If you believe...
November 14, 2013 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Rumors of a faked death have been just as much a part of Andy Kaufman's legacy as watching him turn from Foreign Man to Elvis, but if what played out at this week's Andy Kaufman Awards in New York City are actually true, the comedic genius may have pulled off his biggest hoax of all: not just faking his own death, but secretly spending the last 29 years raising a family.
posted by marginaliana (132 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
i want to believe
posted by Kitteh at 6:58 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


If anything, this shows that Andy Kaufman doesn't necessarily need to be alive and well to be alive and well.
posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2013 [64 favorites]


There is something pathologically aggressive, even bullying in Kauffman's humor. So I guess if this is a "tribute" to his memory it captures the cruel indifference to real people's feelings that marked most of Kauffman's work really well.
posted by yoink at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2013 [46 favorites]


Sorry I've been fooling you for so long but yes, I really am Andy Kaufman.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:07 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, I am Spartakaufman.
posted by komara at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't know...I think that the rumors of a faked death give a lot of people surrounding Kaufman's legacy things to do to keep them peripherally involved in Andy's fan's lives, which is more of a motivation than an almost 30-year hoax.
posted by xingcat at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Agreed, xingcat. If these rumors were ever put to rest, Bob Zmuda might have to get a real job.
posted by Optamystic at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.
posted by josher71 at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2013 [27 favorites]


I hear he going to wrestle an 80 year old woman on SNL.
posted by 445supermag at 7:17 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


In one open tab: "Rob Ford discuss cunnilingus during Toronto Council meeting."
In other open tab: "Andy Kaufmann may not have died."

HEY WAIT A MINUTE
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2013 [92 favorites]


Nothing is impossible, but how could a celebrity fake a death from lung cancer?

Cynical me says more promotion for some awards I'd never heard of before, so that someone somewhere earns money.

Kaufman was hilarious on Taxi, IMO, and I thought his wrestling stuff was pretty funny too. Like Crispin Glover, always an interesting interview.

But move on, people.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2013


In one open tab: "Rob Ford discuss cunnilingus during Toronto Council meeting."
In other open tab: "Andy Kaufmann may not have died."

HEY WAIT A MINUTE


You know what's super weird? I had the same tabs open.
posted by heyho at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wonder if he hangs out with Jim Morrison.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely someone on the internets will recognize the woman in the video to deflate the mystery if it's just a little-known actress hired to play AK's daughter.
posted by aught at 7:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


More likely: someone famous and recognizable successfully pretends to be dead for 30 years without being found out, or someone never before seen successfully pretends to be a celebrity's long-lost child for a few days without being found out?
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also my sources tell me that it was actually Bruce Lee who faked his death to raise a family in peace and quiet away from the limelight.

Andy Kaufman faked his death to infiltrate the Triads.
posted by griphus at 7:23 AM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Or, you know, you could ask her to submit to a DNA test.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:23 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You would think his family would notice they are being raised but then I guess families can be pretty obtuse.
posted by srboisvert at 7:24 AM on November 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

I think part of Kaufman's act was that being funny was largely beside the point. He liked (this is all my personal opinion) to get a reaction out of audiences, the bigger, the better. If that meant that they were angry, or surprised, or confused, all the better.
posted by xingcat at 7:26 AM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think part of Kaufman's act was that being funny was largely beside the point.

Right. He was a "comedian" for lack of a better term. This may be something taken for granted in the age of internets and WTF, but his primary goal was to make people ask, "What the fuck is happening here?"
posted by cmoj at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [22 favorites]


> I don't know...I think that the rumors of a faked death give a lot of people surrounding Kaufman's legacy things to do to keep them peripherally involved in Andy's fan's lives, which is more of a motivation than an almost 30-year hoax.

Well, it worked for Jesus's followers, why not Andy's?

> Agreed, xingcat. If these rumors were ever put to rest, Bob Zmuda might have to get a real job.

Bang, there's your Paul! See, it's working.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


Dammit. I put together a post about this this morning, went off to do some other shit before posting it, and BAM. So you get it here, even though it covers mostly the same crap:

At this year's Andy Kaufman Awards held in NYC on November 11, Kaufman's brother Michael gave a rather unusual speech wherein he claimed that Andy is alive and well, having faked his death in 1984. Michael read a letter to the audience from Andy purportedly written in 1999 that had been delivered at a spot written about in an essay Michael found in Andy's belongings.Then Michael introduced a (thus unidentified) 24-year-old woman claiming to be Andy's daughter.

The audience was quite shaken at the sincerity of the young woman, who appeared nervous and a not just a little frazzled. The 1999 letter to Michael claimed that "everything was great in his life and he just wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman" and asked that Michael didn't say anything about Andy's existence until after their father, Stanley, had died.

Those close to Kaufman have been toying around with the He Faked His Death! thing for years, so it'd be difficult to take any of this at face value. Still, are Kaufman's friends and loved ones cruel enough to perpetrate such a hoax - or was this one final ongoing prank devised on Andy's deathbed?
posted by item at 7:33 AM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also Fox News is carrying it, so it must be true.
posted by item at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think part of Kaufman's act was that being funny was largely beside the point. He liked (this is all my personal opinion) to get a reaction out of audiences, the bigger, the better. If that meant that they were angry, or surprised, or confused, all the better.

So what you're saying is, the man was a professional troll.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:38 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


So what you're saying is, the man was a professional troll.

Livin' the dream.

er, maybe not so much anymore, but for a while there...
posted by entropicamericana at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Andy Kaufman is horse_ebooks.
posted by maryr at 7:46 AM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


Seems to me if he wanted to get away from Hollywood, fame, and everyone, he could have just moved to the middle of nowhere special and done so. No need to fake a death, just go. People forget about somewhat-funny performance artists pretty quickly.
posted by heyho at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Andy Kaufman: Still not funny after 30 years dead.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:48 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Andy Kaufman: Still not funny after 30 years dead.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey


Eponysterical.
posted by k5.user at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2013 [19 favorites]


So what you're saying is, the man was a professional troll.

Trolls get a rise out of people by spouting provocations they don't necessarily believe. Andy Kaufman took Carnegie Hall out for milk and cookies.
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2013 [42 favorites]


He was somewhat famous, but not superstar famous. How would he even have the resources to fake his own death and stay hidden for 30 years?

I would love nothing more than for him to make a triumphant return, but it's not gonna happen.
posted by bondcliff at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love the long grift that is this story.

Folks who are interested in some backgrounder can listen to Bob Zmuda's interview with Marc Maron on WTF talking about the extreme lengths that Kaufman would go to for a gag. I was one of those who often found Kaufman baffling or disturbing (he wore those extra huge trunks when he was wrestling women because it was a turn-on for him and he needed to not get an erection on national TV -- according to Zmuda) but I have enjoyed watching this story occasionally resurface.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The odds of this not being a joke/hoax are obviously zero, but the joke/hoax is perfect for these awards (exactly what Kaufman would have wanted) and obviously very good PR: people are talking about Andy Kaufman with a sense of "what if..." wonder.
posted by pracowity at 7:54 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


How would he even have the resources to fake his own death and stay hidden for 30 years?

"Hi, I'd like a job here at Smith's Office Supply Warehouse. My name is... Albert Hoffman."
"You look familiar."
"I get that a lot."
"Well, let me run your ID cards through eVerify... oh, wait, this is 1984. It's incredibly easy to become someone else if law enforcement isn't looking for you."
"Isn't it, though. So, I'll start Monday then?"
"Sure thing. Man, you really look familiar."
"Yeah."
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [31 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

I don't know his Mighty Mouse routine still breaks me up thirty years later.
posted by octothorpe at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


I actually think he peaked with Mighty Mouse.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:02 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The anti-establishment part of me wants to believe. The rest of me is just trying to get the R.E.M. song out of my head.
posted by tehjoel at 8:07 AM on November 14, 2013 [31 favorites]


Well, look on the bright side.

If he IS alive, at least we had 30 years of not being subjected to Andy Kaufman.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:11 AM on November 14, 2013 [58 favorites]


No need to fake a death, just go. People forget about somewhat-funny performance artists pretty quickly.

Unless, of course, this is another strange piece of "performance art".
posted by nubs at 8:13 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, so the year is around 1972. I am in elementary school. There is an assembly. One of the students in the school's cousin is going to perform. After the pledge of Allegiance and a few other grade school announcements, on comes this strange man dressed as it turns out, Elvis Presley. Anyway, the only thing I remember was Andy Kaufman doing his Elvis imitation and a few other things that creeped out this young fellow. Ever since that day, I have been afraid of Andy Kaufman. One weird cat.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's probably a hoax but you have to admit it's just the sort of thing Andy Kaufman would do. There was never anything he was afraid of taking too far.
posted by tommasz at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I won't know what to think about this until I hear Jerry Lawler's take on the whole thing.
posted by TedW at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


aught: Surely someone on the internets will recognize the woman in the video to deflate the mystery if it's just a little-known actress hired to play AK's daughter.

From The Comic's Comic link in the OP: Another audience member told me later that he knew the young woman was a theater student, but that he'd never met her father. So who's to say, really.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If he really IS alive, and he comes back, I hope he shows up unannounced on Monday Night Raw and challenges Jerry "The King" Lawler to a rematch.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:23 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Folks who are interested in some backgrounder can listen to Bob Zmuda's interview with Marc Maron on WTF talking about the extreme lengths that Kaufman would go to for a gag.

Long after he became successful Andy continued to work as a busboy at an LA restaurant.
posted by scalefree at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some speculation going around that it's theater artist Alexandra Tatarsky.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard about this earlier in the week and thought it was cool. Amazing comedian.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


griphus: Andy Kaufman took Carnegie Hall out for milk and cookies.

Carnegie Hall reportedly asked if they could invite the Plaza Hotel and Robin Williams on a double-date.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


If he's really alive, this is the most boring long con ever. Kaufman was funnier than this.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Family reports that alleged daughter is unavailable for mumble mumble REASONS. Unless someone was able to grab a strand of hair while patting her shoulder or snatched her latte cup, no DNA.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2013


Can someone more intelligent than me comment on how a death would actually be faked? Surely there is a death certificate filed somewhere, right? Would you have to have a doctor in your pocket to fake a certificate for you? More than that?
posted by ish__ at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2013


Wishing this joke would die already.
posted by Caskeum at 8:32 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I kind of want this to be true and for Alexandra Tartasky to be his daughter, just for the idea that Donald Rumsfield was once interviewed by the 12-year-old secret daughter of a disguised Andy Kaufman.
posted by Benjy at 8:37 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


In his later years, Kaufman would punish hecklers during his stand-up act by reading, in its entirety, The Great Gatsby—a novel all about romantic self-reinvention and adopting a new name and life. Come on, people, does he have to spell it out already?!
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:39 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


cmoj: " I think part of Kaufman's act was that being funny was largely beside the point.

Right. He was a "comedian" for lack of a better term. This may be something taken for granted in the age of internets and WTF, but his primary goal was to make people ask, "What the fuck is happening here?"
"

"Performance Artist" is what Andy Kaufman was - but that term wasn't vogue back then, and he got his start on comedy venues, so that was how he was pigeonholed.

If you view his entire career as a series of experiments in audience participation and reaction, he comes off as a pretty successful performance artist.

Which is not the same as not being a giant prick at times... but since the "harm" he did was mostly on the level of annoyance and making people hate "him", it's not like he's Mel Gibson (driving drunk) or anything.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:44 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's not like he's Mel Gibson (driving drunk) or anything.

The Passion of the Latka.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:49 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


True fact: If Andy Kaufman and Banksy aren't related by blood, there's hope for all of humanity's ability to be creative.

Whether or not this is a good thing is left to the reader to decide.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:50 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. He's dead. We've been arguing with lunatics for five years now about how they're pretending the president's birth certificate is fake and then we just want to like, pretend a stand-up comedian's death certificate has been secretly a forgery on public record for the last two decades? Because lulz? Jesus.

He's dead. Brilliant people die early sometimes. It sucks. He's still dead.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:51 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


White/Jewish was an ethnicity category in 1984?

Huh.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

Same here, never really "got" why people raved over him. Then i see people like Tom Green, and they seem the same as him to me. Performance artist? Maybe, but not even that great of one at that, but never really saw him as a comedian.
posted by usagizero at 8:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because lulz?

I don't believe in an afterlife or pretend to speak for Andy Kaufman but I can't imagine this sort of thing would be offensive to the man. This isn't a case of birthers trying to corrode someone's legitimacy; it's a rather fitting tribute to Kaufman's legacy in line with the spirit of his work.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Frankly, I don't give a damn if Andy Kaufman is actually dead or just pretend dead. Either way, he's been happily out of my sight & out of my mind ever since 1984 --- the man always struck me as more abusive and cruel than funny.
posted by easily confused at 8:57 AM on November 14, 2013


"Well, let me run your ID cards through eVerify... oh, wait, this is 1984. It's incredibly easy to become someone else if law enforcement isn't looking for you."

Well, except you still had to provide your SSN for withholding and tax purposes. To fully disappear, he would have had to change his name and get a new SSN. And, while changing your name is easy enough, I'm not sure how possible it is to get a new SSN just because you don't want to be found by your fans.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2013


Folks who are interested in some backgrounder can listen to Bob Zmuda's interview with Marc Maron on WTF talking about the extreme lengths that Kaufman would go to for a gag. I was one of those who often found Kaufman baffling or disturbing (he wore those extra huge trunks when he was wrestling women because it was a turn-on for him and he needed to not get an erection on national TV -- according to Zmuda) but I have enjoyed watching this story occasionally resurface.

There are two really good Andy Kaufman bios, one serious, and one totally tabloid-esque written by Zmuda which is all about his sexual exploits. I'd like to think the truth was both, and neither. Anyway, I'd recommend them to any Andy fans.

I went through a weird phase of Andy Kaufman obsession in high school, where I made Andy paper dolls and tried to teach myself to talk like Latka. This was around the time of the Man on the Moon release, and a couple rumors popped up that he might be alive. I wanted it to be true, so badly. Now I prefer the mystery--it's very in-keeping with his comedy, which could be both cruel (Tony Clifton) and incredibly tender (Howdy Doody). I'd like to think that rumors of Andy's life will continue long after I'm dead. It's the kind of long troll I think he would have liked.

That being said, the girl does look a bit like him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would have pegged Kristen Schaal as Andy Kaufman's secret daughter, honestly.
posted by Spatch at 9:12 AM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]


In other news, Francisco Franco ...
posted by NorthernLite at 9:16 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


The girl does play more as an actress with no script who's been told to act nervous and uncomfortable.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:21 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would have pegged Kristen Schaal as Andy Kaufman's secret daughter, honestly.

You doofus. There's no way she'd be his daughter. Everyone knows she's a horse.
posted by grubi at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


SOME celebrity should just fake his/her own death. It's like we, the collective, pop-culture, American *we*, are dying for someone to do this. We suspect it, and secretly hope for it, but it never happens.
posted by MoxieProxy at 9:26 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


P.S. I.M.H.O.

Andy Kaufman = not funny.
Kristen Schaal = bizarrely hilarious.

I don't see a connection/resemblance/similarity in humor.
posted by MoxieProxy at 9:28 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rumors of his faked death are greatly exaggerated.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:28 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: There is something pathologically aggressive, even bullying in Kauffman's humor. So I guess if this is a "tribute" to his memory it captures the cruel indifference to real people's feelings that marked most of Kauffman's work really well.

I'm really interested in knowing what specific examples you have of Kaufman being "bullying" and "cruel". Are you talking about the whole wrestling thing? Or Tony Clifton? Because I'm one of the people who think that those were part of Kaufman's ongoing interest in deconstructing celebrity personas and the expectations that the audience tends to build on those, and that he was kind of a genius at that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:31 AM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


Faking your own death? That's nothing. I've been faking my own life all along.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:31 AM on November 14, 2013 [24 favorites]


I know Andy Kaufman's work isn't to everyone's taste, but I don't think he was bullying at all. I'm too young to have experienced him in his heyday but I wish he WERE still around.
posted by sweetkid at 9:33 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, while changing your name is easy enough, I'm not sure how possible it is to get a new SSN just because you don't want to be found by your fans.

Back in the 80s it was actually pretty easy to create a new identy. Especially if you had money and other resources.
First, she got a copy of Becky Sue’s birth certificate from Bakersfield, Calif. In those days, many counties would just mail a copy to whoever asked.

Notably, Becky Sue was born in one state but died in another — it says so in a news clipping. That suggests Jane Doe knew what she was doing, because this kind of separation reduces the chances of being tripped up by some state database.

She got an Idaho ID card in Becky Sue’s name in Boise, claiming she was 18 years old.

“What this tells me is that Jane Doe was in Idaho in 1988,” Velling said. This tidbit, discovered just last week, strengthens the hypothesis that she was from the Northwest. She also kept a mail drop in Boulder City, Nev., which forwarded her mail to Dallas.

After getting the ID, she went to court in Dallas to change her name, legally, from Becky Sue Turner to Lori Erika Kennedy.

Next came the most important step: getting a Social Security card, the holy grail of identity theft.

Today, most children get Social Security numbers at birth. Back then, you could easily get your card as a teen. That’s what Jane Doe did. She became Lori Kennedy, a blank slate, with government ID.

“Once I have that name change and the Social Security number, I’m really a whole new person,” Velling said.

The whole process took less than two months.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:50 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


yoink: There is something pathologically aggressive, even bullying in Kauffman's humor.

Halloween Jack: I'm really interested in knowing what specific examples you have of Kaufman being "bullying" and "cruel".

Well, countering the feel-good milk and cookies outing was the bizarre Fridays episode, when "Andy had taken the entire cast and crew of Fridays, the studio audience and a nation of television viewers hostage" by rejecting the script for the show, then bombing every sketch, but that's more of a single incident than being pathologically aggressive.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been a giant Kaufman fan forever. I was a weird kid who started watching Letterman every night from the beginning on a little 5 inch TV. And Kaufman used that show as a springboard for his comedy. When his death was announced, I immediately thought "he's not dead, what a gag." It was only about 10 years ago I finally accepted it wasn't a gag.

Pretty sure this is another gag. Still working the material, years after his death.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, countering the feel-good milk and cookies outing was the bizarre Fridays episode...rejecting the script for the show, then bombing every sketch

That show needed bombing
posted by anazgnos at 9:58 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he hangs out with Jim Morrison.

Elvis, man. He hangs out with Elvis!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:01 AM on November 14, 2013


feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

Same here, never really "got" why people raved over him. Then i see people like Tom Green, and they seem the same as him to me. Performance artist? Maybe, but not even that great of one at that, but never really saw him as a comedian.


Tom Green? Puh-leeze. Everyone Andy "tormented" was in on the gag from day 1. And he scripted his own comeuppance. Tom Green is just a jerk. Kaufman played roles in real shows and also had comedy bits that broke every rule. Not in the way fake "rule-breaking" comedians do it, either. Who sets up a killer joke over a year all over different local TV stations? Andy.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:04 AM on November 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Huh, well that explains the pain-in-the-ass dad at that PTA meeting.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2013


That show needed bombing

Fridays was overly dependent on drug mentions as a substitute for humor but it definitely had some great stuff as well. Easily better than about 50% of SNL seasons, though that's a low bar to be sure: you could say almost as much for a root canal.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:06 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw Kaufman more as performance artist than comedian. And while I didn't necessarily ENJOY his work, I appreciated it. I even had a sort of respect for it. I admired his nerve and his commitment, even though I couldn't always sit through a performance. From what I've read, I probably wouldn't have considered him an easy person to be around. But again, I always come back to the art. Art isn't always pleasant or fun.

This is my suspicion:

Kaufman is dead, and this is his last work, being executed posthumously. He didn't fake his death; he faked the FAKING of his death. Maybe his brother is in on it, or maybe clues like the letter have been left for his brother to find. He didn't care about crossing lines in his work while he was alive to face possible repercussions; I doubt he would scruple at crossing this one, especially if he wouldn't be around to face whatever consequences it might bring.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2013 [19 favorites]


Y'know, one of these days, it will turn out that a famous person that we thought had died was actually alive for decades after the fact. It won't be Elvis, and it won't be Andy Kaufman, but it'll be someone, and when it happens it'll piss me off, because it will give new life to the idiotic what-if-X-isn't-really-dead speculation.

To put Kaufman aside for a moment (because faking is own death is completely in character for him)… right now, there are some people out there who think Elvis is still alive, and we recognize them as sad souls who can't let go. But if, say, we discover that Hervé Villechaize is somehow still alive and well… well, that'd be great for Hervé Villechaize, but for fucking decades afterward people will be like, "What do you mean, I'm delusional? Hervé Villechaize faked his own death, why couldn't Elvis?"
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:10 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


You guys are rubes. The real joke is that there never was an Andy Kaufman.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

Imagine that. Someone on Metafilter fails to see the humor.
posted by sixpack at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Andy Kaufman = not funny.
Kristen Schaal = bizarrely hilarious.

I don't see a connection/resemblance/similarity in humor.


You're not looking very hard, then. Schaal is heavily influenced by Kaufman. Did you see her one-hour Comedy Central special this spring? She had a breakdown midway through and abandoned the stage. Totally deadpan. And the whole "Kristen Schaal is a horse" bit is clearly an exercise in audience annoyance. Also, there's that Andy Kaufman Award she won.

I'm not calling Schaal derivative or unoriginal--all art has its antecedents, and one of her antecedents is clearly and unambiguously Andy Kaufman.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:23 AM on November 14, 2013 [20 favorites]


In his later years, Kaufman would punish hecklers during his stand-up act by reading, in its entirety, The Great Gatsby—a novel all about romantic self-reinvention and adopting a new name and life. Come on, people, does he have to spell it out already?!

I always thought that bit was hilarious, and then I saw Elevator Repair Services' Gatz, which consists of the entirety of Gatsby being read aloud, and I was floored by it. I think if audiences had let Kaufman get through a few chapters and then settled in for six hours, it would have been the greatest thing ever.

By the way, my cousin once threw Andy Kaufman bodily off the set of Taxi when he was dressed as Tony Clifton. Because my cousin is Judd Hirsch.

There's actually a lovely episode of Taxi where Latka, who has multiple personality disorder, adopt's Judd's character, Alex, as a persona. He spends most of the episode shlumping around in a big sweater and acting like everybody's surrogate big brother, but, at the climax, the two Alexes sit down to talk. The Latka Alex tells the Judd Alex that he's realized that this sort of brotherly behavior is hiding his deep dissatisfaction with his life, and, as he talks, you can see that it's just killing Judd's Alex, because he's right. He completely unearths Alex Reiger's deeply suppressed unhappiness, self-loathing, and dissatisfaction.

But then I realized what was wrong, the Latka Alex says. I realized what I could do to be happy. And it was so simple!

What? What? Says Judd's Alex.

And then Kaufman looks at him, his face suddenly transformed from shlumpy middle-aged Jew to young and perpetually confused foreign man. Thank you very much, he says in his Latka voice, or something similarly Latkaish.

Anyone who participated in something so sad, sweet, funny, and human gets respect from me. And so much of Latka was rooted in what Kaufman brought to the role, from the origin of the character tiself to his strange, caricaturish talent for imitation. He wasn't just the difficult comedian whose work tended toward troubling prankishness. He was also a performer capable of producing work that was genuinely sweet and sad without being mawkish. He was a talent, he is missed, and, while, in my heart of hearts, I know this is another of his troubling pranks, I badly wish it were true.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:24 AM on November 14, 2013 [67 favorites]


The Underpants Monster:

This is my suspicion:

Kaufman is dead, and this is his last work, being executed posthumously. He didn't fake his death; he faked the FAKING of his death. Maybe his brother is in on it, or maybe clues like the letter have been left for his brother to find. He didn't care about crossing lines in his work while he was alive to face possible repercussions; I doubt he would scruple at crossing this one, especially if he wouldn't be around to face whatever consequences it might bring.


I like this explanation a lot, as it would plausibly explain why he didn't want to "reveal" his "faked" death until after his father had passed.

In other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. James Franco, sadly, still very much alive.
posted by mosk at 10:25 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trolls get a rise out of people by spouting provocations they don't necessarily believe.

You think he believed the stuff he's saying here?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2013


James Franco, sadly, still very much alive.

James Franco is awesome. Have you seen all his shit? Look at all his shit.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2013 [16 favorites]




His Mighty Mouse / dopey foreigner aka "Latka" bits were genuinely new and good but everything afterward seemed like desperate attempts to keep a career going when everyone is prepared to indulge you, there's a hell of a lot of coke around and you don't really have anything else. Try to imagine launching a career with the disruptive / transgressive stuff without the early, inspired silliness. It simply wouldn't happen because it's not only not funny outside of the context of his earlier career, it's also just irritating. It reminds me of myself and my friends in middle school: we were basically dickish and the only people who thought we were funny were ourselves.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


You think he believed the stuff he's saying here?

He genuinely believed in the showmanship of professional wrestling, and the value of the hero role (the face) and the bad guy role (the heel). And he knew heels were more fun. So he made himself as much of a heel as possible, because that's the role, and he played it to the hilt.

when everyone is prepared to indulge you, there's a hell of a lot of coke around and you don't really have anything else.

Kaufman stopped using nonprescription drugs in 1968 and never used them again.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:34 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know he didn't use drugs himself -- in fact the Fridays disruption theme was all about his distaste for drug references as a humor substitute as I mentioned above; though I'm deriving that from the movie depiction, I've no recollection of the original.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2013


Oh, that TAXI moment with Judd Hirsch was unforgettable, I agree. I'm not saying the guy wasn't talented because he obviously was. But I think he was overly indulged and his later schtick, well... if it's metahumor that's actually about the industry's absurd willingness to indulge him, perhaps it works on that level.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2013


Kaufman is in superposition. His status is used to calibrate various quantum computers at Ft Meade and Wall Street Data centers. Measuring his current status will cause a significant catastrophe.
posted by humanfont at 10:42 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Smoking Gun: Andy Kaufman’s "Daughter" Is Actually A New York Actress Whose Real Dad Is A Doctor. "According to a source familiar with this week’s Kaufman stunt, Tatarsky met Michael Kaufman earlier this year while working at a Manhattan gallery exhibiting a collection of Kaufman 'ephemera and artifacts' from the comedian’s personal and professional life. Tatarsky was recruited by Michael Kaufman to play the role of Andy Kaufman’s daughter."

For the record: I, too, wanted to believe.
posted by scody at 10:57 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder what his actual daughter is thinking?
posted by JanetLand at 11:04 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


People who drop by to say how much they don't get Kaufman should also be required to say what they *do* think is funny. Equal opportunity snark, etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Elvis, man. He hangs out with Elvis!

Tupac.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:07 AM on November 14, 2013


Tupac.

Next Kaufman Awards they should bring Andy back as a Tupac-style hologram.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're not looking very hard, then . . .

mr_roboto, you make excellent points that don't change my mind.

He seemed mean/bizarre; she seems funny/bizarre. There's a stark difference, I can't describe or defend it as eloquently as you did, just giving my two-cents here.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:20 AM on November 14, 2013


So, the Fridays thing is what people came up with for an example of Kaufman being a jerk? Well, regardless of how many people were in on it (the linked page claims that Kaufman, the show's director, co-producer, writer, and Michael Richards were in on it; the Wikipedia page for the show adds Melanie Chartoff), it was such a cruel, bullying thing to do that they invited him back the next year, and Garry Shandling stole the premise when he hosted SNL several years later.

And, yeah, Fridays did need shaking up; the only things I remember from it were the manic "Take a pill!" guy and the "Rasta Gourmet", who added ganja to everything. Kaufman bringing attention to it probably added a year onto the show's life.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:22 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, yeah, Fridays did need shaking up; the only things I remember from it were the manic "Take a pill!" guy and the "Rasta Gourmet", who added ganja to everything.

I am impressed that anyone could even make it through the sketches on Fridays. We just watched it for the bands.
posted by scody at 11:26 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


scody: Tatarsky was recruited by Michael Kaufman to play the role of Andy Kaufman’s daughter.

But what if Andy Kaufman actually hired her to claim that Michael did? It's a hoax within a hoax within a hoax!

it's Andys all the way down
posted by fader at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


octothorpe: "I don't know his Mighty Mouse routine still breaks me up thirty years later."

That always slays me as well. The only bit of his I liked, really.
posted by brundlefly at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2013


He genuinely believed in the showmanship of professional wrestling, and the value of the hero role (the face) and the bad guy role (the heel). And he knew heels were more fun. So he made himself as much of a heel as possible, because that's the role, and he played it to the hilt.

Well sure, and kayfabe-savvy fans get that, but Kaufman took his sexist schtick far outside the realm of professional wrestling fans, at which point I would argue that it's essentially trolling, which was the point I was responding to.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2013


I saw Andy Kaufman in a doughnut shop in Noe Valley shortly before his death.

When the salesgirl asked him to "Do that accent you did on Taxi," I took pity on him, and as a showoff performance artist myself, told her, "That's not Andy Kaufman. That's this guy who looks like Andy Kaufman and goes around San Francisco trying to get free tickets and stuff."

Kaufman didn't smile. But, then, he knew he was at death's door, and didn't care for the drama in the doughnut shop.
posted by kozad at 11:39 AM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Andy Kaufman is buried on Long Island. NYC/LI mefites: bring a shovel, a sense of adventure, and diplomatic immunity if you have it.
posted by dr_dank at 11:54 AM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


When the salesgirl asked him to "Do that accent you did on Taxi,"

A few minutes later a fireman came in, and she set fire to the counter and said "ooo, put that out for me!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:56 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've written about this before on the blue, but Andy Kaufman has always struck me as one of the most sincere and moving performers I've ever had the pleasure of watching. He was a celebrity who seemed to care passionately about making his audience aware that the man on stage was a flawed, problematic human being, not a slickly-marketed performance product—and the irony that he raised that awareness through deception and misdirection, well, that's the same irony that's used when all the flawed human celebrities go about convincing you that they exist on the screen for your entertainment.

I wish he'd have stayed alive long enough to see Twitter, and to see the way that social media reveals all these flaws about the celebrities that let themselves be personal on it. I think he would've loved it. I think he would have had a field day with pulling all sorts of pranks on it, things that'd make horse_ebooks look contrived by comparison. The Internet and its depersonalization-by-text seems ripe for an Andy Kaufman commentary, and I wish it could've been Kaufman himself making that commentary in his signature manner. Kristen Schaal is terrifically hilarious, but she (and other Kaufman inspirees) generally lacks that painful awkwardness, that hope to please that goes hand-in-hand with the threat of horrendous failure, that seemed to mark many of Kaufman's best skits.

Art is not entirely about tenderness, but there's something about being tender and vulnerable that makes an artist particularly powerful. It's rare. You get flashes of it in Louis CK, nowadays; you got it plenty in Richard Pryor; you occasionally see it in actors, like in Robert De Niro's work in Taxi Driver, but too often theatre (and narrative art) emphasizes personas being broken down, attitudes and outlooks transformed, rather than showing us personas that are threadbare and desperate and worn, people who have no problem being honest but for whom honesty is simply never, never enough.

It's hard to come to that purview sincerely, at least if you're recognized for it. Pryor did; Louis did but I feel his success has made him a lot more introspective rather than yearning, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Once you hit a certain threshold of success it's not likely that you'll make a career out of falling to pieces before your audience's eyes. It's more common in music than it is anywhere, I think, which is why music frequently strikes me as a more personal artform than theatre or comedy. But Kaufman made his career out of it. He told story after story of a guy fucking up, a guy making horrible mistakes and begging and pleading and hoping that maybe one day life will be okay, and if he was a certain amount of insincere while he did it it's because you can't really embody that many kinds of failure honestly and still be as successful a performer as he was.

Art doesn't have to be sincere. It has to be honest, and there's a difference. (Honesty in art has nothing to do with whether you're telling the truth and everything to do with whether or not it rings true. A difference that plenty of wanna-be memoirists never quite come to grasping.) Kaufman stayed honest. So many comedians come on stage with a persona, a character they intend to sell to their audience, and in that sense Kaufman was no different. It's just that his persona was a lot more unusual than most of the ones you see being workshopped on a stage.

His saving grace was his belief in magic, his love of shock and awe and unexpected moments, which is why the milk and cookies show is probably his most famous performance. He made the kind of magic you can't possibly anticipate beforehand, even if you go in knowing that he's trying to do something unanticipated. Such a brilliant approach to performance, and while I can understand very easily why people don't appreciate him or even like what he did, for me he'll always be one of the greatest and most important entertainers of our time.

Anyway, that dude is stone cold dead, and there is no way that girl is not a young actress doing her young actress-y things. I know many a-young actresses, and that girl is one of em.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:57 AM on November 14, 2013 [22 favorites]


I like Andy Kaufman because he is (or was) a wonderful contrast to pure aggression of stand-up comedy, or the obvious lunacy of comedians like Robin Williams, where you always know when you're suppose to laugh.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:12 PM on November 14, 2013


I love this. I'm a little disappointed that the Smoking Gun was so quick to expose the actress because it seems to so completely miss the point. It doesn't matter that she was a fake, it doesn't even matter if Kaufman is alive or not. What matters is that the longest joke in history is still being told!
posted by tealsocks at 12:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Without a doubt Andy is dead, but if there was someone to pull it off it would have been him.

Obligatory Laurie Anderson's Rotowhirl talking about Andy
posted by edgeways at 12:20 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Hi, I'd like a job here at Smith's Office Supply Warehouse. My name is... Albert Hoffman."

Heh.
posted by K.P. at 12:32 PM on November 14, 2013


When Abe Vigoda actually passes away I can't wait for the Abe faked his death conspiracy theories, some of which will make him into a Enoch Root sort of character. Of course there will also be theories about how Abe passed away years ago and someone else was pretending to be him, just like Paul McCartney.
posted by juiceCake at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Paul McCartney pretended to be Abe Vigoda? Holy cow, just how deep does the rabbit hole go?
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:15 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do have to say his 'daughter' did look a hell of lot like him
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:25 PM on November 14, 2013


WE ARE DEAD. WE ARE ALL DEAD. WE ARE GHOSTS. WE ARE ALL GHOSTS.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:47 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like the caps lock key is haunted again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


< em>So, the Fridays thing is what people came up with for an example of Kaufman being a jerk? Well, regardless of how many people were in on it (the linked page claims that Kaufman, the show's director, co-producer, writer, and Michael Richards were in on it; the Wikipedia page for the show adds Melanie Chartoff)

Dammit! I actually just met Melanie Chartoff just last week! (she came into the store I work at) We talked briefly about Fridays, but I completely spaced on the fact she was in that sketch. Totally should have asked her about it.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:46 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a little disappointed that the Smoking Gun was so quick to expose the actress because it seems to so completely miss the point.

Journalism and this sort of humor are basically antithetical. The press lives to ruin a joke.

AREA FOWL GETS TO OTHER SIDE
Street-crossing mystery solved.
posted by griphus at 3:04 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Andy Kaufman faked his death to infiltrate the Triads.

Triads.

T r i a d s .

T a r d i s.

?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:43 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


In other celebrity news today, a woman was sentenced to 210 days in jail for stalking actor Alex Baldwin, and an additional 180 days for stalking Alex Baldwin.
posted by Pudhoho at 6:49 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]




According to The Hollywood Reporter Andy's brother claims to have been misquoted.
posted by cleroy at 7:27 PM on November 14, 2013


Speaking of Abe Vigoda, he appeared in a Phish concert the other day, dressed as a teddy bear and dancing, surrounded by babes.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:11 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Calling it now: Alexandra Tatarsky is going to be stalked and/or harassed. Way to go, Michael.
posted by BiggerJ at 12:30 AM on November 15, 2013


I'm just waiting for him to unzip and step out of his Rob Ford suit
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:25 AM on November 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I feel like a square. I don't think Andy Kaufman is funny in the slightest. I find the whole thing baffling.

i thought this was genius (in the schopenhauer sense ;)

derivative or unoriginal--all art has its antecedents

-Reggie Watts disorients
-Sacha Baron Cohen kills
posted by kliuless at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2013


The thing about Andy Kaufman faking his death, and what I personally find kind of compelling about it is that, well, he's a 70s TV star/standup comedian. Nowadays, people of his ilk are obscure enough that you can be talking about, say, Albert Brooks, and someone will say, "Wait, is he still alive?" And everyone in the conversation will think through the last Albert Brooks thing they were aware of, and huh, I dunno... and someone will whip out a smartphone and settle it.

So, yeah, Andy Kaufman probably could have just quit Hollywood if he wanted to, and nobody would care. He wouldn't have needed to "fake his death" at all.

Which makes it incredibly compelling, to me, for some reason, that he might. Because, would it even matter if he had? Would it be more than a piece of absurd performance art?
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 PM on November 20, 2013


« Older A Day in the Life of an Art Museum Security Guard   |   Bridging design techniques Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments