STANLEY KUBRICK PRESENTS ANDY KAUFMAN ON VHS
you’re 12 or 13. you’re bored and fishing through the stacks of dusty videotapes in the family room cabinet. mostly old dance recitals, shit you’ve taped off tv, Annie and Gymkata. then in the way back you find something that looks like what’s pictured above. someone (not your parents) has gone to the trouble of properly labeling it, yet the words mean nothing to you. you pop it in. first up: something called The Shining, which is especially pants-shitting because the tape is kind of old and the signal is a little warped, which adds extra creepy to the dead old naked gal and the fellating bear. you give it a week to gather yourself before putting the tape in the VCR again because whatever Comedy Tonight is, it couldn’t be that scary. quite the contrary. what you see has been taped off of HBO, which they were still calling Home Box Office when the program aired in 1977. it turns out to be the 2nd Annual Young Comedians Special, hosted by David Steinberg. you don’t know who he is, except that he might have played Larry the Upstairs Neighbor on Three’s Company, but what’s important is to follow. because among the future star after future star appearing in the special (a young, still bald Gallagher, a young, coked up Robin Williams, a young Ed Bluestone (okay, not all of them future stars)), there is one guy whose set makes you feel awkward. you squirm a bit while you watch it because you’ve never seen anything like it, and this was 1977. it takes you an uncomfortably long time to figure out that what he’s doing is performance, because he is so brilliantly authentic. and by the time you think you might’ve wrapped your head around it, he’s seamlessly broken into song in a made-up foreign language and playing the congas, and the people in the audience shift in their seats and laugh a little differently than you’ve ever heard people laugh - partly because it’s the seventies, but mostly because they are witnessing genius. i’ll spoil the suprise: the ‘you’ in this story is me. and i’ve just dug up the tape, which i’ve never kept too far from me since i found it as a kid, because it’s just dawned on me i need to transfer it as soon as i can. because i couldn’t find footage of the show available anywhere on the web, and after the catastrophe that was Man on the Moon, i know that this footage needs to be seen. so look out for that in the coming days, if you’re interested.
UPDATE: here it is.