David Letterman: On April 5th, 1982, in Memphis, Tennessee, Andy Kaufman, the actor-comedian, and Intergender Wrestling champion, had his first wrestling match with a member of his own sex. The opponent was a very serious wrestling favorite named Jerry Lawler. Here, now, are the results of that match.
(videotape plays ... announcer calling the action)
"Lawler ... with a pile driver.... Only the second move by Lawler, and BANG goes Kaufman. It's gonna be a disqualification."
"Danny Davis, his manager, not believing it.... Jerry Lawler--6 minutes and 50 seconds, with a pile driver, has been disqualified. The winner, by disqualification--Andy Kaufman."
(Bell rings several times....)
"Lawler rolling Kaufman. He's gonna give it to him again. He figures he's already lost it...."
(videotape ends ... applause from audience)
DL: Tonight, for the first time on network television, they meet face to face. Here are Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler.
(Applause, cheers, boos....Andy and Jerry enter. Andy, still in neck brace, follows cautiously about ten feet behind Lawler)
DL: Andy--go ahead and have a seat, if you will....(Andy scoots his chair away from Lawler's). First of all, gentlemen, thank you. Thank you very much for being here. Andy, let's take care of your neck injury. Now, when was the match? April 5th, right?
Andy Kaufman: Mmm-hmm.
DL: And it's now almost August. Do you still need that neck brace on there?
AK: Yes ... I do.
DL: Are you in a lot of pain?
AK: Well, I'm not in nearly as much pain as I was--it's healing. But it's still enough to wear the brace.
DL: Uh-huh, uh-huh. One of those kinda nagging, lingering injuries that--
AK: I don't know what you'd call it, but I just have to wear the brace.
DL: Now--(laughs)--when I see Jerry here--I've never seen the man in person before--to me, you'd have to be nuts to want to get into the ring with this guy. He appears to be maybe twice your weight ... and he's better-looking. (Laughter) I'm just, I'm just.... I'm just teasing there, you know. But why--what was your motivation for wanting to fight him?
AK: Well, I'd had so many matches with women, and I started really believing that I was a good wrestler. I don't know--I'd beaten women bigger than him. I really thought that I could beat him. And, also, when I started getting worried, and thinking maybe I couldn't beat him, I thought I would just run away from him the whole time.
DL: Now, Jerry--was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would have any difficulty wrestling Andy?
Jerry Lawler: Ha. Not really--no doubt at all. You see, I don't want to sit out here and pretend that I'm friends with this guy, because I think he's a wimp. You see, I think when Andy was born, his father wanted a boy and his mother wanted a girl--and they were both satisfied.
DL: Now, just a point of order here. Now, I don't know a great deal about wrestling--but it looks to me like you gave Andy that second pile driver after the bell. Now, that didn't seem like a really sportsmanlike thing to do.
JL: Well, see--I noticed a small smattering of boos from the audience and everything, and I think that the people have gotten the wrong impression from all of this. You say that wasn't a sportsmanlike thing to do. But everybody that sees Andy Kaufman, the way he is now--you know, Mr. Nice Guy ... very loveable little Latka character and everything--this is not the Andy Kaufman that I saw. Because he sent a lot of interviews and clips into Memphis, insulting me ...
DL: As I recall, Andy, you kind of just egged him into this, didn't you?
AK: I was just teasing in fun.
DL: Just teasing in fun.
JL: I brought some of the small clips of things that he said about me, about some of the women that he wrestled.
DL: Okay, all right. So let's take a look at some of Andy's harassing work that Jerry Lawler had to endure, via the United States mails--some videotapes. You made these yourself, right, Andy?
AK: Lawler--you think you're really being smart. And, so-- Look, I'm from Hollywood--that's where we make movies and TV shows. I tape "Taxi" in Hollywood, I make movies in Hollywood--okay? I'm not from down here in Memphis, Tennessee, okay? I'm from Hollywood, and I want to have the respect that I deserve. When I come here, I want people to respect me, because I am a star--I am a Hollywood star. You got that?...
You know what, Mr. Lawler? I've heard all these things you've been saying about me on television. You want to rassle me? You want to--
(tape ends ... applause....)
DL: Well ... we'll pause here and regroup. We're gonna take time out for a commercial.
AK: I cannot see how you could be mad when you see something like that. I was just kidding.
DL: Well, we'll continue this discussion right after you folks at home take a look at this.
DL: Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman are here. Now, we saw the tapes that allegedly provoked Mr. Lawler into the match. Andy, why did you do that? That didn't seem like a very nice thing to do there.
AK: Um, I don't see how, uh, you could get, a person could get so mad from that. I was playing bad guy--that's what I was doing. I was playing bad-guy wrestler--it was a role I was playing. I wasn't serious about it. I don't take things like that seriously. Like: I am a star, I'm from--You know, that was just a role I was playing, you know?
DL: Uh-huh, yeah. So, in your estimation, Jerry--
AK: And I think that he just was taking it too seriously. He wasn't seeing the humor.
DL: You think he owes you an apology, then.
AK: Look. I always said you didn't have a sense of humor, and here the people are all laughing at it. So it proves my point.
AK: And that's why I came here--it was because I asked for an apology. I apologized for all the wrestling I've ever done, all the abuse I've ever given the people that didn't understand what I was doing. And I simply think that an apology is in order.
DL: So it's come to this, has it, Andy? You want Jerry to apologize.
DL: Now, is this the way--? Would that be an equitable thing, as far as you're concerned?
JL: I don't think so.
JL: I don't think I owe him an apology. You know, he says it was all a big joke. I'm sure it was to him. I think he came down there with the intention of--
DL: Did you want to hurt him?
JL: Well ... yeah. I thought I had to hurt him.
AK: In all the matches I ever had against 400 women--I'll tell you, I was bigger than most of them, a lot bigger. And I never--not one time did anyone ever get hurt. I never had to prove anything. I never had to hurt. I was always very gentle with everybody I wrestled.
JL: You know, it's something that I take very seriously--it's the way I make my living--and he comes in making a joke of it. You know, he did it all for publicity. That's why he's still wearing--I don't know if it's a neck brace or a flea collar. I'm sure he hurt it, but you don't need it this long.
AK: I was in the hospital--
JL: He's milking it for every bit of publicity he can get. That's all he's doing.
AK: I had to spend three days in the hospital, in traction, and I was given this neck brace in the hospital. It's a very real neck brace, it's the real thing, and--
JL: It's been five months ago.
DL: Yeah. It seems a little--
JL: People have been in car wrecks that, you know--
AK: I just don't think that there was any--it wasn't really called for to do. You could have, I could have been killed, and I could have had my neck broken.
DL: But, on the other hand, I mean, nobody actually forced you into the ring, you know?
JL: That's right. I don't come out here and try to do stand-up comedy, or anything like that. You know, I'm a wrestler, you're a comedian--
AK: If you were the man that you think that you are, then you'd apologize. If you're the man that you say you are. 'Cause you're always talking about being a sportsman, and how you're such a great athlete.
JL: I never say anything about being a sportsman.
DL: Let me, let me--
AK: Well, I thought you're a professional athlete. You're always talking about sportsmanship. And sportsmanship isn't just--To go in the ring--
JL: That's right. I'm a professional athlete. You're a comedian. You should.....stay out of it.
AK: Yeah, well, I was going in the ring--and this is something that I was doing. And there was no reason to hurt me.
JL: As a joke. Right. It's not a joke to me.
AK: Well, as a joke, yeah.
JL: That's not a joke.
AK: Well, and it wasn't a joke to me--
JL: Did you laugh after, when you were laying in the hospital? Was it a joke then?
AK: No, it wasn't. But there wasn't any reason to purposely hurt me. You could've proven the point by just beating me. You want to prove what a big man you are.
DL: Let me just clear up one point here. There are a lot of people watching who probably view wrestling as being a show--a display, a demonstration. And this maybe as the pinnacle representation of that. Was the thing fixed or rigged? Are you guys really friends?
JL: No, not at all.
DL: Was it a scam?
JL: I couldn't warm up to this guy if we were cremated together. He is a wimp. That's exactly what he thought--that's what he thought about wrestling. He thinks it's all a big joke--a big fix or whatever. And then you're right--there are a lot of people that think that.
AK: As far as I'm concerned, you're nothing but a redneck. And you're just trying to prove a point, 'cause I was a Yankee. And I heard this from so many people in Memphis. I was going down there, and because you believed all that stuff that I was saying--
JL: There are a lot of people that think that way, and he was one of 'em. And I did to Andy exactly what I would like to everybody that thinks that way.
AK: You're lucky I didn't sue you!
JL: It was a chance to show him exactly what it's really like. And you found out what it's really like.
AK: 'Cause let me tell you something. My father said, my manager said--they all said that I had a right. I could have gotten a lawyer, and I could have sued you for what you did. And I didn't. And I just--all I want is an apology. Even you asked me, the last time I was on your show, if I was gonna have a lawsuit.
DL: That's right, yeah.
AK: And I could have sued you. I could have sued you for everything you're worth. And I didn't, because I'm not that kind of a guy.
DL: Yeah. You know what--
JL: What kind of a guy are you?
DL: And I'll just be over here... We're going to pause here for station identification, and get the hose...
(Andy and Lawler quarrel in background. Lawler stands up, faces Andy and lets loose with a sweeping right-handed slap to Andy's head. Andy and his chair topple to the ground)
(Band plays out to commercial...)
DL: Hi, there and welcome back to the show, ladies and gentlemen. As you can tell, Andy Kaufman is here, sort of...Andy, are you coming in here again or...
AK: (re-enters on Dave's left) I am sick of this bull shit! You are full of bullshit, my friend! I will sue you for everything you have! I will sue your ass! You're a motherfuckin' asshole!!!!!!!!! As far as I'm concerned!!!!! You hear me?!!!!! A fuckin' asshole!!!!!!!!! Fuck you!!!!!! I will get you for this!!! (exits stage and comes back to audience whoops and applause) I am sorry, I am sorry to use those words on television. I apologize to all my fans. I'm sorry, I'm sorry (on knees). But you, you're a fuckin' asshole!!!!!!!!!!!!! You're a fuckin' asshole!! (banging on desk) You hear me!! A fuckin' asshole!! (throws coffee at Jerry and exits stage).
DL: I think, uh, I think you can use some of those words on TV. I'm not...But what you can't do it throw coffee. I've said it over and over again...Well, that about wraps this segment up. I want to thank my guests, Mr. Lawler. Jerry, thank you very much for being here, and good luck to you, sir. And my thanks to Andy Kaufman...