Monday, May 3, 2010

Dear Andy Kaufman I Hate Your Guts!

(Process) Process is my favorite publisher; the pleasure and guidance I've gotten from their collections of amateur photography and outsider musician philosophy have genuinely made me a better man. This book collects the mail that poured in after Andy Kaufman issued a challenge to any woman who thought they could beat him at wrestling, requesting letters and  (of course) photos. There's two beautiful things about this book. The first is that despite the narrative that fans of his sitcom, and mainstream America, didn't get him, or the harsher narrative that his wrestling hijinks (particularly the Memphis stuff) involved him making fun of wrestling fans/white trash that were too dumb too get the joke, almost everyone writing in gets it. These women know he's joking, understand absurdity, dig the hype and showbiz aspects, and are answering it with funny, tongue in cheek, goofy, beautiful responses. But even better is just how great everything actually looks. The Polaroids, the stationary, the handwriting, the fashion, the hairdos...the 70s were visually balls to the wall! This would not work today not only because digital technology has eliminated handwriting and shitty photos, but also because people could never be as charming while trying to be jokesters these days. There's nothing worse than the audience member who gets pulled on stage and then tries to be the funny guy, but these ladies totally avoid that trap. They're sincere and cool, even as they try to be clever and ridiculous. Today, with everyone being reality TV savvy, blog writing "clever," and TMZ-weaned, a project like this would yield ten pounds of charmlessness in a five pound sack. Even the seventies pros, with head shots and naked ambition, manage to be off kilter and awesome in this great looking book, a book so good it almost erases that awful REM song from my brain.

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