Charlie Kaufman

By: Annie Nocenti
November 1, 2009


CHARLIE KAUFMAN (born 1958) writes film scripts that zig when you expect a zag. Fantastic notions are met with deadpan nonchalance, creating comedy of simmering delirium. He redefined the screwball comedy as more of a corkscrew comedy in Being John Malkovich, in which a triangle of lovers pursue their obsessions via the body of a fourth. Kaufman’s narrative impulses inject refreshing loop-de-loops into the art of screenwriting. His protagonists are hapless, his philosophical bent is self-exposure (Adaptation and Synecdoche, New York) and fractured identity (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). He flirts with surrealism, traffics in Beckett, glances at existentialism, sideswipes sci-fi, but mostly, Kaufman is an original. Anything is possible in his world. (Ever want to wipe a love affair out of your mind? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind obliges.) “I like taking the truth,” Kaufman says, “and screwing with it.” He derails expectation while satisfying needs you didn’t even know you had.


HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God

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