The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #28358   Message #351816
Posted By: Jim the Bart
05-Dec-00 - 01:27 PM
Thread Name: Andy Kaufman
Subject: RE: Andy Kaufman
I remember seeing Kaufman on SNL doing the "Mighty Mouse Theme" bit - it was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing things I had seen on TV since Ernie Kovacs (yes I am O-L-D). I believe you have to put Kaufman in that context. He, like Kovacs, Steve Allen, Soupy Sales and a number of other TV pioneers, understood that TV had possibilities way beyond just ENTERTAINMENT.

This is not to say that Kaufman and the rest weren't entertaining, too. The foreign man was way funny (but not really unprecedented; Frank Fontaine's "Crazy Gugenheim" character on Jackie Gleason's variety show did a transformation from drunk to surprisingly capable Irish Tenor that paralleled Kaufman's geek to Elvis). The key to Kaufman's act was that he was not willing to settle for making you laugh. He wanted to make you uncomfortable and take you out of your day-to-day mindset.

What Kaufman forgot, and what eventually undid him, is that the situations that he constructed weren't funny if you weren't in on the joke. And at the time he did them, we weren't. Like Rick, I never realized the fight on Letterman was faked until I saw the movie. And the woman wrestling. Now, he's funny- not because he's dead, but because we have finally been let in on the joke.