler Fred Blassie (also co-composer with Legend of the Dr. Demento staple “Pencil-necked Geek”) having breakfast at a downtown L.A. Sambo’s and expounding on various profound and quotidian details, a riff on the critical-favorite film My Dinner With Andre (1981). A simple idea, yet one with highly creative possibilities, and executed masterfully and with Kaufman’s usual devilish spirit (something Michael Stipe so admired he name-checked the film in R.E.M.’s ‘Man On The Moon’ track). Also featured are inspired cameos from his comic sidekick Bob Zmuda, Lynne Margulies (Legend’s sister, who actually met Andy during the filming and became his girlfriend until his ‘death’), and even John Waters regular Edith Massey.

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The Death of Andy Kaufman (2008), by Christopher Maloney, has a different purpose. Dealing with the eternally simmering ‘Andy Kaufman Alive (AKA)’ rumors, Maloney is handicapped with an unoriginal concept, as well as a miniscule budget forcing him to make do with less than ideal filming conditions (at one point, it seems the audio is beset by an aquarium on override, or a refrigerator in need of a PG&E upgrade). However, in his quietly persistent way the filmmaker finds some new creative approaches to, and mash-ups of, the various story threads, and his spirit is undeniable. The film has some interesting live action sequences, notably Maloney’s journey to Taos to inquire about Kaufman, who’d been reported to have been seen at various locations there, such as the Taos cow creamery and a spiritual retreat; but the film turns on an interview with Andy’s brother Michael himself, the fact that it was given by ‘the person and collaborator closest to Andy’ a testament to this man’s genuineness.

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