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Lost in the Funhouse

The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman

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From renowned journalist Bill Zehme, author of the New York Times bestselling The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin', comes the first full-fledged biography and the only complete story of the late comic genius Andy Kaufman. Based on six years of research, Andy's own unpublished, never-before-seen writings, and hundreds of interviews with family members, friends, and key players in Andy's endless charades, many of whom have become icons in their own right, Lost in the Funhouse takes us through the maze of Kaufman's mind and lets us sit deep behind his mad, dazzling blue eyes to see, firsthand, the fanciful landscape that was his life.  Controversial, chaotic, splendidly surreal, and tragically brief--what a life it was.

Andy Kaufman was often a mystery even to his closest friends. Remote, aloof, impossible to know, his internal world was a kaleidoscope of characters fighting for time on the outside. He was as much Andy Kaufman as he was Foreign Man (dank you veddy much), who became the lovably bashful Latka on the hit TV series Taxi. He was as much Elvis Presley as he was the repugnant Tony Clifton, a lounge singer from Vegas who hated any audience that came to see him and who seemed to hate Andy Kaufman even more. He was a contradiction, a paradox on every level, an artist in every sense of the word.

During the comic boom of the seventies, when the world had begun to discover the prodigious talents of Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, John Belushi, Bill Murray, and so many others, Andy was simply doing what he had always done in his boyhood reveries. On the debut of Saturday Night Live, he stood nervously next to a phonograph that scratchily played the theme from Mighty Mouse. He fussed and fidgeted, waiting for his moment. When it came, he raised his hand and moved his mouth to the words "Here I come to save the day!" In that beautiful deliverance of pantomime before the millions of people for whom he had always dreamed about performing, Andy triumphed. He changed the face of comedy forever by lurching across boundaries that no one knew existed. He was the boy who made life his playground and never stopped playing, even when the games proved too dangerous for others.  And in the end he would play alone, just as he had when it was all only beginning.

In Lost in the Funhouse, Bill Zehme sorts through a life of disinformation put forth by a master of deception to uncover the motivation behind the manipulation. Magically entertaining, it is a singular biography matched only by its singular subject.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 29, 1999 – Already the subject of Bob Zmuda's recent memoir, Andy Kaufman Revealed, the avant-garde comedian receives more straightforward treatment at the hands of journalist Zehme (The Way You Wear Your Hat). Yet while Kaufman's life may be open to scrutiny, cracking the weird intricacies of his personality and motives is another matter. Growing up in Great Neck, N.Y., the young Andy honed his performance skills by hosting children's birthday parties before striking gold on the New York comedy scene with his creation of Foreign Man, a sweet, bumbling immigrant who would bomb with a series of unfunny jokes ("Tenk you veddy much"), only to veer into an uncanny impersonation of Elvis Presley. The character landed Kaufman a recurring guest spot on Saturday Night Live and a benchmark role as Latka Gravas on the sitcom Taxi. Eventually, his obnoxious alter ego, lounge singer Tony Clifton, and Kaufman's obsession with taunting and wrestling women audience members spurred Saturday Night Live viewers to vote by a wide margin to kick Kaufman off the show in 1982. A year and a half later, he was dead at the age of 35, the victim of lung cancer. Through the entertaining recollections of numerous friends, colleagues and family members, Kaufman comes across as either a genius or a lunatic, most likely a bit of both. Unfortunately, Zehme's mannered writing style (on Kaufman's part-time busboy job: "Plus, he could do funny things in the course of a shift not to be funny no really") detracts considerably from what is otherwise a balanced portrayal of his tumultuous career. 36 b&w photos not seen by PW.
Lost in the Funhouse
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Dec 01, 1999
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 384 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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