12.08.19

Words by: Felicity Martin

The 10 Best Andy Kaufman Moments, according to Pen Gutt

"The reason why I’ve taken so much of a liking to him is because he wasn’t afraid at all to be hated."

Hailing from a quiet town in Norway, Pen Gutt doesn’t quite fit into the brazen incarnation of contemporary rap. Delivering hooks in indie-rapper sadboy fashion, he laces jazzy, languid beats inspired by Norwegian folk music with his native tongue. While his Scandi upbringing is an influence, he’s also into philosophy books, Norwegian musicals, Japanese anime and a man he describes as “the father of performance art,” Andy Kaufman, an individual Gutt cites as the inspiration behind characters in his videos.

“I first discovered him in a time in my life where I was completely obsessed with Riff Raff,” Pen Gutt says, “and when people discussed on forums whether he was the real deal or just simply an act pretending to be a rapper. Well, somebody in a forum compared him to Andy Kaufman, and said that he might just be trolling everybody. Curious as I was I checked into him, and not long after I’d stumbled into a new obsession.

“Just to clarify, Andy Kaufman has always been somewhat different. He pretended to make TV shows in his room when he was a kid, and got his father to watch as he invited guests, sang, made jokes and hosted the show all together. He made his major TV debut on the first-ever Saturday Night Live episode by lip syncing only Mighty Mouse’s parts in the theme song for Mighty Mouse, which is only three lines. And this was his specialty, there was a lot of silence in his comedy, both by not doing anything or just simply doing something that’s not particularly funny at all. He made the audience feel awkward, weird, and some times even mad, just for the fuck of it. There was never a boring part of his career…”

1. Tony Clifton on the set of Taxi

“He had this character called Tony Clifton, which he made with his writer where he was an obnoxious, abusive lounge singer. Sometimes when somebody wanted to book Andy, they ended up with Tony instead, or sometimes he just insisted that by booking Andy you had to book Tony too. So first you’d get a nice show with Andy, but afterwards a fat drunk would enter the stage and sing so fucking terribly that people would, and if it wasn’t enough he always made sure to go into the audience and harass them, pour a drink over them, whatever to piss them off. So one day he decided to go as Tony to the recording of the show Taxi. He showed up completely drunk with two hookers by his side and started to wrestle the producer, some of the crew and his own co-actors. They fired him for that, but not Andy, just Tony.”

2. Andy Kaufman on Letterman

“This is why I love Andy. Most people just go on talk shows to promote their next movie or album or whatever, but this is just pure gold. He seems so down, and depressed, and as talk show audiences do when it gets awkward, they start to laugh. He doesn’t do anything, he’s just sad. But somehow they love it, cause they don’t know what to do. He then proceeds by saying that his girlfriend has dumped him and ran away with the kids and almost all his money, so it would be of much help if they could lend him some money, then he walks out in the audience and accepts coins with his sad little face.”

3. Andy Kaufman wrestles the ladies

“He was always into wrestling, from way back when he was a kid. Then later on in life he figured out if he didn’t stand a chance wrestling men he would rather wrestle women. That would make for a better show. He usually started out by talking shit about women to get them really fired up, then a girl would volunteer and most of the time he’d get beaten by them, but people would get so excited about it! He played the role of a villain, so they would hate him, and everyone loves seeing the bad guy lose.”

4. Andy Kaufman on SNL

“The reason why I’ve taken so much of a liking to him is because he wasn’t afraid at all to be hated. On the contrary, he used it to his advantage and made the ‘booing’ part of his story. He wanted people to both disgust him and love him, and the best example of this is when he let the audience decide if they would let him continue on SNL or dump him from the show. He got dumped, and never appeared on Saturday Night Live again.”

5. Andy Kaufman reads The Great Gatsby

“Sometimes he just wasn’t keen on being liked at all. He got booked to this university show where he did his famous The Great Gatsby sketch. But the thing about this sketch was that it wasn’t meant to be enjoyable. He starts to read in an English accent The Great Gatsby, and at first it seems a bit funny, but he doesn’t stop, he proceeds to read the book, hushing people when they laugh. He doesn’t stop until he has read the whole fucking book, and almost everyone has left the venue. This is a clip from the sketch, but there’s no footage of when he bombed that university, don’t think it would be entertaining watching either way.”

6. Andy Kaufman plays Carnegie Hall

“I take great inspiration from how he communicated with the audience, how he broke the barrier between them and let them into his own world. At the end of his performance at Carnegie Hall he tells the audience he has 20 buses waiting outside the theatre to bring everyone to have milk and cookies with him. That’s how you’re supposed to end a show. On another note, Action Bronson once stopped in the middle of his set to go and eat some chicken at a place down the street, bringing a lot of the fans. He then got back and finished the rest of the show.”

7. Andy Kaufman does Elvis Presley

“One of his most famous acts was his Elvis Presley impersonation. He was completely obsessed with him, and actually got the notion by Elvis that his act was his favourite of all the Elvis impersonators. Andy had a talent, sometimes he used it for complete fuckery, but other times he used it just to make people laugh and smile. This was one of those acts. A kid showing love to his biggest idol.”

8. Andy Kaufman interviews his ex-girlfriend Elayne Boosler

“I would guess this is some of the first trolling ever made on television. It’s Eric André before he was even born. On the same TV special the screen suddenly starts to scrub, making people at home adjusting their antenna to make it good again. This was just something he had edited in to make them leave their couch. Genius. Later on the show he invites his guest, which is his ex-girlfriend, and for the occasion he has made the tallest desk in talk-show history. Making the dynamics look really weird. If there’s one Andy clip you should watch, it’s definitely this. Both of them are really funny, she talks about a stand-up friend who does a lot of material about death, and talks shit about old senile people, and without looking at the audience he afterwards realise that it’s just old people watching. Which is just sad, not funny, haha. Might be my favourite clip.”

9. The Andy Kaufman apology

“The thing about Andy is that you never really knew when he was in character or not. He always seemed to be some steps ahead, making people really confused if they were gonna laugh or feel sorry for him. Before any of his acts or shows he demanded 90 minutes of pure silence in a room to meditate. He was deep into meditating, and worked as a teacher for a long time, and that’s why I think he had so much control over his situations. I would guess he would visualise everything he was going to do, and think of the different outcomes of his actions. I think he got into the state which he needed to be to keep his straight face at all times. Here he makes his apology after starting a fight on the Fridays TV show. A beautiful performance, just watch.”

10. Jerry Lawler vs Andy Kaufman

“The fight with Jerry Lawler was an ongoing thing throughout his whole career. Making appearances on talk shows where Andy threw water on him and said he was just an idiot from Memphis, Tennessee. Andy also kept saying that everyone from Tennessee had an IQ of 10 and never washed themselves or had any toilet paper, and basically walked around with shit in their pants.

“This was just to get them fired up, so when the day came when Andy was supposed to fight Jerry the venue was packed and everyone hated Andy. After a hard knuckle driver which made Andy land on his head, he just laid there, completely wrecked. The crowd went crazy and screamed that he had to get back on his feet, but he wouldn’t. Instead he just laid there, and after some time some medics came and put him on a stretcher and drove him away, leaving the audience confused about what just happened.”

Listen to Pen Gutt’s ‘Skyle Uten Hender (ft. Bronse)’:

Pen Gutt’s debut album arrives late Summer via Luft Recordings