(PCM) Andy Kaufman may be alive, in spite of his apparent death in 1984. Before we discuss whether he is hanging with Elvis, Tupac, Jim Morrison and D.B. Cooper on the Earthly plane, here is a little information about the man.
Andy was best known as a comedian, an actor, an Elvis impersonator, a hoaxer, a Foreign Man (from Caspiar), and c-list lounge singer Tony Clifton, among others.
He wasn’t a serial dater, although he did date Cindy Willams (Shirley from Lavern and Shirley) and comedienne Elayne Boosler.
Debby Harry (Blondie) told me she considered him a friend as well, but didn’t elaborate. They debuted together on Broadway in ‘Teaneck Tanzi,’ a very short lived show about wrestling, years before the era of Hulk Hogan and the WWF (now WWE).
Andy sometimes opened for himself as Tony Clifton, who was jealous of Andy’s success, and made that fact very clear to both the audience and in interviews. Tony was once booked as a guest on ‘Taxi,’ and caused a scene, getting booted off set. Producers James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels later released a statement that said that although Clifton was “no longer welcome on the set”, his friend Andy Kaufman would continue in his role as Latka.
Tony Clifton (on stage):
It could be said that he invented the art of Elvis Impersonation, and the King was quoted as saying that Andy was his favorite. His character of Latka Gravas, on TV’s Taxi, was based on his Foreign Man. When on the road, people most knew him for his Latka role, and would often heckle him when he wasn’t in that character. Every comedian has a response for hecklers - his was reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald to the audience aloud.
On The Tonight Show (1977):
Andy was also the self-proclaimed “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World,” offering women $1000 if they could pin him. Although there were several draws, he kept his title. He befriended pro wrestler Jerry Lawler, and they feuded on television and in areas throughout the country. At one point Jerry may or may not have broken Andy’s neck (on David Letterman). Andy wore the neck brace for nearly a year after that incident. It was probably painful, but not as severe as it was claimed.
Jim Carrey believably played Andy Kaufman in the 1999 film ‘Man on the Moon.’
Andy was also the subject of the song “Man On The Moon’ by R.E.M.
Comic Relief was started in the UK, in 1985. Comic Relief USA was started in Andy’s honor, in 1986.
The Mighty Mouse Theme (1975):
Andy found he had lung cancer in late 1983, and died on May 16, 1984. Or did he?
He did discuss faking his death with friend and sometimes partner Bob Zmuda. He was 35 when he died, and he made no secret about the sudden cancer. In many ways it was a perfect setup for a fake death, and Andy was the perfect celebrity to do it.
About three years before his death, in 1981, Kaufman met with professional hoaxer Alan Abel, who himself successfully faked his own death – in 1979. Abel staged his own death from a heart attack near the Sundance Ski Lodge. Abel’s stunt was so believable it earned him an obituary in the ‘paper of record’ New York Times. Abel also started the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA), his most famous hoax. SINA’s mission was to clothe naked animals throughout the world.
At the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Abel introduced a campaign to ban all breastfeeding because “it is an incestuous relationship between mother and baby that manifests an oral addiction leading youngsters to smoke, drink and even becoming anti-social.”
The owner of AndyKaufmanLives.com is Stephen Maddox of Greenwood, Indiana and more than one reporter thinks he may be more than a ‘relative’ of Andy.
Kaufman’s brother, Michael Kaufman, he admitted that he didn’t always know when his brother was acting even in some of his most bizarre skits. ‘One time I told him not to let me know what was really going on, because when people asked me questions I didn’t want to lie to them,’ he told VICE Magazine in 2012.
Is Andy alive? Probably not. If he is, his reintroduction will be the single greatest performance art of all time.
Comedy is always cruel at its heart. Andy was a cruel, cruel man.
“Andy made himself the premise and the rest of the world was the punchline.”
“Did Andy influence comedy? No. Because nobody’s doing what he did. Jim Carrey was influenced—not to do what Andy did, but to follow his own drummer. I think Andy did that for a lot of people. Follow your own drumbeat. You didn’t have to go up there and say ‘take my wife, please.’ You could do anything that struck you as entertaining. It gave people freedom to be themselves.”
“Andy Kaufman was by far the most innovative comedian at that time – although he never liked being called a comedian. With Andy, you never knew whom you were talking to. He liked to disappear into different personas offstage as well as onstage and refused to ever break character. He was a remarkable guy, but basically confusing to spend any time around.”
“When I perform, it’s very personal. I’m sharing things I like, inviting the audience into my
“No one has ever done what Andy did, and did it as well, and no one will ever. Because he did it first. So did Buster Keaton, so did Andy.”
“He was a practical joker. Most practical jokers work their pranks one-on-one. Andy’s jokes were on his entire audience.”
“T’ank you veddy much!”