You may not know him, but he matters

Tyler McGinty, Opinions Editor

Everyone who has seen “The Hangover” knows who Zach Galifianakis is, but they might not know about his incredibly odd standup comedy act. Galifianakis constantly pushes the envelope and actively tries to interfere with his audience.

This style of standup was pioneered by one man who didn’t want to be called a comedian, Andy Kaufman.

The 2011 Andy Kaufman Award, an award designed to give recognition for comedians who take comedy and do something a little different with it, was given out Nov. 7.

These awards made me laugh and had me confused at the same time, something Kaufman would have been delighted to hear.

These comedians weren’t all about their jokes, but their act. They’re almost more performance artists than they are comedians.

The winner, Nick Vatterott, performs his standup as a monster, which is something Kaufman would probably have loved.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kaufman, he hated to be called a comedian.

He always said he didn’t tell jokes; he just wanted to get reactions from people.

This is a man who pulled pranks on live television on other actors (causing them to throw tantrums) a man who wrestled women as a gag and took his entire audience at Carnegie Hall out for milk and cookies.

A guy like this played Carnegie Hall in the ’70s and today people that are trying to do something new are stuck in dinky comedy clubs.

I don’t see the justice in that. Today originality gets thrust into the shadows and mediocrity gets pushed into the limelight.

Sorry any Dane Cook fans, but he’s famous because he tells stories you can relate to, not because he’s original, and definitely not because he’s any good.

I love standup comedy, but I feel like it’s gotten stale over the years. There are definitely people that are funny: Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr and Brian Posehn, to name a few of my favorites.

There are also some pretty bad acts, like Dane Cook.

However, it doesn’t matter how funny (or not) they are, I don’t see any famous comedians pushing the envelope with their acts. They’re original with their jokes, but not quite their delivery.

This isn’t really a bad thing. Following in the footsteps of Kaufman is much harder than it is to follow Richard Pryor. Pryor was definitely unique, just not in the same way. Everyone has a style they have to work with, and I know I couldn’t do anything remotely resembling Kaufman.

But Kaufman’s influence on the world of standup comedy is still being felt today, 30 years after his death.

But it really should be much stronger. I’d hate to imagine a world where there isn’t a single standup doing something besides standing onstage and telling jokes, regardless of how funny it is.

So it was incredibly refreshing to hear these surreal comics being broadcast this November. It filled me with hope that there are still people out there trying something new and taking risks. It’s a good feeling.

It makes me feel that everything might be OK.