Time has done something curious to “My Breakfast With Blassie,” the 1983 comedy with the offbeat pairing of funnyman Andy Kaufman and professional wrestling legend Freddie Blassie. Most people coming to the film today may not realize this was an extended parody of the once-popular (but, now, largely forgotten) Louis Malle-helmed art house hit “My Dinner With Andre.” The Malle film’s intellectual pretensions of highbrow culture vultures engaging in arch dinnertime conversation at a high class restaurant was put through the ringer in “My Breakfast With Blassie” by having a decidedly lowbrow meeting of warped minds over breakfast at a diner with the unfortunate pre-P.C. name of Sambo’s.
But absent of the constant reminder of “My Dinner With Andre,” this little film currently doesn’t exist as a recognizable parody today. Rather, it has become a work of its own merit.
“My Breakfast With Blassie” provides an amusing slice of performance art. Kaufman, who was in the midst of his professional wrestling mania – he sports a neckbrace courtesy of a Jerry Lawler run-in – shares the spotlight with Blassie, an oversized ham who gladly plays along with this warped performance art piece. The men talk at length on a variety of issues – personal hygiene, unhealthy foods, being pestered by fans – although Blassie somehow has a way of turning the conversation back to himself and his unique adventures, including travels through Japan and Shah-era Iran. A pregnant Thai waitress (who actually worked at the diner) and onlookers who horn in on the talk (who were planted for the film) interrupt the conversation, only to find themselves at the crux of the stars’ palaver.
“My Breakfast With Blassie” is a fly-on-the-wall view to a pair of genuine oddballs engaged in what appears to be a rambling but fun conversation. The comedy does not come from jokes or gags, but by recognizing two larger-than-life figures trying (perhaps not so successfully) to be a couple of real Joes. When their talk seems mundane, something inevitably flicks a switch to flare up their idiosyncracies (Kaufman is both flattered and agitated at being recognized while Blassie goes to surprising lengths to describe his phobia of hand-carried germs).
Yes, this is a comedy, but don’t expect riotous laugh-out-loud moments. Instead, the beauty of this indie classic comes from an eccentric personality that ensures constant attention at the gently bizarre scenario unfolding with good-natured humor.