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Podcast: Comedian and Performance Artist Alexandra Tatarsky on the Value of Discomfort—And Clowning


Podcast: Comedian and Performance Artist Alexandra Tatarsky on the Value of Discomfort—And Clowning
Alexandra Tatarsky. Photo: Lydia Kincaid, courtesy of the artist.

Humor and the Abject is a weekly podcast that brings contemporary artists and comedians together to discuss the increased blurring between their disciplines. Artspace Magazine has partnered with the podcast, hosted by Sean J Patrick Carney, to bring you episodes bi-weekly. Listen to the full series here, or subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 

In November 2013, a young woman interrupted the Andy Kaufman Awards at the Gotham Comedy Club—a then-annual event that recognized comedians like Reggie Watts, Kristen Schaal, and Brett Davis for challenging audiences in novel ways—to announce that not only was comedian Andy Kaufman still alive (despite public perception that he'd died of lung cancer in 1984), but that she was his daughter. 

Host Michael Kaufman, Andy's brother, is reported to have been receptive, saying, "I'm going to hug you just in case you are my niece." In fact, earlier that same night he told the audience he'd found a letter from his notoriously prank-inclined brother that outlined a plan to fake his own death. The internet did what it does best—it flipped out—and within a couple of days website The Smoking Gun had "outed" the woman as New York-based performance artist and actor Alexandra Tatarsky. She'd met Michael Kaufman in February of that year at the exhibition "On Creating Reality: by Andy Kaufman" at Maccarone organized by curator and artist Jonathan Berger. The two hit it off and concocted a merry prank on the public that Kaufman himself would no doubt have appreciated.  

Almost five years later, Tatarsky is one of the most exciting and hilarious performance artists around. Her 2017 one-woman touring show, Americana Psychobabble, brought a strident but gut-busting pastiche of make-up-caked personas, ketchup-spitting gore, and mind-bending gibberish to domestic and international audiences. Tatarsky has developed a unique brand of performance that would be equally at home in an underground comedy club as it would at Performa. On episode 36 of the Humor and the Abject podcast, she talks about going to clown school, whether institutional critique still has any bite, why uncomfortable spaces must exist for performers and audience alike, and much more. 


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