Genius or Jerk? Dead or Alive? Believe it... or Not!
December 08, 2013
Yes, folks. It's in the news again! Andy Kaufman is alive and well, and more than likely living in Albuquerque. The news hit on Monday, November 11, 2013 at the ninth annual Andy Kaufman Awards finals held at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. His brother, Michael, was the Emcee, and a woman claiming to be his daughter came up on the stage and told her "uncle" that Andy is alive and wanted her to let everyone know. Now, out of all the famous people who have died over the years and have still been spotted by people, this one might be the most believable. Hello, I said "MIGHT be"!
Andy Kaufman's public life could easily be summed up as a series of hoaxes. He had many people fooled by his character, Tony Clifton, thinking he was a real person, separate from Kaufman. Clifton was an audience-abusing, lounge singer who started out opening for Kaufman at comedy clubs and ended up touring the country performing concerts on his own. The character was played sometimes by Andy Kaufman and sometimes by his brother Michael or his friend Bob Zmuda. Clifton was even interviewed by news programs and would get pretty upset by the mere mention of the name Andy Kaufman. To some, this was pure genius. To others, it was just a no talent hack trying to get publicity. I'll let you decide which category you fall in.
I remember seeing the above "Mighty Mouse" clip on Saturday Night Live as a little kid and thinking it was extremely hilarious! I also thoroughly enjoyed Kaufman's character, Latka Gravas, on the late 70s/early 80s sitcom, Taxi. I did not become familiar with Kaufman's other characters until I was older. When I first saw Jim Carey portray him in the movie, Man on the Moon (you can request this title through WorldCat) in 1999, I was intrigued to say the least. I hesitate to throw the word "genius" around since I personally did not know the fellow, but I certainly do appreciate what Kaufman did. Supposedly, he did not like to be referred to as a comedian and, instead, called himself a "song-and-dance man." Others have called him a performance artist, which I totally get.
You can check out the story (and also some video footage) behind the "hoax" at this year's Andy Kaufman Awards here or here (as well as various other Internet sources, I'm sure!). Then, you can decide for yourself it this is a hoax that Mr. Kaufman himself would certainly be proud of, or that he is indeed still alive. As for me, do I think he is a genius or a jerk? I'm leaning towards genius. Do I think he's dead or alive? Hmmm, let me see. Well, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services has his death certificate on file. I also read that at his funeral, one of his friends leaned over his casket (it wasn't specified if it was opened or closed) and said to him, "Andy, if this is a hoax, please stop now!" He didn't get up. Of course, I also read that when he was alive, he talked about faking his death quite often. Like I said in the beginning, this would be the easiest of the supposed celebrity death hoaxes to believe. Does that answer the question? I guess he could be off somewhere with Jimmy Hoffa, Jim Morrison, Tupac, Elvis, Michael Jackson, and the real Paul McCartney! If that's the case, I'd like to be a fly on the wall at that shin-dig!