Monday, August 25, 2008

Was Andy Kaufman the Dazai Osamu of Jewish-American Comedy?

Watching this Andy Kaufman video after spending most of the day reading Dazai Osamu, I noticed that there are some striking similarities between the two artists. No time to go into detail now, but here are a few of the similarities. I hope to elaborate on this topic at a later date.

a) Both view the audience as an object to be manipulated, and employ similar methods of manipulation.
b) Both present with a straight face a fictionalized self as if it were "the real self."
c) Both deliberately use bad humor, over-the-top pathos, and bathos.
d) Both frequently wallow in self-pity for comic effect.
e) Both incorporate neurotic "self-critiques" into their performances.
f) Both insert into their act from time to time hecklers or critics who mock their performance as it is being delivered.
g) Both often show signs of death wishery (or at least the characters they are playing do).
h) Both perform phony crying routines.
i) Their performative techniques are often thrust into the foreground.
j) And, most importantly, they share a central preoccupation, namely, of problematizing the concept of “self,” and of blurring the lines between performance and reality.

I hope I'm not belaboring the obvious here. Oh, and also, both died young (Dazai of suicide, Kaufman of kidney failure). Perhaps dying young was the only to keep people from saying it was all an act.


Anonymous said...

i like it and am looking forward to reading more. if you can find any connection between dazai and professional wrestling, you've really got a case.


Anonymous said...

k) They were both Jewish

J. Margaret said...

I loved Andy Kaufman. His name on the show Taxi was Latka, he was great. He died way too soon. (ry, you have a typo in your last sentence, doesn't sound right.) Do we have any books of Dazai here that I can read in English. love mom

Ryan said...

There should be a few in the bookshelf. If not, you can find his books at any major bookstore.

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