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Queens Chronicle

MoMI explores the Andy Kaufman influence

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Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2019 10:30 am

Trying to pin down Queens native Andy Kaufman (1949-1984) as a comic, performer and entertainer can be tough.

Just ask artist Brian Hubble, who has been delving into Kaufman’s life and work for 13 years.

“What he did was genius,” said Hubble. “I’ve tried to figure things out, what he invented and discovered in the field of comedy. There are a lot of people, a lot of young comics who have been influenced by him. It can be hard to find where the Andy Kaufman influence ends and something new begins.” Hubble is the guest curator of “I Trusted You: Andy Kaufman on the Edge of Performance,” a combination screening and live event that will celebrate Kaufman at the Museum of the Moving Image on Dec. 14.

While Kaufman is best known for his performance as Latka Gravas on “Taxi” (1978-83), he first came to fame for his off-kilter stage act, some of it meticulously planned and some totally improvised. That led to appearances on talk and variety shows.

He was 35 when he died of a rare form of lung cancer. He inspired a documentary and a song by the band REM. Later actor and comedian Jim Carrey, who was influenced by Kaufman, won a Golden Globe for his portrayal in the 1999 biographical feature film “Man in the Moon.” While acknowledging that Kaufman was well-documented as “an outsider” on the “Taxi” set, Hubble said backstage Kaufman’s reputation was “the sweetest person you could hope to meet.”

“One time when his plane was going to be delayed, he rented a car and went to visit a sick child in a hospital in that city who had written to him,” he said. “He didn’t notify the media or call attention to it. He didn’t have to do that.”

The MoMI retrospective came together gradually through Hubble’s research and interviews. Part will consist of a showing of clips of both Kaufman’s better- and lesser-known performances, as well as a screening of “My Breakfast with Blassie,” a 1983 film featuring Kaufman and pro wrestling legend “Classy Freddie” Blassie, and a direct send-up of “My Dinner with Andre.”

There also will be live performances — “some of which were never recorded” — with actors popping up throughout the museum and its galleries.

Hubble said the retrospective came to MoMI with the help of Sonia Epstein, the museum’s associate curator of science and film. Kaufman’s brother, Michael, and sister, Carol, also will be present at the event.

‘I Trusted You: Andy Kaufman on the Edge of Performance’
When: Sat., Dec. 14, 5-9 p.m.
Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Ave., Astoria
Entry: $20; $15 members, seniors, students. (718) 777-6800,

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