Andy Kaufman…An Original to Remember

I like original people…Andy was that completely. This post is a little long…for me.

He covered the bases…Mighty Mouse, Foreign Man, wrestling women, Elvis Impersonator (I think the best), Tony Clifton, bongo player, Great Gatsby reader and generally pissing people off, boring them or making them laugh. He was a performance artist – a comedian who sometimes was uncomfortable to watch but great as well. He was not a joke comedian…not remotely close.

I remember seeing him on a clip from the Tonight Show… as the very innocent childlike foreign man talking for a while and doing terrible celebrity impersonations and then suddenly shedding that character like a used coat and did Elvis impersonation…no, he WAS Elvis… I’ve read where Elvis said that Andy was his favorite impersonator but whether that is true or not I don’t know.

His first SNL performance… All he did was to get on stage with a record player playing the “Mighty Mouse” theme and mime along in certain spots. He made it work. He was only doing what he did growing up alone in his room as a child…he translated that to a national audience.

He loved to be the bad guy… At his performances, he would sometimes threaten to read the Great Gatsby…the complete book…just to piss everyone off…He would read a chapter or so and then ask the crowd if they wanted to hear some music from his record player….the audience, thinking of Mighty Mouse would applaud and he then would start playing a record of him reading The Great Gatsby from where he left off right before.

Andy grew up loving wrestling. After he achieved his fame he started to wrestle…wrestle women. I’m sure many people at the time were baffled.

That led to the infamous guest shot on The David Letterman Show with wrestler Jerry Lawler in 1982. Jerry slapped Andy off a chair who had a neck brace on already…at the time people really bought into it. Lawler says he still gets hate mail to this day from people who think he caused Andy’s death. Of course, both planned this and they were friends.

A couple of years before his death he made a film with Fred Blassie… a wrestler Andy admired. He filmed it at a restaurant and called it “Breakfast with Blassie.”

Andy once played Carnegie Hall and took the entire audience out afterward for milk and cookies. Being Andy, some probably didn’t believe it but he had 20 buses waiting outside for them and they all went to have milk and cookies.

He will be remembered best for Taxi and his character Latka Gravas. It amazes me that he was on Taxi…that he was on any normal show…though Taxi was great…It worked out well that they found a place for Andy’s foreign man character…but Andy wasn’t always happy being on the show.

He also had an alter ego character he played called Tony Clifton. Tony was a loud, obnoxious. sleazy lounge singer that would rip the audience. Usually, the person getting ripped was Andy’s writing partner and friend Bob Zmuda. Later on, to really mess with people’s minds…Andy had Bob to play Tony Clifton and they would appear together. “Tony Clifton” even got himself thrown off of the Taxi set.

Some people loved Andy, some hated him, some thought he was irritating and some all three. I just appreciated the fact he was different.

Andy died in 1984…or did he? Bob Zmuda has said that Andy did say he was going to fake his death and said that he actually helped Andy plan it. More people have come forward saying the same thing. Every few years we get an Andy sighting in Albuquerque or somewhere else. No, I don’t believe he did fake it…but hey I would love if he popped up well and alive anytime in the future. The world needs original people. You know he would be loving the rumors about him being alive…if he is alive or not.

REM had a song that was based on Andy called Man on the Moon. It was about questioning everything like the Moon landing, Elvis dying, religion, Andy dying and etc… from REM’s bassist Mike Mills “He’s the perfect ghost to lead you through this tour of questioning things. Did the moon landing really happen? Is Elvis really dead? He was kind of an ephemeral figure at that point so he was the perfect guy to tie all this stuff together as you journey through childhood and touchstones of life.”

In 1999 a movie called Man on the Moon starring Jim Carrey was released about Andy’s life. I went to see it when it came out and enjoyed it. I’m not sure how close Carrey got to Andy’s non-public side because of course, I didn’t know him. Marilu Henner said that he was a warmer person than the movie portrayed and Judd Hirsch said that while not performing, Andy was a very normal, quiet guy but Judd admits he really didn’t know him. I do think Carrey did a good job portraying him.

I like one of a kind people like Andy Kaufman and Keith Moon. Expect the unexpected…it keeps life interesting.

First SNL Appearance

Andy on Letterman

Milk and Cookies

Elvis

REM…Man on the Moon

My Favorite TV Characters

Since we have had plenty of time in this lockdown we are living in…I’ve revisited a lot of characters that I remembered from some great shows. Many times my favorite characters are not the stars of the shows…but a supporting character with a few exceptions…anyway…here they are and I hope you enjoy them. They are in no order.

 

Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore) – Green Acres – If I met Hank Kimball in real life… I would want to choke him but he is funny. I have never seen a character like him…he is the definition of short term memory loss.

Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd) – Taxi – His scenes are the scenes I look forward to in every episode of Taxi. A heart of gold but a history of being stoned and using his own unique logic.

Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) – Barney Miller – Arthur Dietrich was like a walking encyclopedia. He knew something it seemed about every subject…and a very dry sense of humor. He might be the least known on my list but again…a truly original character.

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) – Star Trek – What a character Spock was…like a few others on this list…totally original. He is the reason I started to like Star Trek in the first place. 

Columbo (Peter Falk) – Columbo – I went over Colombo yesterday. An untidy guy who appears to be a bumbling detective but will find the killer every time.

Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) – Life On Mars – American readers may not know this character but he is the most politically incorrect character that you could possibly have on a show. A 1973 Detective Chief Inspector that loves his city and don’t get in his way of trying to defend it. He is much like a movie sheriff in the old west. 

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) – The Sopranos – Modern mobster… He is a murderer and a thief who preys on society and exploits the system…while having a family that he loves. You could teach a college class by studying his character traits. One of the truly great characters.

Gomez Addams (John Astin) – Addams Family – John Astin played him so well. Very irrelevant to whatever was going on around him…and he LOVED train crashes.

Homer Simpson – Simpsons – Role model? NO Smart? NO NO Father of the Year? NO NO NO but funny and he does love his family…and doughnuts.

Doctor Who – (Tom Baker, David Tennant, and Matt Smith) – Doctor Who is really a superhero in a lot of ways. Unlike Superman or other heros…he uses his brains more than anything to save someone or to save earth from destruction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic TV Episodes: Taxi – Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey

One of the funniest scenes in any sitcom is when Reverend Jim is taking his driver’s test. Taxi is smartly written and they use the ensemble much like The Mary Tyler Moore Show did. Reverend Jim played by Christopher Lloyd is my favorite character and one of my favorite characters of all time.

“Have you ever experienced loss of consciousness, hallucinations, dizzy spells, convulsive disorders, fainting, or periods of loss of memory?”         “Hasn’t Everyone?”

“Psst. What does a yellow light mean?”     

“Slow Down”

“OK. Wwwwhhhaaaat dooeesss aaaa yyyeeeellllowwww lllliiiight mmmmeeeannn?” “SLOW DOWN”

TAXI – Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey

This is my favorite Taxi episode of all time. Jim is a  child of the drug culture of the sixties and still feeling the effects. Taking something as simple as a drivers test and turning it into this, Characters: Alex Reiger, Elaine DeNardo, Latka Gravas, Louie De Palmer, Bobby Wheeler, Tony Banta, Reverend Jim Ignatowski, Tommy Jeffries, Jeff Bennett,

The cab drivers are hanging out at Mario’s when Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim Ignatowski wanders in. They recognize him but he doesn’t recognize them, even though they remind him he performed a wedding for Latka 8 months earlier. But when Latka started talking to him in his gibberish language, Jim remembered.

The cabbies want to get Jim to have a job, make something of himself, but what can he do with no skills and no education? Drive a cab. At first Louie will not hear of it, until Rev Jim slips a tranquilizer into Louie’s coffee. Louie becomes mellow, starts singing show tunes in the garage, and gladly accepts Jim.

The big hurdle, of course, was to have Jim pass the driver’s test. They go down to the DPS office with him, help him fill out forms, his name, his weight, height, and color of eyes. Finally Bobby says, “OK, Jim, now you are ready to take the test.” “What?”, says Jim, “I thought that was the test.”

He then takes the test and the below is what transpires…You can see Tony Danza and Marilu Henner trying unsuccessfully not to laugh.

The complete driving test scene

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0718525/