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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
After conducting a series of interviews in the late '70s with the bizarre, unpredictable comedian Andy Kaufman, Julie Hecht was left with one major question: Was This Man a Genius? In this unconventional, unforgettable book, Hecht reveals the hidden side of the man who achieved fame by imitating a foreign man imitating Elvis, wrestling women, and performing a host of other odd stunts.
With the goal of writing a magazine article on Kaufman, whose fame was quickly spreading, Hecht attempted to interview Kaufman in a variety of settings -- backstage, in diners, at his parents' home on Long Island -- wherever he agreed to be interviewed. The resulting narrative is a sobering account of a troubled yet talented artist, one who is unable to stop the show even when there is no audience. The chaos of being around Kaufman can be too much for Hecht at times (after all, she is human) but overall she manages to go along with his games and deceptions just enough to keep him talking. Since Kaufman rarely makes any statements that are not suspicious, Hecht tries instead to reveal his personality through his fabrications and performances. A typical Kaufman scenario could involve tormenting a waitress about menu options until she breaks into tears, or refusing to drive on the right side of the road until someone demands to be let out of the car (in this case, it was a terrified Hecht).
Kaufman's behavior, which seems calculated to push every situation toward a breaking point, exasperates Hecht, but she continues to seek interviews with him, hoping to capture his personality in her narrative. Once the article was completed, Hecht was unable to get her manuscript published by the magazine -- it was simply too unusual. Now published for the first time, Hecht's behind-the-scenes look at the infamous comedian offers no simple explanations for his often shocking behavior, but instead raises a host of fascinating questions. Namely, was Kaufman a genius -- or a histrionic nut? (Julie Carr)