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Freaky Friday: Andy Kaufman

Posted by purplemary54 on March 1, 2013

If there were a Freak Hall of Fame (and, really, there should be), then Andy Kaufman would have a whole room devoted to his strange form of freakiness.  Kaufman is probably best known to folks as Latka Gravas on the TV show Taxi (which also brought Danny DeVito and Carol Kane to the spotlight).  Kaufman created the character as part of his stand-up routine in the 70s, known then only as Foreign Guy.  He was a brilliant comedian and performance artist who died too soon.

One of his most famous–and most funny–bits was the Mighty Mouse skit.  (Is now a good time to mention I was also a huge Mighty Mouse fan as a kid?)  I’d explain it, but it’s better just to watch.

The awkwardness as he stands onstage doing nothing is incredibly funny and just a little unnerving, which was sort of Kaufman’s specialty.  He wasn’t a mean-spirited guy, but his comedy wasn’t designed to make people feel good about themselves, either.  He made you see the weirdness of the world.  His characters were frequently bombastic oafs, even when he was purportedly being himself (such as in the wrestling bits).  He was surreal and silly, and I loved him to bits.  Years after he died, probably around the same time the biopic Man on the Moon was released, I heard that he had confided in friends that he wanted to fake his death and return 20 years later.  He died in 1984, so that would’ve placed his return in 2004.  I was a little disappointed when he didn’t show up (although I’m also still waiting for Houdini to make contact from the great beyond every Halloween).  My brain knew he wouldn’t, but my heart didn’t want to listen.

That might be the lasting legacy of Andy Kaufman.  His comedy was done with love, and responded to with love.  He put his whole heart into everything he did.  It’s impossible not to love that.

“Now, Andy did you hear about this one?  Tell me are you locked in the punch?  Hey, Andy, are you goofing on Elvis? (hey, baby) Are you having fun?’

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