Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman is an Excellent Biographical Graphic Novel

Whether you’re a longtime fan of Andy Kaufman, or you heard of him for the first time this year, Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman will give you new insight on the strange, short life of the enigmatic entertainer, actor, writer, and performance artist.

Andy Kaufman gained notoriety for his role as Latvia Graves on the television show Taxi which ran on two different networks from 1978-1983. His start on television came three years earlier when he created the character “foreign guy” for Saturday Night Live. Andy would appear in live comedy bits at nightclubs as a rude and ridiculous lounge act named Tony Clifton. Andy also taught his friend and fellow comedian Bob Zmuda how to be Tony Clifton so fans were never sure if they were seeing Kaufman or Zmuda.

Andy thrived on angering and frustrating his fans. This came from his fascination with wrestling and his desire to emulate his heroes in that field.

Ignatz Award-Winning author and illustrator Box Brown introduces us to Andy at a young age. We see how some of his influences, primarily Elvis and wrestling, were developed and where his early inspirations came from. We also see the foundation of Andy’s later mysterious persona, including his often noted habit of staying completely in character even when not on stage.

Brown treads lightly on Kaufman’s love life and more personal nature but does reveal some of his strange fetishes. Most of the narrative surrounds Andy’s wrestling obsession. This book will serve as a great resource for people interested in the rise and development of the televised wrestling culture in America in the early 1980’s.

Box’s illustration style is simple and flat the faces of his characters have dots for eyes and triangles for noses with swoops of black as hair. The simplistic styling doesn’t distract readers from the thrust of the narrative and is an effective match to the storytelling style.

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman is a great read for teens and up. This would serve as an excellent introduction to the graphic novel as biography, and includes a detailed bibliography for further reading.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Publication date: February 6, 2018
Page Count: 272 pages
Publisher: First Second :01


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