• Inside the Andy Kaufman Awards with Kristen Schaal, Reggie Watts and more

    Andy Kaufman was one of the most unusual, most talented, and most creative comics ever to hit the stage. He left us too young, but his memory certainly lives on. Manager/producer Wayne Rada, (who also books CB’s Comedy Club), produced the 7th Annual Andy Kaufman Awards at Gotham Comedy Club and– I spent two nights there watching the semi-finals and then the finals.

    Contestants are not supposed to try and copy Andy, as if anybody could, but they are supposed to try and capture the essence of his spirit and creativity. He had no fear in doing what he thought was funny, whether it was wrestling women, or real wrestlers, or coming out on the Carson show in a turban and diaper singing a Slim Whitman song.

    On the first night the judges were Rory Albanese, a very funny comic in his own right, but more importantly the producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Then there was Comedy Central executive Anne Harris, who always extends herself to come out and be helpful at these type of events, joined by previous Andy Kaufman winner Kristen Schaal (pictured above), and lastly Andy’s younger brother (by two years) Michael Kaufman. Schaal also performed a guest spot and was nice enough to run out to see me right after her spot, and grab a quick photo, so she could go back to judging the rest of the contestants.

    There must have been at least 15 semi-finalists. Some of them tried to reach Andy’s level of creativity by dressing very strange in outlandish costumes– and several chose a stage persona. First there were the “Nice Brothers” who both wore shades, and punctuated their repartee with the word “Nice” every so often. I liked them. Then there was Mike Amato who came out and sang a song like he was one of the Ratpack, or maybe Perry Como, if you even know who that was. He then ripped of his clothes and became a stone cold rapper, with two hot dancing girls. I thought he was good.

    Then there was Dave Thunder who came out as a character named Jimmy DeLuca, a Lower East Side kind of kid who told “a very scary story” while eating a piece of cheese. Every so often he broke into that “scary” voice that camp counselors would use when telling a scary story to campers on an overnight in the woods. I thought he was funny too. It just goes to show you how subjective comedy is because none of those people won. The next night for the finals, comedian Harrison Greenbaum was the host. He’s always hilarious, and previous Andy Kaufman winner Reggie Watts, came by to do a guest spot. Always good to see Reggie! He makes my hair look subdued!

    The winner was comedian Nick Vatterott, who must have gotten permission to have the longest set of anyone else on the show. Every other performer got about five minutes. Nick left the stage and kept coming back because his act consisted of screaming obscenities at the audience and threatening to never come back again, except he had to keep returning because he forgot his keys, or a couple of milk containers, and each time he came back he’d “interrupt” the show, and scream again.

    He screamed right into the faces of people in the audience. And I mean SCREAMED! I for one would not have been happy if that happened to me at a show, but the audience members he screamed at were either too embarrassed or too startled to respond, so they just laughed. And he won!

    For more info and photos see the Comedy Matters Blog.

    Jeffrey Gurian

    Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer who has written for lots of big names, and is currently writing the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. Contact Jeffrey at Jeffrey@jeffreygurian.com.

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