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"Andy's Funhouse" -- One of the most hilarious, poignant and troubling moments of television I've ever seen.
"I was always a fan of Kaufman's, but I didn't know how diverse he really was. Wow!!"
"... a touching tribute to one of the great masters of our time! If he were still alive, he'd probably have set this page up himself and then denied having done so!"
"I learned how to play in the true sense of the word. I learned to be in the moment. He (Andy) brought out a part of me I've been working on ever since." -- Carol Kaufman-Kerman
"I remember the day I read about Andy's death, I was fourteen at the time and was bringing the paper in from the paperbox. I sat on the hood of the station wagon my mom drove and read the entire article."
"He knew how to look at comedy from a totally different angle, he was the Picasso of comedy."
"I love Andy and always will."
"I miss Andy a lot."
"He was unfunny and annoying. His comedy and this page is a waste of time and effort."
I was in Andy's class in both school and at Temple Beth-El in Great Neck. I can't really say that I knew Andy very well, but I was in his class in school from the fourth grade until the tenth. I think that we were in a few classes together. I remember an English class we were in Junior High. I do remember him writing for the school newspaper. I think I might even have a copy of one of the things he wrote, it you have a fax, I'll fax you a copy if I can find it.
We also went to Saturday and later Sunday school at Temple Beth-El in Great Neck. Also in our class was Jon Avnet who is now a director and producer (Risky Business, Fried Green Tomatoes).
I got a glimpse at Andy's humor during our time in Temple, our class was notorious for practical jokes. Andy led many a teacher on a wild goose chase of the mind.
The one thing I will always remember about Andy was his eyes, when he was younger he had the most beautiful eyes.
Andy wrote for our high school paper the Guide Post. I remember a story called, "On the Road Again (Part 1)". It was written in 1965. In brief it is about a girl who by mistake calls Andy's house looking for someone else. Andy says that while he was not that person that was his name. They talk, find out they have a lot in common, he gets on his bike and rides to Rockville Center from Great Neck to meet her. Not knowing her address, he gets lost, meets someone else, falls in love but she was moving back to Mexico.
Andy was very quiet, sort of a loner. He didn't stand out in anyway when I was in school with him. I left Great Neck North in our Junior year, maybe he developed more after that. I think at the time he wrote this story he was more into reading poetry.
As far a his career is concerned, Taxi was the first thing that I saw him do. After that I watched him whenever I could, I think he was an original.
-- Emily Hollinger
Apparently, Andy Kaufman grew up in Great Neck, NY. My mother also grew up there. Andy was in my mother's sister's 6th grade class. At a class party, Andy was smoking a cigarette, and he dropped it. It burnt a hole in my grandparents' carpet. Also, at the same party, he asked my grandmother, how he should go about asking a girl out. My mom says she and her friends always thought Andy was weird because of the music he listened to, such as Elvis. I hope that is somewhat helpful.
-- HMS Shaft
Having Andy in my life was and still is a wonderful thrill. I have so much to tell you about him and I'm sure he'd be thrilled to know how much he has touched your life. First, be assured Andy was a great guy. He cared for people and he never let his fame get in the way of his centered life. Andy would be thrilled to know you. As a friend Andy was always asking for opinions. He wanted to hear about his performances. Did he go too far? Did he offend anyone?. That was never his intent. When he thought he was being a bit bigheaded, he would mention it first and we would laugh together about the absurdity of it.
I speak with Michael often. Like his brother, he is a great guy. He really cares about the memory of his brother. Michael tells me that Andy would as a child, envisioned himself as Johnny Carson in his bedroom. He would introduce guests and then he would become those guests by creating voices and facial expressions. Ironically Michael married Pru, a person I hired a few years earlier at Warner Cable. I did not introduce them...fate did. Andy would come and visit me at Warners and Pru and the other employees spent lots of time scratching their heads as Andy would interface with all the pretty girls. He dated a few. Thank God he wasn't into wrestling at the time. I could have lost my job. Little did Pru know that in the not-too-distant future she would be this guy's sister-in-law.
Andy and I met in 1969. We were in Grahm Jr. College together in Boston. I created and ran the college coffeehouse and Andy came in and asked to be hired as a comedian. I am honored to tell you that I was the first person to hire him (at $5). It's an event I'll never forget. He was up until that time a performer for children's birthday parties. Lots of the stuff that Andy used in comedy he actually got from doing these parties, like Mighty Mouse, the bongos, some bad magic etc.
Andy always seemed lost. He just didn't fit in with the crowd. It was like he was always trying to do the impossible. I remember once laying around my apartment with Andy and a few other guys trying to figure out what to do that day when suddenly Andy jumped up and said, "I know, lets go down to the bus station and pick up girls! Just like that. I said what do you mean, pick up girls? He said that when he made this sound with his lips, girls just couldn't resist it and that he would teach us. Ten minutes later, all five of us were standing in the distance watching Andy approach young ladies and making this loud kissing sound, as these girls screamed at him. One actually hit him over the head with her bag. We just stood there watching him take all this abuse, and laughing hysterically. We were in fact just an audience. Andy always had an audience, regardless of his material. That was his gift. He was appealing for all the wrong reasons.
Andy would always invite me to tapings of Taxi, and we would always get together during my many visits to Hollywood, while I was developing Nickelodeon and The Movie Channel. I have some great stories to tell as time goes on.
Andy thought he was on stage every moment of the day. He didn't need others approval about what was funny. He was never really trying to be funny. But he was always interesting. I think he got off on hearing the confusion he was causing. Soon it all became funny, just because it was happening and probably shouldn't have. I actually wrote a few routines for Andy as we hung around in the coffeehouse. One was with a yo-yo and one was with a telephone. Remember, this was before the days of cellular phones. I had a fake telephone that would ring and sound like an ordinary telephone. You could use it in the car, restaurants anywhere. But no one was on the other end. You would have to improvise a conversation. Andy loved it so much I gave it to him. Before you knew it, It would start ringing in class as Andy would cower down and pretend to be talking in the back of the classroom. His mild talk would turn into a hostile argument. Then he would hang up with a vengeance. In front of the professor and the whole class and pretend that nothing happened. This was classic Andy Kaufman. He was performing, taking a chance, willing to flop on his face, even get thrown out of class. The point is he didn't get this way after he became a professional. He was natural, truly one of a kind. I often hear that he was ahead of his time. I disagree. If Andy were here today, he would still reach over the heads of everyone around him except those who would want to be there with him. That's not "before your time", that's genius!
I don't know for sure when he developed the "Foreign Man" character. My guess is that he did so as a children's birthday party performer. I can tell you that Foreign Man was performed in his first comedy routine at Grahm. That was in 1969. He borrowed generously from his birthday party shtick for that performance.
Andy loved women. The taller the better. He always had one special lady around him. Normally she would be tall and very shy. He didn't show them off, often he would be more shy then her. He was very private about his romances. But his appetite was always there. When he was with the guys he would always ogle from a distance. Just like you and me.(Remind me to tell you about the woman I brought to him before a taping of Taxi).
Andy's eyes were curious. It was like staring into deep blue tunnels. You just knew there was lots happening deep in there. It was one of his great assets. Michael has the same eyes.
Budd Friedman seems to get lots of credit for Andy. I don't especially remember Andy's affinity toward him. Just a business relationship. I was with Budd recently and he remembers Andy like a son. I don't see it that way at all. By the way, have you ever been to the Improve on Melrose? The large Circus portrait was promised as a gift to Andy by Budd and never delivered.
One of the things Andy never talked about in all his interviews was the fact that he was connected to the Hollywood crowd through his famous uncle, Sam Denoff. He was the guy who produced "The Andy Griffith Show", "Make Room for Daddy", etc. for CBS. Anyway, Sam was the one who introduced Andy to Carl Reiner (at a pre-arranged audition at the Improv) which ultimately got him the Dick Van Dyke show. It went on from there and Andy had a powerful group (Reiner, Van Dyke, Steve Allen, etc.) looking out for his interests. It was not an unfair advantage, but it did help him. If the talent were not there, there's nothing these guys could have done for him. Saturday Night Live was a natural. It was a show calling out to Andy's talents.
Andy was truly a great guy. I only saw him mad once and it was justified. And I hope I don't have to tell you that his celebrated fights, meanness and brawls were only an act. He pulled them all off beautifully.
Andy did not particularly get along with Chevy Chase. Chevy went on record as saying some mean spirited things about Andy and Andy didn't understand why. I believe Chevy said" Andy should get rid of his pimples, get his face cleaned up and cut out the meditation crap". Not very nice. Andy's best friend at SNL was the writer Alan Zwibell. Alan encouraged Andy and worked closely with him in all his guest appearances. Most of the other original cast members tolerated Andy but kept one pace away.
-- Al Parinello
I went to the premiere of "My Breakfast with Blassie" at the Nuart in Santa Monica, and Andy stood up and accepted the applause before the show. He was about 2/3 of the way back, wearing a leather jacket and completely bald. My impression -- and I think that of many others -- was that the jacket and baldness were part of a "look" that he had adopted. I remember hearing about his death soon after that, and realizing that the baldness was probably a result of chemotherapy.
Andy was amazing. Comedians telling jokes are so pitiful when you consider what he did. I like the Mighty Mouse and other lip-synching bits for all the usual reasons, but also because I think there was some real genuine affection (mixed in with the immense irony) for the source material. I'm sure he did that Mighty Mouse thing in his bedroom, with that phonograph and that record, when he was a weird little kid. It reminds me of myself singing along with "When Veronica Plays Her Harmonica (Down on the Pier in Santa Monica)."
-- Bruce Rhodewalt
It was a cold winter night around 1983 in New York City, about 2 A.M. I was in an ice cream store in Manhattan with a date and another couple. Andy Kaufman walked in and ordered an ice cream. We all stood in awe. Then my friend's girlfriend named Ronnie who worked at Details magazine at the time walked over to him and challenged him to a wrestling match. We all laughed -- all except Andy. He slowly removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He attacked Ronnie, who stands about 5'3 and pinned her to the tiled floor. It was over in seconds. Then he got up, shook her hand and we left. He never broke from his character. I'm still in awe, today.
Andy was the greatest... He was able to pull emotions out of people that they didn't know they had. He could embarrass just about anyone. In fact during many of his live shows, he would be more than half way into a skit that totally weirded-out most of the audience, and then slowly, one by one, the people in the audience would "get it". There were always a few in the audience who never could figure out that part of his best skits WERE THE AUDIENCE, and that it was part of his skit to make the audience sweat!
Andy once played at the Playboy Club & Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin In the middle of his act he started quoting the bible and took on a part he was doing in the movie "In God We Tru$t". He was rehearsing his part and the audience didn't know until he was done. It was strange.
Andy's sister Carol Kaufman Kerman is married to my brother Rick Kerman. Rick is now the chairman of part of the Chicago branch of Comic Relief, and is very active in many circles around Comic Relief.
I enjoy talking about Andy, and feel certain that his talent was leading him to the top.
Every once in a while I toast a bowl of chocolate ice cream to Andy.
My regards to Tony Clifton, who I recently saw in Chicago, his first appearance in ten years.
-- Bob Kerman
I saw Andy Kaufman live at the Improv in New York during the winter of 1974-75. This cringing, slope-shouldered guy with a thick Eastern European accent came out on stage. None of us had ever heard of him. His jokes were terrible.
My group of friends, and it seemed the audience in general, grew really uncomfortable; I mean, this guy was really awful, but he seemed so shy and vulnerable that no one wanted to say or do anything that might embarrass the poor schlub worse. Even though we weren't laughing, he kept saying, "Thank you very much." It was excruciating.
After a while of this, the guy said, in his whiney voice, "Now I would like to do my Elvis Presley imitation." He turned around, put his feet apart, combed his hair back, put on a forty-five of Elvis Presley (I think it might have been "Hound Dog"), grabbed a guitar, and swung around, doing a hip-grinding, deep-voiced, high-energy Elvis.
At that moment, the whole audience realized we'd been had, and we howled -- some in laughter, and some in anger. The cringing little Eastern European we'd all been feeling sorry for had been an act, and he had roped us right in.
He was an original.
-- Lauren Colias
Andy's father Stanley and my father Norman were part of a close group of college buddies. Because this group remained geographically close on Long Island throughout the years, it was only natural that Andy obtain early work from them at their children's birthday parties.
He performed at one of my birthday parties. He and I had our moment because he performed a magic trick which I figured out and exposed. For a child, the challenge of figuring out the trick is fun, and yet doing so can be most embarrassing to the performer as I found out that day.
Needless to say, he wasn't thrilled at the idea of performing at another party of mine. He paid me back though. He found out that I had a tremendous crush on his sister Carol, so he made sure she never went on a date with me. If he were here today, I think I would ask him to perform for my children.
-- Andrew Cohen
I had never heard of Andy Kaufman when I saw him giving a speech at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park London, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in about 1978 or 1979. He was unknown in England because at the time "Saturday Night Live" and "Taxi" were not shown there. He was flanked by the usual crop of religious and political speakers but had managed to draw a good crowd of about fifty or sixty people who just didn't know what to make of him. He was waving an umbrella around and screaming like a Southern evangelist something about how everyone needed an umbrella to gain salvation and enter the kingdom of heaven (I wish I could remember more). I was absolutely fascinated and was trying to decide whether it was a joke or if he was just crazy and really believed what he was saying. A lot of the people who make speeches at Hyde Park really are crazy but not usually so entertaining. Just as interesting were the reactions of the people in the crowd who were either shouting approval or eyeing him suspiciously. Some of the hecklers started to get very aggressive and he hilariously put them down while they got more and more angry. I hung around as long as I could to see what was going to happen. A couple of Americans in the crowd had apparently recognized who he was but were keeping relatively quiet. One of the hecklers just would not give up arguing and trying to get Andy to admit who he really was but at least while I was there he did not waver from delivering his message about the umbrellas. So I never did find out who he was until a few years later when I came to America and saw him on an old edition of Saturday night Live and thought, "Wow, that's the guy I saw at Hyde Park!"
-- Lawrence Weir
I had been at summer camp with another boy named Andy Kaufman from Great Neck. I called whom I thought was that Andy Kaufman and instead called "The Andy Kaufman". This was like 1963-4. Anyway, we started to talk, and didn't stop for hours...we talked about Jack Keroac, his friend he called The Prophet, Jazz, the village, everything... we were just incredibly compatible. We decided to meet at the NY World's Fair. Since we didn't know what one another looked like, he suggested we meet at the Unisphere (that was and is a giant globe at the NY World's Fairgrounds in Queens), under the tip of South America and I suggested he have a flower in his mouth so I'd know it was him. We met as planned. He was there with a carnation in his mouth. It so happens Olatunji was at the World's Fair that day and Andy introduced me. We dated for quite some time. I thought he was hilarious, bizarre and cute. My parents LOATHED him, which made him all the more attractive to me. We lost contact after we went away to college in 1967.
-- Marilyn (Blumberg) Cane
The first time I saw Andy Kaufman was in a 7-11 in New Orleans, and I looked around the store and noticed that they had redesigned the interior of the stores. I was pretty impressed with all the greens and oranges in their color scheme and how they had all those new sandwiches and fresh macaroni salad every day (which was actually very good!). The help was also very friendly and made me feel welcome at the store.
But I have to say that one think kind of peeved me. They don't carry "Sweet Sue" canned chicken and dumplings or whole chickens any more. One thing that I really like about "Sweet Sue" canned chicken is that the picture of Sweet Sue reminds me of a time I was in Austin at another 7-11 and I was on acid, and I looked at the can of Sweet Sue and Daniel Johnston was standing there with me, and I had this flash that Sweet Sue was a vampiress and that if she could only open her mouth, then there would be those vampire teeth in there. But I also remember turning around and looking at the 7-11 and thinking that if they could only change the color scheme and have some new sandwiches (like falafel) how much better it would be in there.
-- Dave Spumoni
Back in December of 1978 or January of 1979 Andy and his entourage descended upon the sleepy hamlet of York P.A., York College of P.A. to be exact. At the time I was the President of my Frat "Omega Theta Chi", I worked on Campus Security, and hung out with a few friends on the student council.
One day a girlfriend of mine, whom was the President of the Student Council asked if I would be willing to pick up Any, his manager and his managers wife (or girlfriend, I forget) at the airport on behalf of the College where he was to perform that night. Mind you I was a full-time College student at the time. I didn't have a TV in my room and therefore wasn't a big fan of TAXI. I knew Andy was on SNL once but that was about all of my knowledge of Andy. Therefore you could say I didn't really know what I was getting myself into.
I picked up Andy and crew and dropped them off at the local Ramada. About an hour before showtime I picked up Andy and company and brought them over to the college for the show. AND WHAT A SHOW! Anyway after the show I drove Andy and Company back to the Hotel. I was invited to come up to Andy's room. When I got there he had a fully stocked bar, baskets of fruit and a few young ladies hanging out in the hallway trying to in to see Andy. Around midnight Andy's manager pulled me aside and handed me 20 dollars. He said Andy sleeps all day when he's on the road so to him it was only about 5 PM according to his body clock. He asked me if I would be willing to take Andy out for dinner (like he was a little kid) I said sure. Andy and I then took the school van back to campus where I picked up my car. We probably went to 2 or 3 Bob's Big Boy type restaurants before we found one that prepared fried-fish the way Andy liked it. So there I sat sipping my Coke as wide-eyed Andy sat there eating his fish and sipping his chocolate shake. All seemed fine until the waitress (who didn't recognize Andy) asked how his meal was. Andy was drinking his shake at the time and without stopping to put the shake down he turned his head and tried to say something like "just great" but instead when he spoke his chocolate shake was spit up on the waitress's white uniform. Needless to say this caused quite a commotion. I jumped up and tried to console the waitress but she was fit to be tied until I pulled her aside and told her who Andy was. Then she recognized him and laughter replaced the tension in the air.
I then rushed Andy through his meal and out the door. I wanted to bring Andy back to his hotel but he wanted to go to a party. I'm thinking it's Thursday night in Central PA. where am I going to find a party? Then I remembered F&M University was just over the Suscauhanna River. It's a big "suitcase school" so most of there frats have Thursday night parties. So off we went to F&M U. about a 30 minute drive. During the drive Andy entertained himself with the contents of my glove compartment. The car I was driving had a manual transmission. I had my hand on the stick when all of a sudden I felt cold steel on my wrist and heard "click - click". Andy had found the handcuffs I kept in my glove box from Campus Security and we were now hand cuffed together!
I told Andy that the key was back in my off campus apartment and that I was turning around to go get them. Andy pleaded with me not to go back and to continue on to the party. He promised me he would be good.
The next thing you know I'm standing in the middle of a frat party around 2 AM handcuffed to Andy Kaufman as he began to cruise every babe at the party. Andy and I danced with several young ladies throughout the evening. Andy also got quite friendly with one young lady. I guess I did too but I wasn't in control of that side of my body any longer Andy took on a life of his own. I sat on the couch next to them trying to act cool and carry on a conversation with the young lady to my left while my right hand was having the time of it's life. I kinda had an angel on my left shoulder and a devil on my right shoulder. I was just praying that Andy didn't want to go upstairs to one of the rooms to be alone with her. I could just see me sitting in the hallway with my arm stuck inside a bedroom door.
Around 4 A.M. the party began to break up. I was exhausted. Andy and my right hand said goodnight to our date and got back into my car. (Andy got in first and climbed over the console). On the way back to York Andy insisted that he take me to breakfast. I begged him to let me go home and get some sleep but he wouldn't hear of it.
We stopped at "Jays Supermarket" a 24-hour supermarket in York with an all-night cafeteria. So there Andy and I sat in a booth staring at each other hand in hand on top of the table trying to hide the hand cuffs. I don't know what went through this waitress's mind when she saw us. I guess she just thought we were in love because I couldn't get this shit eating grin off of my face. And there sat wide eyed Andy, Mr. Innocent. Anyway she took our order and returned to the kitchen. While she was gone I reviewed dining etiquette with Andy and reminded him not to engage in conversation or idle banter with a mouth full of food OR CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE!
After breakfast Andy and I retired to the reading room at the checkout counter at Jays. We stood there for about an hour as Andy went through all of the "People & Star" type magazines trying to find articles about himself.
We finally said our farewells and again mounted my auto. We got back to my college apartment and got the handcuff key and took the handcuffs off on my now sore and red wrist.
At the time my college roommate was a radio DJ by the name of Jack Quigley who was a noted DJ in the area on "Starview 92" radio. Andy crept into Jack's room and gently woke him up for his early morning shift at the station. When Jack realized it was Andy Kaufman waking him up he stood up in bed andsaid "You're Andy Kaufman!" (Jack was good at coming up with just the right line at right time).
I finally drove Andy back to his hotel. Andy got out the car and walked around to my side of car to shake my hand. I said "Andy it's been real" Andy Said "Terry, you've been a real sport partner" patted my wrist and walked off.
So to sum it all up: In one night I watched Andy rock the house, I wined and dined with him, we danced the night away, took in some literary culture at the checkout stand, I laughed, loved (my right hand that is) and cried with Andy (the handcuffs were killing us). I spent some intimate moments with a Andy over breakfast and walked hand in hand into the sunrise with him (up the steps to my apartment at dawn).
I didn't really know Andy until then, and to tell you the truth I really didn't see Andy at all that night. Just this jumbled up collection of characters that we called Andy Kaufman.
So Andy here's to you, the man in the moon. You've been a real sport partner. I miss you.
-- Terry Cooney