Bill Zehme's biography of comic actor/performance artist Andy Kaufman (subject of the feature film Man in the Moon
) is a meticulously researched, eminently readable and very strange book--this last being perhaps no surprise given its subject. Written over a six-year period, Lost in the Funhouse
is crammed with details gleaned from interviews with the actor's family, friends, teachers, co-workers and unwitting participants in Kaufman's pranks. In particular, the book provides great insight into Kaufman's early life in Great Neck, New York; his relationship with transcendental meditation and his first forays into night clubs in the early 70s. Zehme, author of The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'
, weaves together multiple narratives from varying perspectives, including passages in which the author appears to have entered his subject's brain. Zehme did have access to unpublished letters and manuscripts (which fans would certainly like to see published on their own one day) but the only person who could legitimately verify the accuracy of these passages is no longer with us.
At its best, the book approaches that apex of artful celebrity bi-fiction, Nick Tosches's Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams.The transitions from one perspective to the next are a bit jarring at first but once the reader gives in to Zehmes's collage of multiple personalities, one is considerably closer to understanding the book's subject. Kaufman was nothing if not a collector of various intense personalities: the young boy continually mourning his grandfather's death; the likeable and naive Foreign Man; the talentless and irascible lounge singer Tony Clifton; the bliss-seeking student of transcendental meditation; the devoted and loving son who never had anything to do with his own child; and world champion of inter-gender wrestling. Lost in the Funhouse is the one Kaufman tome that will please neophytes as well as those with their own Andy Kaufman Web sites. --Mike McGonigal
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'An excellent, tragicomic biography of a comedian's comedian.' Patrick Skene Catling, Spectator -- Patrick Skene Catling, Spectator
'Confused? Then you'd better read this zinger of a biography.' -- Brian Boyd, Irish Times
'Confused? Then you'd better read this zinger of a biography.' Brian Boyd, Irish TImes -- Brian Boyd, Irish Times
'Excellent.' -- Esquire
'Excellent.' Esquire -- Esquire
'The closest thing we are ever likely to get to a definitive account of Andy Kaufman's life ... if you want the facts, this is the only book you need.' -- Peter Keepnews, New York Times
'This is a beautiful book ... I believe that I could write a better biography than Bill Zehme, and be a better comedian than Andy. And if you believe me, maybe you're not in on this review.' -- Phil Kay, Herald