The people at Comic Relief want the world to know the truth, once and for all.
Did Andy Kaufman fake his death and will he return, as promised, to reemerge into society exactly 20 years later?
The people at Comic Relief, meaning the folks who hosted all those cable specials with Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and Robin Williams, want the world to know the truth, once and for all. To have this unveiling, they have rented the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood on the 20th anniversary of Andy's death, May 16th.
Andy Kaufman played Latka on the 70s sitcom Taxi. Even before that, Andy was known for his full immersion into his comic characters, and a strange, contagious sense of humor. At times Andy would redefine comedy with his own combination of performance art and humor.
On the first seasons of NBC's Saturday Night, Andy had a recurring comic bit. In front of an old fashioned record player or Victrola, Andy would play the theme to the 60s cartoon "Mighty Mouse." Andy would stand silently and well dressed, while the theme song played-obviously waiting for something.
When the song reached the lyrics, "Here I Come to Save the Day," Andy's downcast eyes and quiet expression would turn into exuberant and hopeful lip sync, extending his arm to sweep in the crowd to his song. After the sentence was sung, Andy would immediately revert to the downcast eyes, anxiously awaiting the next time the lyric played so he could exactly duplicate his expression, lip sync, and arm gesture. The audience howled.
Andy went on to carry out stunts on Saturday Night, by then the show was called Saturday Night Live. In one bit, he chose to wrestle anyone who would take him on, then and there. This included inappropriately dressed women and the odd guy out of the crowd. When real wrestler Jerry Lawler challenged Andy, he was hurt and the stunt ended among a national discussion of the extent of comedy genius versus wrestling reality versus bad taste.
Andy also created characters. Andy would become seedy lounge singer Tony Clifton, crudely interacting with the audience seated near him from his stage. Andy had one of the first Elvis imitations, dressing as The King in the later white pantsuit period. Andy would vary the Elvis impressions, sometimes as "foreign man" doing Elvis in a Indian/Eastern European accent. Andy took that character on to become Latka on Taxi. Even as Latka, Andy would impersonate others. A famous episode of Taxi had Latka imitating series star Judd Hirsch as alpha cabbie Alex Rieger.
After years of talking about faking his death, Andy's doctors diagnosed him with "large cell carcinoma," a rare and fast replicating type of lung cancer. Andy didn't smoke or drink. The public didn't know if the talk of death was just another of Andy's elaborate hoaxes. He died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on May 16, 1984, less than two miles from where the 20 year party will be held on the Sunset Strip. Andy was buried in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York.
First R.E.M. wrote a tribute song, and then about 15 years after his death, Jim Carrey starred in the biographical movie of Kaufman's life named after the song, "Man on the Moon."
On the internet, Andy Kaufman Lives pages remain active, outdistancing the Elvis lives and Jim Morrison lives pages.
As R.E.M. sang in their song "Man on the Moon" for Andy:
Hey 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 we losing touch?
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon
If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool
Tickets are available through House of Blues at (323) 848-5100 or though Ticketmaster.
Event: Andy Kaufman: Dead or Alive with Tony Clifton and the Clifftones
Date: May 16, 2004 at 7:30 pm
Location: House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA
Cost: General Admission: $103.95; VIP Tickets $254
Sponsor: Comic Relief
TV Rights: This event is not scheduled to be recorded or televised. Cameras and recording devices will not be allowed into the House of Blues.
Appearing: Rodney Dangerfield, Carolyn Rea, Paul Rudd, Bob Odenkirk, Rich Voss, and Bob Zmuda