Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Make Them Hate You

Andy Kaufman was pretty unique in the kind of comedy he engaged in. It seems very similar to the kind of funny things that wrestlers have just started to do in the past decade. The crowds participation is essential to having something that is funny be portrayed as funny or just getting the crowd riled up. Only wrestling fans would be able to appreciate the effort that goes into antagonizing other wrestlers and the crowd. Like in the piece about “Pinning Down Fan Involvement,” wrestling fan appreciate the skill and thought that goes into those kinds of performances. People can look back and think of Andy Kaufman as really understanding wrestling and having created such a memorable feud with Jerry Lawler. I would think that he would be cheered in a wrestling arena today.

I remember that Triple H, a wrestler that is immensely popular today, was injured a few years back and when he came back, he was cheered. The only thing about this situation was, that like Andy, he was a heel and had been despised by the crowd during his feud with the Rock. The crowd really appreciates people like Triple H and Andy because what they do makes them love the spectacle. Without someone to hate, what would wrestling be like?

Andy’s comedy to me made sense though. It didn’t seem like he was trying to be a comedian for the people. He probably did things to make himself laugh. It was never about making a joke to make people laugh but to make others who watched laugh. People might be annoyed they paid to listen to Andy Kaufman read the Great Gatsby but people watching that audience would probably laugh at him. And this is where Andy’s comedy makes sense to a wrestling fan. He needed the audience to be a part of the comedy or the spectacle. The way people would react to what he did is now funny to us today because it is apparent he is not trying to make the people there laugh, he wanted the embarrassment and the situation he put either the audience or his cast members in to be what people laughed at and those are the kinds of things that wrestling fans laugh at today.


Anonymous said...

While wrestling fans are quite clever and can respect the artistry and talent it takes for a good heel to really get heat, I don't think that necessarily means that crowds today would cheer Kaufman. Maybe eventually, but not at first. Kaufman was indeed brilliant at really getting the crowd emotionally involved, he could draw the venom out, and that's exactly what he was aiming for, not necessarily entertaining them, but anyone else who happenned to be watching that understood the sort of satire he was aiming for. Kaufman could definitely draw heat from a modern day crowd, even if we may consider ourselves smarter and more 'in' on the wrestling game, but Kaufman would figure us out and push our buttons anyway. He knew exactly what kind of crowd interation and dynamic was needed to make his act work, and he had plenty of experience in suspending disbelief and making audiences buy into what he was presenting in the rest of his career to pull off the heel character so well.

Incidently, when Triple H tore his quad,
he went out a heel, but through the wonderful talent in the WWE AV production department, they hyped his recovery with several music video montages set to the inspirational rock of 'Creed'. I think these little clips more than anything else allowed HHH to come back to a standing ovation at MSG, which goes to show how the whole wrestling game and the dynamic of building characters is changing with the times, and how well the WWE has been able to keep up.

X P said...

I also don't think that Andy Kaufman would have been cheered today especially down in the south. THe people down there really seemed to hate him. I know that was his act and I'm sure many fans noticed this, but I think it was more the fans that watched on television. If Andy Kaufman would have done his performance today, people would still hate him, but eventually cheer him once some time passed. I think back in those days, the whole illustration of wrestling as a purely entertainment buisness wasn't really set in and many could of thought of Andy Kaufman as a true person to hate.
I agree that Andy Kaufman would somehow find a way to draw heat from today's audience. He knew exactly how to act to get the reaction he wanted. It was quite impressive to watch as well as funny.

Sam Ford said...

Luis, I think one of the points you were trying to make is indeed true, in that I think that the wrestling fans understood Andy's act while the rest of the world didn't. Even though they hated his guts, they did it in a way that also admired his act, whereas the SNL viewers apparently literally didn't want to see Andy anymore.

The people in Memphis DID seem to want to see him...get kicked around the ring. :)

As for Deirdre's point about HHH, very true, about the music video and great packages making his return seem like such a big deal.