Assuming you believe his family and the State of California, Andy Kaufman died in 1984. It is a miracle of preservation and archival discipline, then, that this week, a new album of audio he took over the years — conversations, skits, arguments — has finally been released to the public. Called Andy and his Grandmother, it offers more evidence that Kafuman is one of the most important men in the development modern comedy.
Most famous for his time on Taxi and the fun stunts he conducted while on Saturday Night Live during its infancy, Kaufman was a walking experiment, shifting between personas and stretching reality until it snapped back and knocked an audience right in the head, scrambling their brains and unmooring their perception of the world. Kaufman's work on SNL and appearances on David Letterman's various talk shows were beamed right into the heads of today's comedy leaders — people like Judd Apatow, Conan O'Brien, and many others — who worshipped both programs growing up.
In some ways, Andy Kaufman was a man born too soon. He would have fit in perfectly in an era of Adult Swim and Funny or Die, late night oddities and cable networks devoted to experimental comedy. Then again, without him, these things may not have been possible.
Here are seven ways he influenced modern comedy.