Kaufman circa 1980
Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman
January 17, 1949
New York City, U.S.
|Died||May 16, 1984 35) (aged|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Large cell carcinoma|
|Resting place||Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, New York|
|Occupation||Actor, performance artist, comedian|
|Known for||Latka Gravas in Taxi (1978–1983)|
|Style||Anti-humor, cringe humor, character comedy, surreal comedy, improvisational comedy|
|Partner(s)||Lynne Margulies (1983/84–1984; his death)|
Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman ( // ; January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an American entertainer, actor, writer, and performance artist. While often called a comedian, Kaufman described himself instead as a "song and dance man". He disdained telling jokes and engaging in comedy as it was traditionally understood, once saying in a rare introspective interview, "I am not a comic, I have never told a joke. ... The comedian's promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him... My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can."
Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated, spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any type of venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.
After working in small comedy clubs in the early 1970s, Kaufman came to the attention of a wider audience in 1975, when he was invited to perform portions of his act on the first season of Saturday Night Live . His Foreign Man character was the basis of his performance as Latka Gravas on the hit television show Taxi from 1978 until 1983.During this time, he continued to tour comedy clubs and theaters in a series of unique performance art / comedy shows, sometimes appearing as himself and sometimes as obnoxiously rude lounge singer Tony Clifton. He was also a frequent guest on sketch comedy and late-night talk shows, particularly Late Night with David Letterman . In 1982, Kaufman brought his professional wrestling villain act to Letterman's show by way of a staged encounter with Jerry "The King" Lawler of the Continental Wrestling Association (although the fact that the altercation was planned in advance was not publicly disclosed for over a decade).
Saturday Night Live (SNL) is an American late-night live television variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night. The show's comedy sketches, which often parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as with featured performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", properly beginning the show.
Latka Gravas is a fictional character on the television sitcom Taxi portrayed by Andy Kaufman. A sweet-natured and lovable-but-goofy mechanic, Latka was based on a character Kaufman created known as Foreign Man.
Taxi is an American sitcom that originally aired on ABC from September 12, 1978 to May 6, 1982 and on NBC from September 30, 1982 to June 15, 1983. The series won 18 Emmy Awards, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series. It focuses on the everyday lives of a handful of New York City taxi drivers and their abusive dispatcher. Taxi was produced by the John Charles Walters Company, in association with Paramount Network Television, and was created by James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed Weinberger.
Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984, at the age of 35.Because pranks and elaborate ruses were major elements of his career, persistent rumors have circulated that Kaufman faked his own death as a grand hoax. He continues to be respected for the variety of his characters, his uniquely counterintuitive approach to comedy, and his willingness to provoke negative and confused reactions from audiences.
A faked death, also called a "staged death" and pseudocide, is a case in which an individual leaves evidence to suggest that they are dead to mislead others. This is done for a variety of reasons, such as to fraudulently collect insurance money, to avoid capture by law enforcement for some other crime, escape from being held hostage by abductors or as a practical prank.
Kaufman was born on January 17, 1949, in New York City, the oldest of three children. His mother was Janice (née Bernstein), a homemaker and former fashion model, and his father was Stanley Robert Kaufman, a jewelry salesman.Andy, along with his younger brother Michael and sister Carol, grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in Great Neck, Long Island. He began performing at children's birthday parties at age 9, playing records and showing cartoons. Kaufman spent much of his youth writing poetry and stories, including an unpublished novel, The Hollering Mangoo, which he completed at age 16. Following a visit to his school from Nigerian musician Babatunde Olatunji, Kaufman began playing the congas.
Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.
Great Neck is a region on Long Island, New York, that covers a peninsula on the North Shore and includes 9 villages, such as the villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Estates, Great Neck Plaza, and Russell Gardens, and a number of unincorporated areas, as well as an area south of the peninsula near Lake Success and the border territory of Queens. The incorporated village of Great Neck had a population of 9,989 at the 2010 census, while the larger Great Neck area comprises a residential community of some 40,000 people in nine villages and hamlets in the town of North Hempstead, of which Great Neck is the northwestern quadrant. Great Neck has five ZIP Codes (11020–11024), which are united by a park district and one school district.
Long Island is a densely populated island off the East Coast of the United States, beginning at New York Harbor approximately 0.35 miles (0.56 km) from Manhattan Island and extending eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. The island comprises four counties in the U.S. state of New York. Kings and Queens Counties and Nassau County share the western third of the island, while Suffolk County occupies the eastern two-thirds. More than half of New York City's residents now live on Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens. However, many people in the New York metropolitan area colloquially use the term Long Island to refer exclusively to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which are mainly suburban in character, conversely employing the term the City to mean Manhattan alone.
After graduating from Great Neck North High School in 1967, Kaufman took a year off before enrolling at the now defunct two-year Grahm Junior Collegein Boston, where he studied television production and starred in his own campus television show, Uncle Andy's Fun House. In August 1969, he hitchhiked to Las Vegas to meet Elvis Presley, showing up unannounced at the International Hotel. Soon after, he began performing at coffee houses and developing his act, as well as writing a one-man play, Gosh (later renamed God and published in 2000). After graduating in 1971, he began performing stand-up comedy at various small clubs on the East Coast.
John L. Miller Great Neck North High School or simply "North High," or "North," is a public high school, including grades 9 through 12, in the village of Great Neck, New York, operated by the Great Neck School District.
Grahm Junior College was a non-profit junior college located in Boston, Massachusetts. It opened in 1951 under the name Cambridge School, as part of a chain of schools that started in New York City and later included Chicago and Philadelphia branches. It was accredited in 1964 as a business school and later expanded to include radio and TV broadcasting. It was renamed Grahm Junior College in 1968. The college radio station and a closed-circuit television station were known as WCSB.
Jim Knipfel and Mark Evanier claim that Kaufman was inspired by Dick Shawn.
Jim Knipfel is an American novelist, autobiographer, and journalist.
Mark Stephen Evanier is an American comic book and television writer, particularly known for his work on the animated TV series Garfield and Friends and on the comic book Groo the Wanderer. He is also known for his columns and blog News from Me, and for his work as a historian and biographer of the comics industry, in particular his award-winning Jack Kirby biography, Kirby: King of Comics.
Dick Shawn was an American actor and comedian. He played a wide variety of supporting roles and was a prolific character actor. During the 1960s he played small roles in madcap comedies, usually portraying caricatures of counter culture personalities, such as deadbeat son Sylvester Marcus in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the hippie actor Lorenzo Saint DuBois ("L.S.D.") in The Producers (1968).
Kaufman first received major attention for his character Foreign Man, who spoke in a meek, high-pitched, heavy-accented voice and claimed to be from "Caspiar", a fictional island in the Caspian Sea.It was as this character that Kaufman convinced the owner of the famed New York City comedy club The Improv, Budd Friedman, to allow him to perform on stage.
As Foreign Man, Kaufman would appear on the stage of comedy clubs, play a recording of the theme from the Mighty Mouse cartoon show while standing perfectly still, and lip-sync only the line "Here I come to save the day" with great enthusiasm. [ citation needed ]He would proceed to tell a few (purposely poor) jokes and conclude his act with a series of celebrity impersonations, with the comedy arising from the character's obvious ineptitude at impersonation. For example, in his fake accent Kaufman would say to the audience, "I would like to imitate Meester Carter, de president of de United States" and then, in exactly the same voice, say "Hello, I am Meester Carter, de president of de United States. T'ank you veddy much." At some point in the performance, usually when the audience was conditioned to Foreign Man's inability to perform a single convincing impression, Foreign Man would announce, "And now I would like to imitate the Elvis Presley", turn around, take off his jacket, slick his hair back, and launch into a rousing, hip-shaking, excellent rendition of Presley singing one of his hit songs. Like Presley, he would take off his leather jacket during the song and throw it into the audience, but unlike Presley, Foreign Man would immediately ask for it to be returned. After the song's finale, he would take a simple bow and say in his Foreign Man voice, "T'ank you veddy much."
Portions of Kaufman's Foreign Man act were broadcast in the first season of Saturday Night Live. The Mighty Mouse number was featured in the October 11, 1975, premiere, while the joke-telling and celebrity impressions (including Elvis) were included in the November 8 broadcast that same year.
Kaufman first used his Foreign Man character in nightclubs in the early 1970s, often to tell jokes incorrectly and do weak imitations of famous people before bursting into his Elvis Presley imitation. The character was then changed into Latka Gravas for ABC's sitcom Taxi , appearing in 79 of 114 episodes in 1978-83.[ citation needed ] Bob Zmuda confirms this: "They basically were buying Andy's Foreign Man character for the Taxi character Latka." Kaufman's longtime manager George Shapiro encouraged him to take the gig.
Kaufman disliked sitcoms and was not happy with the idea of being in one, but Shapiro convinced him that it would quickly lead to stardom, which would earn him money he could then put into his own act. Kaufman agreed to appear in 14 episodes per season, and initially wanted four for Kaufman's alter ego Tony Clifton. After Kaufman deliberately sabotaged Clifton's appearance on the show, however, that part of his contract was dropped.
His character was given multiple personality disorder, which allowed Kaufman to randomly portray other characters. In one episode of Taxi, Kaufman's character came down with a condition that made him act like Alex Reiger, the main character played by Judd Hirsch. Another such recurring character played by Kaufman was the womanizing Vic Ferrari.
Sam Simon, who early in his career was a writer and later showrunner for Taxi, stated in a 2013 interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast that the story of Kaufman having been generally disruptive on the show was "a complete fiction" largely created by Zmuda. Simon maintained that Zmuda has a vested interest in promoting an out-of-control image of Kaufman. In the interview Simon stated that Kaufman was "completely professional" and that he "told you Tony Clifton was him", but he also conceded that Kaufman would have "loved" Zmuda's version of events.
Kaufman was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made For Television for Taxi in 1979 and 1981.
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Another well-known Kaufman character is Tony Clifton, an absurd, audience-abusing lounge singer who began opening for Kaufman at comedy clubs and eventually even performed concerts on his own around the country. Sometimes it was Kaufman performing as Clifton, sometimes it was his brother Michael or Zmuda. For a brief time, it was unclear to some that Clifton was not a real person. News programs interviewed Clifton as Kaufman's opening act, with the mood turning ugly whenever Kaufman's name came up. Kaufman, Clifton insisted, was attempting to ruin Clifton's "good name" in order to make money and become famous.
As a requirement for Kaufman's accepting the offer to star on Taxi, he insisted that Clifton be hired for a guest role on the show as if he were a real person, not a character.After throwing a tantrum on the set, Clifton was fired and escorted from the studio lot by security guards. Much to Kaufman's delight, this incident was reported in the local newspapers.
At the beginning of an April 1979 performance at New York's Carnegie Hall, Kaufman invited his "grandmother" to watch the show from a chair he had placed at the side of the stage. At the end of the show, she stood up, took her mask off and revealed to the audience that she was actually comedian Robin Williams in disguise.
Kaufman also had an elderly woman (Eleanor Cody Gould) pretend to have a heart attack and die on stage, at which point he reappeared on stage wearing a Native American headdress and performed a dance over her body, "reviving" her.
The performance is most famous for Kaufman's ending the show by actually taking the entire audience, in 24 buses, out for milk and cookies. He invited anyone interested to meet him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show continued.
The Taxi deal with ABC included giving Kaufman a television special/pilot. He came up with Andy's Funhouse, based on an old routine he had developed while in junior college. The special was taped in 1977 but did not air until August 1979. It featured most of Andy's famous gags, including Foreign Man/Latka and his Elvis Presley impersonation, as well as a host of unique segments (including a special appearance by children's television character Howdy Doody and the "Has-been Corner").There was also a segment that included fake television screen static as part of the gag, which ABC executives were not comfortable with, fearing that viewers would mistake the static for broadcast problems and would change the channel—which was the comic element Kaufman wanted to present. Andy's Funhouse was written by Kaufman, Zmuda, and Mel Sherer, with music by Kaufman.
In March 1980, Kaufman filmed a short segment for an ABC show called Buckshot. The segment was just over six minutes long and was called Uncle Andy's Funhouse. It featured Kaufman as the host of a children's show for adults, complete with a peanut gallery and Tony Clifton puppet.
In 1983, a show very similar to Andy's Funhouse and Uncle Andy's Funhouse was filmed for PBS's SoundStage program, called The Andy Kaufman Show. It too featured a peanut gallery, and opened in the middle of an interview Kaufman is doing in which he is laughing hysterically. He then proceeds to thank the audience for watching and the credits roll.[ citation needed ]
In 1981 Kaufman made three appearances on Fridays , a variety show on ABC that was similar to Saturday Night Live. In his first appearance, during a sketch about four people out on a dinner date who excuse themselves to the restroom to smoke marijuana, Kaufman broke character and refused to say his lines.
In response, cast member Michael Richards walked off camera and returned with a set of cue cards and dumped them on the table in front of Kaufman who responded by splashing Richards with water. Co-producer Jack Burns stormed onto the stage, leading to a brawl on camera before the show abruptly cut away to a commercial.
Richards has claimed that this incident was a staged practical joke that was known only to him, associate producer Burns, and Kaufman,but Melanie Chartoff, who played Kaufman's wife in the sketch, has stated that, just before airtime, Burns told her, Maryedith Burrell, and Richards that Kaufman was going to break the fourth wall.
Kaufman appeared the following week in a videotaped apology to the home viewers. Later that year, Kaufman returned to host Fridays. At one point in the show, he invited a Lawrence Welk Show gospel and standards singer, Kathie Sullivan, on stage to sing a few gospel songs with him and announced that the two were engaged to be married, then talked to the audience about his newfound faith in Jesus (Kaufman was Jewish). That was also a hoax. [ citation needed ]Later, following a sketch about a drug-abusing pharmacist, Kaufman was supposed to introduce the band The Pretenders. Instead of introducing the band, he delivered a nervous speech about the harmfulness of drugs while the band stood behind him ready to play. After his speech, he informed the audience that he had talked for too long and had to go to a commercial.
Inspired by the theatricality of kayfabe , the staged nature of the sport, and his own tendency to form elaborate hoaxes, Kaufman began wrestling women during his act and proclaimed himself "Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World", taking on an aggressive and ridiculous personality based on the characters invented by professional wrestlers. He offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him.He employed performance artist Laurie Anderson, a friend of his, in this act for a while.
Kaufman initially approached the head of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Vince McMahon Sr., about bringing his act to the New York wrestling territory.McMahon dismissed Kaufman's idea as the elder McMahon was not about to bring "show business" into his Pro Wrestling society. Kaufman had by then developed a friendship with wrestling reporter/photographer Bill Apter. After many discussions about Kaufman's desire to be in the pro wrestling business, Apter called Memphis wrestling icon Jerry "The King" Lawler and introduced him to Kaufman by telephone.
Kaufman finally stepped into the ring (in the Memphis wrestling circuit) with a man—Lawler himself.Kaufman taunted the residents of Memphis by playing "videos showing residents how to use soap" and proclaiming the city to be "the nation's redneck capital". The ongoing Lawler-Kaufman feud, which often featured Jimmy Hart and other heels in Kaufman's corner, included a number of staged "works", such as a broken neck for Kaufman as a result of Lawler's piledriver and a famous on-air fight on a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman .
For some time after that first match, Kaufman appeared wearing a neck brace,insisting that his injuries were much worse than they really were. Kaufman would continue to defend the Inter-Gender Championship in the Mid-South Coliseum and offered an extra prize, other than the $1,000: that if he were pinned, the woman who pinned him would get to marry him and that Kaufman would also shave his head.
Eventually it was revealed that the feud and wrestling matches were staged works,and that Kaufman and Lawler were friends. This was not disclosed until more than 10 years after Kaufman's death, when the Emmy-nominated documentary A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman aired on NBC in 1995. Jim Carrey, who revealed the secret, later went on to play Kaufman in the 1999 film Man on the Moon. In a 1997 interview with the Memphis Flyer, Lawler said he had improvised during their first match and the Letterman incident.
Although officials at St. Francis Hospital stated that Kaufman's neck injuries were real, in his 2002 biography It's Good to Be the King ... Sometimes, Lawler detailed how they came up with the angle and kept it quiet. Even though Kaufman's injury was legitimate, the pair exaggerated it. He also said that Kaufman's furious tirade and performance on Letterman was Kaufman's own idea, including when Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair. Promoter Jerry Jarrett later recalled that for two years, he would mail Kaufman payments comparable to what other main-event wrestlers were getting at the time, but Kaufman never deposited the checks.
Kaufman appeared in the 1983 film My Breakfast with Blassie with professional wrestling personality "Classy" Freddie Blassie. The film was a parody of the art film My Dinner with Andre. Lynne Margulies, sister of the film's director, Johnny Legend, appears in it, and became romantically involved with Kaufman.
In 2002, Kaufman became a playable character in the video game Legends of Wrestling II and a standard character in 2004's Showdown: Legends of Wrestling . In 2008, Jakks Pacific produced for their WWE Classic Superstars toy line an action figure two-pack of Kaufman and Lawler, as well as a separate figures release for each of them.[ citation needed ]
Although Kaufman made a name for himself as a guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live, his first prime-time appearances were several guest spots as the "Foreign Man" on the Dick Van Dyke variety show Van Dyke and Company in 1976.He appeared four times on The Tonight Show in 1976–78, and three times on The Midnight Special in 1972, 1977, and 1981. Kaufman appeared on The Dating Game in 1978, in character as Foreign Man, and cried when the bachelorette chose Bachelor #1, protesting that he had answered all the questions correctly.
His SNL appearances started with the first show, on October 11, 1975. He made 16 SNL appearances in all, doing routines from his comedy act, such as the Mighty Mouse singalong, Foreign Man, and the Elvis impersonation. After he angered the audience with his female-wrestling routine, Kaufman in January 1983 made a pretaped appearance (his 16th) asking the audience if he should ever appear on the show again, saying he would honor their decision. SNL ran a phone vote, and 195,544 people voted to "Dump Andy" while 169,186 people voted to "Keep Andy".
During the SNL episode with the phone poll, many of the cast members stated their admiration for Kaufman's work. After Eddie Murphy read both numbers, he said, "Now, Andy Kaufman is a friend of mine. Keep that in mind when you call. I don't want to have to punch nobody in America in the face", and Mary Gross read the Dump Andy phone number at a rate so fast that audiences were unable to catch it. The final tally was read by Gary Kroeger to a cheering audience. As the credits rolled, announcer Don Pardo said, "This is Don Pardo saying, 'I voted for Andy Kaufman.'"
Kaufman made a number of appearances on the daytime edition of The David Letterman Show in 1980, and 11 appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in 1982-83. He made numerous guest spots on other television programs hosted by or starring celebrities like Johnny Cash (1979 Christmas special),Dick Van Dyke, Dinah Shore, Rodney Dangerfield, Cher, Dean Martin, Redd Foxx, Mike Douglas, Dick Clark, and Joe Franklin.
He appeared in his first theatrical film, God Told Me To , in 1976, in which he portrayed a murderous policeman.He appeared in two other theatrical films, including the 1980 film In God We Tru$t , in which he played a televangelist, and the 1981 film Heartbeeps , in which he played a robot.
Laurie Anderson worked alongside Kaufman for a time in the 1970s, acting as a sort of "straight man" in a number of his Manhattan and Coney Island performances. One of these performances included getting on a ride that people stand in and get spun around. After everyone was strapped in, Kaufman would start saying how he did not want to be on the ride in a panicked tone and eventually cry. Anderson later described these performances in her 1995 album, The Ugly One with the Jewels .
In 1983, Kaufman appeared on Broadway with Deborah Harry in the play Teaneck Tanzi: The Venus Flytrap .It closed after just two performances.
Kaufman never married. His daughter, Maria Bellu-Colonna (born 1969), was the child of an out-of-wedlock relationship with a high-school girlfriend and was placed for adoption.Bellu-Colonna learned in 1992 that she was Kaufman's daughter when she traced her biological roots by winning a petition of the State of New York for her biological mother's surname. She soon reunited with her mother, grandfather, uncle, and aunt. Bellu-Colonna's daughter, Brittany, briefly appeared in Man on the Moon , playing Kaufman's sister Carol as a young child.
In December 1969, Kaufman learned Transcendental Meditation at college.According to a BBC article, he used the technique "to build confidence and take his act to comedy clubs". For the rest of his life, Kaufman meditated and performed yoga three hours a day. From February to June 1971 he trained as a teacher of transcendental meditation in Majorca, Spain.
Lynne Margulies, who met Kaufman during the filming of his My Breakfast With Blassie (she was in the film), was in a relationship with Kaufman from 1982 until his death in 1984.Margulies later co-directed the 1989 Kaufman wrestling compilation I'm From Hollywood , and published the 2009 book Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts!
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At Thanksgiving dinner on Long Island in November 1983, several family members openly expressed worry about Kaufman's persistent coughing. He claimed that he had been coughing for nearly a month, visited his doctor, and been told that nothing was wrong. When he returned to Los Angeles, he consulted another physician, then checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a series of medical tests. A few days later, he was diagnosed with large-cell carcinoma, an extremely rare type of lung cancer.
After audiences were shocked by his gaunt appearance during January 1984 performances, Kaufman acknowledged that he had an unspecified illness which he hoped to cure with natural medicine, including a diet of all fruits and vegetables, among other measures. Kaufman received palliative radiotherapy, but by then the cancer had spread from his lungs to his brain. His final public appearance was at the premiere of My Breakfast With Blassie in March 1984, where he appeared thin and sported a mohawk (radiation treatments made his hair fall out).The following day, he and Lynne Margulies flew to Baguio, Philippines, where as a last resort, Kaufman received treatments of a pseudoscientific procedure called psychic surgery.
Kaufman died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 16, 1984, at the age of 35.
Kaufman often spoke of faking his own death as a grand hoax, with rumors persisting, often fueled by sporadic appearances of Kaufman's character Tony Clifton at comedy clubs after his death.
"Clifton" performed a year after Kaufman's death at The Comedy Store benefit in Kaufman's honor, with members of his entourage in attendance, and during the 1990s made several appearances at Los Angeles nightclubs. Jim Carrey, who portrayed Kaufman in Man on the Moon, stated on the NBC special Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman that the person doing the Clifton character was Bob Zmuda. Kaufman's official website states that his death was not a hoax.
In 2013, responding to rumors following the appearance of an actress who claimed to be Kaufman's daughter and that he was still alive, Los Angeles County Coroner's office re-released Kaufman's death certificate to confirm he was indeed deceased and buried at Beth David Cemetery.
In 2014, Zmuda and Lynne Margulies, Kaufman's girlfriend at the time of his death, coauthored Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, a book claiming that Kaufman's death was indeed a prank, and that he would soon be revealing himself, as his upper limit on the "prank" was 30 years.
Comedian Elayne Boosler, who dated and lived with Kaufman and credits him with encouraging her to do comedy, wrote an article for Esquire in November 1984, in his memory.She also dedicated her 1986 Showtime special Party of One to Kaufman. An audio recording of Kaufman offering encouragement to Boosler is featured in the intro.
In 1992, the band R.E.M. released the album Automatic for the People , which featured the Andy Kaufman-themed song "Man on the Moon".The song's video also featured footage of Kaufman. On March 29, 1995, NBC aired A Comedy Salute To Andy Kaufman. This special featured clips of many of Kaufman's performances, as well as commentary from some of his friends, family, and colleagues.
Comedian Richard Lewis in A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman said of him: "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."Carl Reiner recalled his distinction in the comedy world:
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.
Reiner also said of Kaufman: "Nobody can see past the edges, where the character begins and he ends."
Jim Carrey portrayed Kaufman in the 1999 biopic film Man on the Moon , directed by Miloš Forman; the film took its title from the band R.E.M.'s song of the same name. R.E.M. also did the score for the film and recorded another Kaufman tribute song, "The Great Beyond".Carrey's portrayal was met with critical acclaim, earning him a Golden Globe Award for his performance. Forman named his twin sons, born in 1998, Andrew and James, after Kaufman and Carrey. In July 2012, Kaufman's play Bohemia West was staged in Providence, Rhode Island. Comedian Vernon Chatman compiled and produced Kaufman's first album, Andy and His Grandmother —via Drag City in 2013.
Andy Kaufman is one of the featured celebrities in the 2005 children's book Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes.Actress Cindy Williams, who was good friends with Kaufman, devoted an entire chapter of her autobiography, Shirley, I Jest!: A Storied Life, to him. The Chris Gethard Show paid homage to the Kaufman Fridays incident in a goof on an episode with comedian Brett Davis throwing water on someone's face.
At The Comedy Store comedy club in Los Angeles there is a neon likeness of Kaufman on display. The club also features on their menu the "Andy Kaufman Special", which consists of "two cookies and a glass of ice cold milk".The Vic Ferrari Band took its name from Kaufman's Taxi character. According to executive producer Bill Oakley, the 1996 The Simpsons episode "Bart the Fink", in which Krusty the Clown fakes his death, was partially inspired by the rumors of Kaufman's faked death.
Al Jean, co-creator of the animated series The Critic , has stated that the first season drawing of Jon Lovitz's character Jay Sherman was loosely based on Kaufman.
For the 2015 Andy Kaufman Award show, Two Boots Pizza created a special Andy Kaufman pie.As of 2018, they still feature a Tony Clifton pie on their menu. In 2015, a bottled fragrance called "Andy Kaufman Milk & Cookies" was created.
German filmmaker Maren Ade stated that her 2016 film Toni Erdmann , which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, was partially inspired by Kaufman and Tony Clifton.
Since 2004, The Andy Kaufman Award competition has been held annually as "a showcase for promising cutting-edge artists with fresh and unconventional material, for those willing to take risks with an audience, and for those who do not define themselves by the typical conventions of comedy".
|June 1972||Kennedy at Night||local Chicago show; Kaufman's first appearance as Elvis|
|June 6, 1974||The Dean Martin Comedy World||Kaufman's national television debut|
|June 20, 1974||The Joe Franklin Show|
|October 11, 1975||Saturday Night Live||first episode of SNL; performed "Mighty Mouse"|
|October 25, 1975||Saturday Night Live||performed "Pop Goes The Weasel"|
|November 8, 1975||Saturday Night Live||Foreign Man|
|January 17, 1976||Monty Hall's Variety Hour|
|February 28, 1976||Saturday Night Live||performed "Old MacDonald Had A Farm"|
|June 23, 1976||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Steve Allen guest-hosted|
|September 20, 1976 – December 30, 1976||Van Dyke & Company||Kaufman appeared in 10 weekly episodes|
|January 12, 1977||The Mike Douglas Show|
|January 15, 1977||Saturday Night Live||Foreign Man/Elvis|
|January 17, 1977||Dinah!||Foreign Man|
|January 21, 1977||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson|
|February 7, 1977||Dinah!||Kaufman sings "Kiss, Kiss, Kiss"|
|March 3, 1977||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson|
|March 4, 1977||The Midnight Special||sings "I Trusted You"|
|May 30, 1977||Stick Around||pilot for sitcom (aired once); was filmed March 29, 1977|
|1977||The 2nd Annual HBO Young Comedians Show|
|August 4, 1977||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Elvis and drumming|
|August 15–19, 1977||The Hollywood Squares||Kaufman appeared on one week's worth of shows; was filmed in June 1977|
|September 15, 1977||The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour||aired November 3, 1977|
|October 15, 1977||Saturday Night Live||sings "Oklahoma", "Oh, The Cow Goes Moo", and does Elvis|
|December 10, 1977||Saturday Night Live||Foreign Man|
|January 3, 1978||Variety '77: The Year in Entertainment||plays congas, sings, dances, and attempts to levitate a woman|
|February 20, 1978||The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson||Steve Martin guest-hosted; Kaufman's last Tonight Show appearance|
|March 11, 1978||Saturday Night Live||reads The Great Gatsby|
|March 14, 1978||Bananaz||local Columbus, Ohio television show|
|April 11, 1978||The Mike Douglas Show|
|September 12, 1978 – June 15, 1983||Taxi||production on the sitcom began on July 5, 1978; last episode was filmed February 18, 1983|
|November 21, 1978||The Dating Game||as contestant "Baji Kimran"|
|November 29, 1978||Dick Clark's Live Wednesday|
|February 24, 1979||Saturday Night Live||yodels|
|April 3, 1979||Cher...And Other Fantasies|
|June 30, 1979||The Lisa Hartman Show||(the date for this special has often been incorrectly given as 1976)|
|August 20, 1979||The Tomorrow Show||Kaufman's first wrestling match with a woman on national television|
|August 28, 1979||Good Morning America|
|August 28, 1979||Andy's Funhouse||ABC special; originally taped July 15, 1977|
|September 19, 1979||Dinah!||drunken, egg-throwing Tony Clifton|
|October 20, 1979||Saturday Night Live||wrestles for the first time on SNL|
|November 17, 1979||Saturday Night Live|
|November 22, 1979||Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade|
|December 6, 1979||A Johnny Cash Christmas||Foreign Man/Elvis/Santa|
|December 13, 1979||The Merv Griffin Show|
|December 22, 1979||Saturday Night Live||appears with "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers; wrestles women|
|January 25, 1980||The Merv Griffin Show||aired January 29, 1980|
|June 12, 1980||Andy Kaufman at Carnegie Hall||the April 1979 concert was broadcast on Showtime|
|July 18, 1980||Uncle Andy's Funhouse (Buckshot segment)||filmed March 1, 1980|
|September 26, 1980||The Merv Griffin Show||appeared with Marty Feldman|
|October 14, 1980||The David Letterman Show||tells Letterman he's been sleeping in doorways; Letterman abruptly cuts him off|
|October 15, 1980||The David Letterman Show||shows up disheveled; begs audience for money|
|January 23, 1981||The Midnight Special||Hosted; performed much of his repertoire|
|February 20, 1981||Fridays||Kaufman hosts; the infamous fight episode|
|February 27, 1981||Fridays||videotaped apology from Kaufman|
|March 3–6, 1981||Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters||was taped in March; unclear when or if Kaufman's segment aired*|
|March 25, 1981||The Midnight Special||introduces Tony Clifton|
|April 16, 1981||The Slycraft Hour||NYC cable access show with Bob Pagani|
|June 8, 1981||The Merv Griffin Show||Tony Clifton|
|August 31, 1981||The Merv Griffin Show||Tony Clifton|
|September 18, 1981||Fridays||Kaufman introduces his fiancé, Kathie Sullivan; they sing & he discusses his Christianity|
|October 28, 1981||Good Morning America|
|October 29, 1981||An Evening at the Improv||hosted|
|December 11, 1981||The Merv Griffin Show|
|January 30, 1982||Saturday Night Live||in a sketch as Elvis|
|February 8, 1982||1981: The Year in Television||briefly interviewed by Dick Cavett|
|February 17, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman||Kaufman's first appearance on Late Night; talks about doing Elvis after his death; wrestling talk|
|February 18, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman||Tony Clifton (thought at the time to be Kaufman; later revealed to be Zmuda)|
|March 30, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman|
|April 1, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman||brief appearance in greenroom; promotes Lawler match|
|April 14, 1982||Good Morning America|
|April 15, 1982||The John Davidson Show|
|May 7, 1982||Hour Magazine||aired May 11, 1982; Kaufman appears with his brother and sister|
|May 15, 1982||Saturday Night Live||appears with Taxi castmates; discusses the Lawler wrestling match|
|May 17, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman|
|June 25, 1982||The Merv Griffin Show||Orson Welles guest-hosts; Welles expresses his fondness for Taxi|
|July 28, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman||the infamous Lawler/Kaufman slap fight|
|September 17, 1982||The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show||Tony Clifton|
|September 30, 1982||Catch a Rising Star's 10th Anniversary||filmed August 19, 1982|
|October 23, 1982||Saturday Night Live||Kaufman was due to appear in this episode, but was cut by producer Dick Ebersol.|
|October 30, 1982||Saturday Night Live||Kaufman was due to appear in this episode, but was cut due to showing up late.|
|November 17, 1982||Late Night with David Letterman||dressed in turban, he sings "Rose Marie"|
|November 20, 1982||Saturday Night Live||Kaufman is voted off the show, 195,544 to 169,186|
|January 7, 1983||Late Night with David Letterman||appears with his parents; calls grandmother in Florida|
|January 22, 1983||Saturday Night Live||videotape of Kaufman, thanking viewers who voted for him|
|February 23, 1983||Late Night with David Letterman||appears with Freddie Blassie; sings Jambalaya (On The Bayou)|
|May 2, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|May 26, 1983||Up Close with Tom Cottle||interview|
|July 9, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|July 15, 1983||The Andy Kaufman Show||PBS Soundstage|
|July 16, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|July 23, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|July 30, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|August 6, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|August 13, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|September 22, 1983||Late Night with David Letterman||introduces his adopted children; does Elvis for the final time|
|November 7, 1983||Superstars of Comedy Salute the Improv||aired February 12, 1984; does laundry, plays congas, and sings "Rock Island" from The Music Man|
|November 17, 1983||Late Night with David Letterman||plays scene from The Big Chill ; brings adopted kids on again; final Letterman appearance|
|November 19, 1983||CWA Wrestling|
|November 29, 1983||Rodney Dangerfield: I Can't Take It No More||Filmed November 7, 1983|
|January 26, 1984||The Top||Kaufman's final television appearance|
|1976||God Told Me To||Police Officer|
|1980||In God We Tru$t||Armageddon T. Thunderbird|
|1983||My Breakfast with Blassie||Himself||Final film role|
|1986||Elayne Boosler: Party of One||Archived voice|
|1989||I'm from Hollywood||Himself|
|1999||Man on the Moon||Archived singing|
Three books of Kaufman's writings have been posthumously published:
Tony Clifton is a character created by performance artist Andy Kaufman, who also portrayed him in the late 1970s. Characteristic of the many elaborate hoaxes and practical jokes Kaufman concocted, Clifton was not exclusively portrayed by Kaufman. Others, mainly longtime Kaufman friend Bob Zmuda, also performed the role.
Bob Zmuda is an American writer, comedian, producer, and director best known for his friendship with cult personality Andy Kaufman.
Man on the Moon is a 1999 American biographical comedy-drama film about the late American entertainer Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey as Kaufman. The film was directed by Miloš Forman and also features Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, and Paul Giamatti.
A shtick is a comic theme or gimmick derived from the Yiddish word shtik (שטיק), meaning "piece" or "thing".
Jerry O'Neil Lawler, better known as Jerry "The King" Lawler, is an American professional wrestler and color commentator signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) under the company's legends program.
James Ray Hart is an American professional wrestling manager, executive, composer, and musician currently signed with WWE in a Legends deal. He is best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, where he used the nickname "The Mouth of the South".
Lance Russell was an American sports broadcaster, primarily serving as a professional wrestling announcer and commentator in the Memphis region from 1959 to 1997. In NWA Mid-America and its descendant, the Continental Wrestling Association Russell's primary announcing partner was Dave Brown. He is included in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)'s Hall of Fame and Hall of Heroes. In addition, he is in the United States Wrestling Association (USWA)'s Memphis Wrestling Hall of Fame and Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Hall of Fame.
William Stanley "Bill" Apter is an American photographer and journalist specializing in professional wrestling. He was an editorial staff member and photographer for several magazines during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, notably Pro Wrestling Illustrated. These magazines often reported wrestling in kayfabe, focusing on the storylines and angles rather than reporting "backstage" goings on. Apter was so closely associated with these magazines that they were often known as "Apter Mags." The influence of these publications in the days before cable television and the internet was such that Apter has been credited with launching the careers of many young wrestlers whom he featured on magazine covers.
Heartbeeps is a 1981 romantic science fiction comedy film about two robots who fall in love and decide to strike out on their own. It was directed by Allan Arkush, and starred Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as the robots. This was Kaufman's final performance in a theatrical film.
My Breakfast with Blassie is a 1983 film starring Andy Kaufman and professional wrestler "Classy" Freddie Blassie.
I'm from Hollywood is a 1989 comedy documentary film about the adventures of late performance artist Andy Kaufman in the world of professional wrestling. The film includes interviews with Taxi co-stars Marilu Henner and Tony Danza and interviews with comedian Robin Williams, wrestler Jerry Lawler, wrestling commentator Lance Russell, and Kaufman's best friend, Bob Zmuda. Other people seen in the film include TV host David Letterman and Jimmy Hart of Continental Wrestling Association. The film's title refers to a phrase spoken by Kaufman to the Memphis wrestling audience.
Alan Spencer is an American television writer and producer, known for creating the 1980s satirical police series Sledge Hammer!. He was one of the youngest people ever to join the Writers Guild of America, writing for television at the age of fifteen. He is a "script doctor" for feature films.
Continental Wrestling Association was a wrestling promotion managed by Jerry Jarrett. The CWA was the name of the "governing body" for the Championship Wrestling, Inc. promotion which was usually referred to as Mid-Southern Wrestling or the Memphis territory. This promotion was a chief NWA territory during the 1970s and early 1980s while operating out of Tennessee and Kentucky. The CWA was a member of the National Wrestling Alliance until 1986 and affiliated with the American Wrestling Association until 1989. In 1989, the CWA merged with the World Class Wrestling Association to form the United States Wrestling Association thus ceasing to exist as a separate entity. Lance Russell and Dave Brown were the television commentators and hosts for the Memphis territory, including the Continental Wrestling Association.
Stick Around was an unsold television pilot for ABC, starring Andy Kaufman. Only one episode was ever made, airing on 30 May 1977.
Trafford Tanzi is a play by Clare Luckham. It was originally performed as Tuebrook Tanzi, The Venus Flytrap by the Everyman Theatre Company in Liverpool in 1978 before moving to Manchester as Trafford Tanzi in 1980, later achieving commercial success in London.
Norman Wexler was an American screenwriter whose work included films such as Saturday Night Fever, Serpico and Joe. A New Bedford native and 1944 Central High School graduate in Detroit, Wexler attended Harvard University before moving to New York in 1951.
Andy and His Grandmother is the posthumous debut album from American comedian Andy Kaufman, released on Drag City on July 16, 2013. Composed of recordings that Kaufman made on microcassette from 1977 to 1979, the album was created by several of Kaufman's friends as well as contemporary comedians.
Was This Man a Genius?: Talks with Andy Kaufman is a 2001 non-fiction work by American author Julie Hecht. It was first published on April 17, 2001 through Random House and was republished in paperback through Simon & Schuster in 2009. The book is based on a book-length profile that Hecht had written, which was based on conversations that Hecht had held with comedian Andy Kaufman during 1978 and 1979.
I am not a comic, I have never told a joke. ... The comedian's promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him. ... My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can. ... They say, 'Oh wow, Andy Kaufman, he's a really funny guy.'