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December 09, 2008

Lloyd Kaufman Interviewed

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

lloydkaufman.jpg has been running an interview with exploitation filmmaker Lloyd Kauffman in very short chunks, an inspired way to showcase interview material on the web, IMHO. In yesterday's installment, Kaufman talked about how he dislikes the way the word "exploitation" is so often used as a putdown. In today's installment he complains that horror and humor don't get the respect they deserve.

I don't know if you're aware of Lloyd Kaufman. If you aren't, perhaps you should be -- he's certainly one of the most influential popular-culture figures out there today. Don't think so? Consider this: his company, Troma, has produced around a hundred movies, including such inspired blowouts as "The Toxic Avenger," "Tromeo and Juliet," and "Poultrygeist." (As you might be suspecting, one Troma trademark is never to pass up a joke or a wisecrack -- especially the obvious and poor-taste ones.) Troma also distributes hundreds of mini- and micro-budget movies made by others.

A good way for the greybeards among us to conceptualize what Lloyd Kaufman represents might be: He's a combo of Roger Corman, Rodney Dangerfield, and Mad Magazine's William Gaines -- a go-it-his-own-way, never-sufficiently-respected, full-of-mischief bomb-thrower.

In fact, Kaufman works with a partner, Michael Herz. Herz, though, prefers to stay out of the public eye, where Kaufman is a born showman. He has developed a very amusing and effective public persona, which you'll get a taste of at's interviews. Here's one man who really really loves the camera and who isn't afraid of showing that love, whether he's behind the cameras or in front of them.

Kaufman is also something that isn't rare in the movie world: a lowbrow trashmeister who's at least as smart as the respectable people he mocks and defies. He's a Yale grad who -- like many of his generation -- got biten by the art-and-trash movie bug while at college. Oops, there I go mentioning an Ivy League school yet again. Damn, I really gotta stop doing that. It isn't as though the Ivies play a discernible role in our cultural dramas or anything.

Kaufman is such a hero in the micro-budget movie world that he has also made guest appearances in several hundred low-budget movies. Micro-budget filmmakers love Kaufman and want to show him off; they also hope that his presence in their movies will attract viewers. Kaufman makes a point of obliging whenever he can.

While the usual movie press coverage refers to the likes of Miramax as "indies," Kaufman and Herz have been going their own Troma way, producing and distributing exactly what they have wanted to, for nearly 40 years now. They may well deserve the title The Indie-est of the Indies.

"The Fold" is one ambitious and unusual webseries, by the way. Why not stick around and give it a try too? Click on an episode in the left-hand column and enjoy. Some passages of "The Fold" are NSFW, so consider yourself warned.

I wrote about Lloyd Kaufman's excellent book "Make Your Own Damn Movie!" back here. Here's the Troma website.'s q&a's with Lloyd Kaufman will continue running through the weekend.



posted by Michael at December 9, 2008


I went to dinner with Lloyd Kaufman a few years ago, and he was a total charmer: Smart, witty, and just eccentric enough to be endearing. Long live Lloyd and Troma!

Posted by: Sister Wolf on December 9, 2008 7:13 PM

Those books you listed were very interesting, Michael. I just ordered about five of them. Thanks!!!!

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on December 9, 2008 8:02 PM

These weren't the guys who made "Mutants on the Bounty", were they?

Posted by: Derek Lowe on December 10, 2008 11:43 AM

They advertise Troma at the local "Alamo Drafthouse": "Tromatic Tuesdays", they call it. I never yet attended one.

I always thought "Troma" was the name of the producer or director. I've learnt something new today.

But what's this about "trenchant anticonsumerist statements" in that new zombie chicken movie of his? Good Lord. I expect he's elsewhere trenchantly stated some trenchant anti-Nazi statements. How brave.

Posted by: Zimri on December 12, 2008 12:33 AM

In my opinion exploitation spells entertainment. There is nothing wrong with giving your perspective on life.

Posted by: Independent Filmmaking on December 20, 2008 4:26 PM

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