Netflix has released the first trailer for their latest documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton (quite the title). Chris Smith’s fascinating exploration into Jim Carrey’s time spent portraying famed and complicated comedian Andy Kaufman.
Before anyone thinks I’m a loon, I don’t really believe Andy Kaufman is alive. However, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be impressed and rather pleased if he was. I suppose before I go any further, I should make sure everyone knows who Andy Kaufman is. I know, I know, it seems ridiculous to assume there are people who don’t know of Kaufman, but stranger things have happened.
Andy Kaufman was (is?) a stand up comedian. I take that back, Kaufman actually would often say that he was not a comic because he didn’t tell jokes, but rather let’s call him a “performance artist”. He was also an actor appearing on SNL and Taxi as well as a pair of specials airing on ABC and PBS. Lending to his protests that he was not a stand-up comedian, his act was composed mainly of characters he had developed. Perhaps the most famous was Foreign Man and his SNL appearance lip synching to Mighty Mouse is on the Way.
Kaufman’s act was one that quite possibly no one else could pull off, ever. He often would spend the majority of his time just looking nervously at the audience or asking them why they were laughing at him. He was able to pull off a “darker alter ego” light years better than Garth Brooks ever did, so much so that some people never picked up that Tony Clifton was indeed Kaufman.
There was so much more to the legend that is Andy Kaufman including his supposed desire to fake his own death, so it isn’t hard to see why people would want to believe that he is still alive. Kaufman died on May 16th, 1984 of kidney failure. He’d been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier in the year and people just assumed it was another of his bits but no, he really did have lung cancer and he really did die. However, there are still a large number of people who believe Kaufman is alive and well and now think perhaps living in New Mexico.
Could that be Andy Kaufman? Sure, why not? Is it more likely that it’s just some man living in New Mexico and has no idea that people are following him around filming him thinking he’s Andy Kaufman? A much more likely situation. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for Kaufman to show up on The Tonight Show one night laughing at all of us for falling for the gag but some things are just too awesome to be true. No, it seems as if it is only his legacy that is still alive, and with any luck, will remain so for decades to come.
Thankfully there are those out there who are actively making sure that Kaufman’s work is remembered. On July 16th, record label Drag City will release an album called “Andy and His Grandmother“. According to Drag City, Kaufman was fond of carrying around a tape recorder and the album will consist of clips from the 82 hours of recording that they have.
[quote]Andy and His Grandmother is material never heard before, a skimming from 82 hours of micro-cassette tapes that Andy recorded during 1977-79. Real life was the ultimate frontier for him, and these tapes demonstrate the heart of Andy‘s comedy: with gusto, he involves those closest to him, as well as total strangers, in put-ons, falsehoods and other provocations, pushing the limit on logic and emotional investment in everyday situations from the trivial to the deeply personal until any suspension of disbelief is out of the question for all involved, and everyone becomes fully immersed in whatever scenario Andy is suggesting as the new reality. — Drag City [/quote]
Produced by Vernon Chatman, narrated by SNL alum Bill Hader, and with liner notes provided by long time Kaufman friend and colleague, Bob Zmuda, “Andy and His Grandmother” is certainly something to look forward to for all comedy fans. Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever in July anyone?