Andy Kaufman was a comedic genius who unfortunately left us too soon like so many of the greats. His style was innovative, dangerous and incredibly bizarre, which made his appearances on late night television so unique. You never knew what he would do, or who was in on the joke. In fact, there is probably an older group of people in the world who still don’t understand that the joke was on them. Or was it? That’s the brilliance of Kaufman – one never knew if his jokes were planned, improvised or Kaufman being Kaufman. Regardless, the comedic timing of Kaufman was crafted over many years, and his wide variety of talents made him the ultimate entertainer. Hit or miss – Kaufman gave it a shot, and one can only learn from mistakes. Thanks to YouTube, the world can now enjoy all the outrageous television antics of Andy Kaufman.
June 24, 1980: David Letterman
Within the first thirty seconds you know this is going to be a classic. Yellow pants. Red shirt. Snot. By 1:11, Kaufman has still only uttered one word, and gives Letterman a look pure confusion. Five seconds later Kaufman has a look of concern, possibly even fear, and ten seconds later his face has transitioned to a look of understanding, while he name is keyed over the screen. By the end of the strange hilarious face routine, Kaufman is falling asleep as Letterman continues to jabber on about breakfast. By 1:54, Kaufman has said his first sentence, and the appearance is already a classic.
November 21st, 1978: The Dating Game
In 1980, Andy Kaufman appeared on “The Dating Game” as a real contestant named Baji Kimran. Yes, this happened. One minute in Baji addresses the female in his “Foreign Man” voice with, “Hello Patrice”, and looks at the camera with an awkward smile, aggressive hair and amazing sideburns. The startled demeanor up of Baji cracks up the audience along with host Jim Lange. The woman seems incredibly confused by the weak game of Baji, who is confused when she asks him what he would do if she was on his lap. “I’m going to tell you what I want for Christmas!”
By three minutes in, Baji is starting to get upset about the questioning, and gives off a slight serial killer vibe. What is truly amazing about this video is the look of the other contestants. Who are these people? At 5:40, Baji learns he has not won, and is visibly shaken. Host Jim Lange says, “We found him out on the street, and it was very nice of him to come in.” Thirty seconds later Baji is crying and reluctantly meets the woman. After a pat on the shoulder the host Jim Lange says, “No, don’t do that.” Baji Kimran!
March 3, 1977: Johnny Carson
In 1977, Kaufman had has been appearing in comedy clubs as a character named “Foreign Man”, and after the producers of “Taxi” saw his act they decided to write a special character which would become Latka Gravas. It’s easy for one to look back on this video and believe that Kaufman was already a cast member, however this was just the beginning. Imagine the shock of the audience when this strange character performed a spot-on Elvis impression after the first few minutes of dreadful jokes. Foreign Man!
February 20, 1981: Fridays TV Show
By 1981, Andy Kaufman had a reputation for causing problems on live television, and his reputation became even worse after a fight broke out “Fridays TV Show.” Kaufman was the host, and appeared in a sketch where couples sneak away to smoke doobies in the bathroom. Halfway in Kaufman breaks character and says, “I can’t play stoned” which causes the cast to get pissed off. Michael Richard (yes, Kramer from Seinfeld) walks off stage and returns with the cue cards for Kaufman, who in return pours a glass of water over the head of early Kramer. A producer wearing shades (and a pretty awesome jacket) gets pissed off and attempts to deliver a beating on Kaufman. All of this was caught on live television. Here the joke: it was all staged by Andy Kaufman, and the only people in on the prank were Michael Richards, actress Melanie Chartoff, producer John Moffitt and host Jack Burns. One week later, Kaufman appeared on the show to “apologize”. Watch it HERE.
February 27th, 1981: Fridays TV Show
One week after the “Fridays TV Show” incident, Andy Kaufman returned to offer an “apology”. Producer John Moffitt speaks to the audience in the open, and admits the incident was staged to involved the audience, and that the backlash had threatened the career of Andy Kaufman. Once the comic appeared on stage to apologize, the audience immediately begins laughing. After one minute of speaking, Kaufman turns to John Moffitt and says, “I can’t do this.” Kaufman begins to address the audience again, however they continue to laugh, and he replies with a line that could be applied to many gags throughout his career:
“I’m not trying to be funny right now. This is true.” Watch the video HERE.
Three years later, Andy Kaufman passed away at the age of thirty-five.
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