It can be hard growing up in Germany and growing up in the 90s. Because of that, the first time I heard of Andy Kaufman was through the Jim Carrey movie about his life and my knowledge would be limited to that movie for a very long time.
But since I dug deep into the vault of early SNL episodes, I got to appreciate the real Andy Kaufman and it’s truly stunning what he did throughout his life. I hate being all too philosophical about stuff that I enjoy (because philosophy sucks the life out of EVERYTHING) but Andy’s approach was so weird and off-beat, as if he constantly tried to deconstruct its concept just to see what was left. Because in a way, a lot of what he did was not funny at all but turned funny when put into the context of a comedy show. I mean, I could write a freaking doctoral on this!
I think the saddest part is that there was a lot more to give when he died because shortly before that he produced a pilot for his own tv show and it’s so incredibly awesome that I’d give all Scrubs, Friends and The Office* seasons to see one season of it.
Andy probably had the concept for the show in his head long before they shot it, according to his friends he used to do a kid’s show at University and always wanted to do something like that when he was older. I think that would have been pretty cool as well, Andy was a weird kid himself and played out many characters in his room because he was convinced that he was being filmed (coincidentally the plot of another Jim Carrey movie) and he took this weird fantasy world with him. Kids love that stuff.
I think that was also the secret to really enjoying his comedy, to go along with it just as kids would. Never get to the point where you watch it and think “oh that’s stupid, why doesn’t he do something funny?” but instead just be open and go along.
By the way, the marionette is one of his alter egos, that was also played by his friend Bob Zmuda and therefore led to many believes that he didn’t actually die because “Tony Clifton” (not as a puppet but as a real person) had shows after his death and because not many people knew that Andy shared the character with Bob and occasionally his brother, they thought it was in fact Andy behind the heavy make up.
The set up of the interview table and seats is one of my favourite things of the whole show. Because it’s never addressed in the show, it just keeps on being funny whenever you see it. I wonder whether you could actually manipulate the power relations in an interview if your table was just high enough in contrast to the guests that they would have to crane their necks.
*Ok, ok, I deliberately picked shows that I really enjoyed but that didn’t really change the way how I watch comedy but that’s kind of the whole point, right?