Andy Kaufman was an actor, comedian, writer, and performance artist. He is known to have an unorthodox approach when it comes to his stand-up routine. Kaufman often described himself as a song and dance man. He appeared in several TV shows such as Van Dyke and Company, Saturday Night Live, and The Mike Douglas Show throughout his career. Aside from that, he also starred on the hit sitcom Taxi and in the movie Heartbeeps and In God We Trust. In this article, we are going to know more about the life and career of Andy Kaufman.
Andy Kaufman was born on January 17, 1949, and he was raised in Great Neck, Long Island, New York, and since he was eight years old, Kaufmann began practicing his unorthodox brand of comedy. He set-up a make-believe television show set in his bedroom, and he also performed at children’s birthday parties. He attended Boston’s Grahm Junior College, where he majored in radio and television production. On a campus TV station, Kaufman wrote, direct, produced and starred in his own program.
In 1971, Kaufman’s talent was discovered by the Improvisation Comedy Club owner, Budd Friedman, while he was doing a stand-up routine in a nightclub in Long Island. Since then, Kaufman began performing at improv locations in Los Angeles and New York. He often confused his audiences with his weird kind of performance art. Kaufman once read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby out loud until the entire audience walked out, and one time, he even appeared on stage, carrying a sleeping bag and sleeping his way through his performance. Kaufman can do a wide array of bizarre foreign accents, have a strange obsession with professional wrestling, and perform a dead-on impersonation of Elvis Presley. With all that talent and so much more, Kaufman was able to gain fans as well as rabid critics, in large numbers.
Rise to Fame
In 1974, Kaufman made his first national TV debut when he appeared on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour. The following year, NBC executive Dick Ebersol witnessed Kaufman’s stand-up performance, and he decided to invite him to audition for a new comedy show entitled Saturday Night Live. Kaufman was given a part in the front, and he made his first of 14 appearances during its first-ever broadcast in October 1975. Probably the most infamous character portrayal that Kaufman did on SNL was the self-proclaimed undefeated Intergender World Wrestling Champion. This character had an ultra-chauvinistic personality, and he offered women $1,000 if they can pin him in a wrestling match. Kaufman decided to make this concept into a series of performances that stirred up controversy, particularly among female viewers, who were furious by the character’s misogynist personality.
In 1979, Kaufman made an appearance in a show that was held at Carnegie Hall, where he arranged the entire audience of 2,800 to be served milk and cookies at a Manhattan café. In 1982, Kaufman had significant neck and back injuries after a session with pro wrestler Jerry Lawlor. The two later got into a heated argument, and it was aired on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Kaufman was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 1984. Some people even accused Kaufmann of faking his illness, even if it reached its most advanced stages. In May that same year, Kaufman died in Los Angeles at the age of 35.
Even if Kaufman never married, it was revealed that he and his high school girlfriend had a daughter who they gave up for adoption in 1969.