Well he definitely had that 'Love him or hate him' quality, that's for sure.
Unfortunately, as 'Taxi' was my only exposure to him, he was stereotyped already, for me. Had I been following his career at the time, perhaps I wouldn't have let that happen. But, oddly enough, out of all the actors and actresses, his name, and Danny De Vito's were the only ones that ever came readily to my mind when thinking of who actually appeared in that show.
As in nearly all cases, books are much superior than the films of them, and after seeing this particular one, I wished I had had the opportunity to read the book (or at least one of them), first.
But from what I can gather, not everyone connected to Andy was overly pleased with the dramatisation; performances by Jim Carrey and Co., notwithstanding.
The Andy Kaufman Home Page, is an interesting resource, and I spent most of last night, going through it. I watched the The Museum of Broadcast Communication's special, 'An Evening about Andy Kaufman', saw some of the episodes that many of you have mentioned, and I learned a bit more about him in the process.
He was described somewhere, as Dadaistic; "T.V. to the power of 2", even. "He took comedy and art to the edges of irrationality and blurred the dividing line between reality and imagination." In that respect he was in good company, and I don't see a great deal of difference between where he was at, and the Monty Python trip, for example. Maybe the public just wasn't ready for his particular brand of performance art yet. If you look at it from a general perspective, it probably never will.
He certainly left a legacy, as can be appreciated once you start perusing The Ultimate Andy Kaufman Message Board
He did worry, though, that playing Latka Gravas in 'Taxi' would stifle his career and lead to him being typecast into one particular formulaic conception or image. Bill Zehme, in Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman said ".....this was to be his legacy-in-shorthand..... He (Andy) sensed/feared the imminent cultural shackling of it from the get-go."
Tony Clifton. was his landing net. His appearance at The Comedy Store, one year after Kaufman's death, was overplayed in the film, it seems. It was his co-conspirator, and author of the book that the film is based on, Bob Zmuda, who did the show that night, the proceeds of which went to Cancer research. This event became the model for Zmuda's future "Comic Relief" charity fundraisers.
Kaufman wasn't well liked among the cast of 'Taxi', it has to be said. Tony Danza and Jeff Conaway had no time for him at all, apparently, and Judd Hirsch's tribute to Andy Kaufman does stink a bit of what you are saying, Whistle Stop, about him belonging in the 'Dead thread'. I wonder how many dramatic licenses were taken during the funeral service scene in the movie, where a dutifully mournful cast sat gathered. But he obviously did make an impression on people. I think that his performances left audiences wondering just what it was that they had experienced, and whether they should be happy about it, or not.
Watching Andy Kaufman in some of the clips I saw during the night, I got the same feeling I used to get sometimes when I watched John Cleese in 'Fawlty Towers'; that same white knuckle ride of frustration, embarrassment, sympathy, and God knows whatever else emotion that sweeps across the senses, seemingly induced only by the power of body language, and our insistence that everything should conform to certain timetables and agendas.
As Robin Williams said, "Andy was the master of the comic switch; at his tribute, people were expecting Tony Clifton to speak."
I don't think that he was 'better', or 'worse' than any of his contemporaries; avant-garde comedy has a fairly large catchment area, and an even larger watershed, and such things should be judged on an individual basis. But as far as I can figure it, his illusionry was no different from, let's say, David Copperfield's. Or that of many of the lunchtime soaps. The senses are still being played with; Kaufman played 'slight of mind' a bit too close to the edge for some, that's all, and that can bring you into dangerous territory.
I thought Man on the Moon for all its' 'failings' to be a great movie. But, then again, I like character studies, and I think Carrey to be a genius in his own right.
Indeed, Rick. My curiosity has been stirred, and if it is this book that you are talking about, then I certainly would be interested in hearing, or reading it. 'The Huey Williams Story', arguably an autobiographical account of his own life looks like an interesting read, also.
All that remains for me now, is to leave a few, wee, subtle hints around home, and you never know what Santy might have in his oul' bag, come Juleaften.
Interesting thread, folks. Thanks.