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With the Christmas release of the much-hyped bio pic Man
on the Moon, December became Andy Kaufman Month down here on earth.
Sometime around week number two the Hollywood PR machine cranked it up
to full throttle and channel surfing past a Kaufman-related television
show was nearly impossible. David Letterman interviewing Danny Devito.
Click. Larry King drooling on Jim Carrey. Click, click. A ten-year-old
documentary featuring former Kaufman co-star, Tony Danza using the word
After watching these shows, it became painfully obvious that
Andy Kaufman's friends, psuedo-friends, family members, business
associates, fellow comics and general hangers-on, were as confused by
Kaufman as Kaufman's famous character Latka was by life here in America.
Even Man on the Moon director Milos Forman said,
"Understanding Andy Kaufman is futile." What they could all
agree on, sadly, was that Kaufman's career took a major nosedive when he
entered the world of professional wrestling.
As a child, I was a huge Andy Kaufman fan. His seemingly
simplistic comedy style appealed to my precocious, yet not-fully-
developed sense of humor. On one level, I appreciated his goofiness. On
another level, I admired his daring.
As a child, I was also a professional wrestling fan. (Maybe
"fan" is too strong a word.) My brother was a professional wrestling
enthusiast and, since I was a fan of my brother, I naturally took an
interest in the sport. For years, my uncle was the commissioner of
wrestling in Philadelphia, so front row tickets to any match at the
Spectrum were only a phone call away.
As a front-row observer, I discovered early on that
professional wrestling--while very difficult and dangerous--is indeed fake.
Sit up close long enough, and you will eventually see the wrestlers
carrying blood capsules in their oversized hands.
Andy Kaufman also understood that professional wrestling was
not real. It is my humble opinion that Kaufman looked at wrestling as
the ultimate performance art. As a comic, Kaufman walked a fine line
between having the audience love him and hate him. As bad guy in
professional wrestling, he was guaranteed of 100 per cent, across-the-board
I've heard folks theorize that Andy Kaufman vastly
underestimated the passion of the average professional wrestling fan and
that is what got him in trouble. To the contrary, I think Kaufman was depending on that
rabid loyalty. What he did underestimate, however, was the indifference
of the general public to the world of professional wrestling. We didn't
care about wrestling and when Kaufman immmersed himself in that world, we
didn't care about him either. He even lost my support.
At one point during Kaufman's wrestling phase, he decided to
challenge a women to a wrestling match and was looking for volunteers. My
brother urged me to consider. My brother and I would often stage fake
wrestling matches in our living room. It was his belief that I could
open up a can of whup-ass on Mr. Kaufman. In retrospect, I think he was
right. Of course, I never took the challenge. But now that I'm a comic,
I'm sorry I didn't. I would love to be known as "a woman who wrestled
Andy Kaufman died tragically young, but as with any celebrity death, there are those who think he is still alive and merely faked his own demise. Perhaps he is having lunch somewhere with Jim Morrison and Elvis. If on the off chance Andy Kaufman is alive and plotting his return, then I would like to take this opportunity to challenge him to a wrestling match. You have to admit, it would make a great scene in Man on the Moon II.
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