Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Andy, how come you like the bad guys? They're mean and they cheat."
"Yeah... they're mean... They can get away with anything!"
I first came across Andy Kaufman in the very late seventies in his role as the loveable Latka Gravas in the sitcom Taxi. I remember being fascinated as a very young kid by this oddball character that everybody seemed to like. There was something childlike and otherworldly about the character than instantly made you warm to him. But because Kaufman died so young in 1984, aged 35, I never really knew that much else about him, probably like most people outside of the US, where he was infamous.
In fact, Kaufman became almost universally reviled and disliked in America for his various other appearances on television and his seemingly strange wrestling career that saw him wrestle only women including declaring himself the Women's World Wrestling Champion. It wasn't until I watched the Jim Carrey-helmed biopic Man On The Moon from 1999 that the genius of Andy Kaufman started to make some sense. The man wasn't a madcap comedian in archetypal American sense, he was a performance artist who from a very early age understood that playing the heel, in wrestling parlance, was going to get you a far more visceral response and fervent engagement from the audience, than simply being a nice guy, however talented.
Andy Kaufman took that performance art to such a level with his obnoxious characters, always staying in character whilst in public, that only his very close friends and family knew who he really was, a loveable, gentle man who didn't drink or do drugs and practiced transcendental meditation every day without fail. Obsessed with Elvis, magic and in particular wrestling from a very young age, he quickly decided he wanted to entertain people, and then set about building his own unique path to stardom.
This work, from a creator who would probably relish in the title oddball himself, Box AN ENTITY OBSERVES ALL THINGS, TETRIS, ANDRE THE GIANT Brown, chronicles the short, spectacular life and career of a man who delighted in being misunderstood and revelled in the rage he could induce in people. It's a little ironic, therefore, that he probably remains best known by the general public for the one character that everyone did love, Latka Graves, who in emotional terms was the closest Andy came to portraying and revealing any element of himself to the world at large.
When I heard Box Brown was doing this particular autobiography, I wasn't remotely surprised as he makes no secret of the fact he loves wrestling as much as Andy Kaufman did. In fact this time around Box wanted to explore the make-up of a man who loved fooling people even more. But you don't remotely have to be a wrestling fan, or indeed even an Andy Kaufman fan to love this work. Knowing practically nothing about him I was utterly engrossed by every aspect of his existence as brought to life by Box. Truly one of the late twentieth century's strangest stars. As penned by one of the twenty first's!