Synopses & Reviews
Just as Andy Kaufman subverted traditional forms of comedy, Julie Hecht, with her deadpan wit and highly original style, subverts the traditional form of the profile with her acclaimed nonfiction book, Was This Man a Genius?, reissued in trade paperback.
Following Andy Kaufman—from an appearance at his old high school to performances at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall—Julie Hecht talked with the entertainer during 1978 and 1979 whenever he came to New York City. She withstood nerve-racking experiences: at a party for Kaufman at his parents’ house, on a visit to his childhood bedroom—packed with bags of his teenage poems and elvis clippings—and as a passenger in a car he drove, no hands, while singing and trying to dance to radio music at 3 a.m. on an icy road. She was able to discover the truth behind the stories Andy Kaufman made up for interviewers and to discover the secret of his inspiration. “What made you finally tell me all this?” Hecht asked him at the end of their last meeting. “Because you persevered,” he said.
This is a book of bizarre incidents and frequently hilarious conversations between one of our most fascinating performers and a writer of short stories who found the story of Kaufman’s life and work to be out of this world and worth the trip. It will entertain the many fans of both the author and her subject, and through its surprising dialogue and surreal encounters, it paints an intense portrait of Andy Kaufman and explains how he came to do what he did.
"Kaufman may have met his match." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Sad, canny, funny rambles you don't want to end.... Hecht creates comedy, like Buster Keaton's, of forbearance." -- The Washington Post
"Julie Hecht is one of the best writers now. Her profile of Andy Kaufman is as original and funny and true as her fiction, which is saying a lot." -- Ian Frazier
"Julie Hecht may come closer to seeing the real Andy than any journalist; the journey here is as rewarding as the destination." -- Newsday
Andy Kaufman defied explanation. Between 1978 and 1979, acclaimed novelist and New Yorker short story writer Julie Hecht attempted to arrange an interview with him, hoping to discover how he came to do what he did. The one-hour interview turned into innumerable surreal meetings and phone conversations with her subject; but she couldn't always tell when his act was on.
Whether driving recklessly on icy roads or drawing the author unawares into his schemes and Dada-esque pranks on unsuspecting waiters and college students, Andy Kaufman never seemed to separate himself from his stage personality -- or personalities. Was This Man a Genius? is the culmination of a series of bizarre, frequently hilarious meetings. In describing them, Hecht, herself a master of wit and observation, illuminates the enigma of Andy Kaufman's work and life.
Julie Hecht's hilarious and darkly comic book about the two years she spent interviewing legendary comedian Andy Kaufman at the height of his career.
About the Author
Julie Hecht is the author of Do the Windows Open?, Was This Man a Genius?: Talks with Andy Kaufman, and The Unprofessionals. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker and Harper's. She has won an O. Henry Prize and received a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives on the east end of Long Island in winter and in Massachusetts in summer and fall. She has been writing stories since she was eight years old.