Andy Kaufman, the Wrestler

I guess most of you know the story of Andy Kaufman wrestling women, pissing Jerry Lawler off (I think that’s his name, I don’t follow wrestling), then wrestling Lawler and getting his neck broken. I remember seeing the two of them on an episode of Letterman after that, cussing each other out, then Lawler slapping Kaufman to the ground; the whole thing went on for a while, and I think they had several wrestling matches after that, too.

Anyway, we all know wrestling’s staged, but that particular episode seemed particularly bizarre. I was wondering–was any of that actually real, or were they just a couple of buddies making some bucks?

My husband (UndeadDude) and I agree… the more we look at it, the more it seems that they MUST have been putting everyone on.

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Andy Kaufman’s greatest desire was to generate a response from his audience. Positive or negative, made no difference, the stronger the reaction, the better. The melodrama of pro-wrestling was a tantalizing bit of theatre for him.

It would be silly to think that Lawler would risk everything to wrestle someone who wasn’t ‘in’ on the physical aspects of a match and end up breaking his neck. Face it, Andy wasn’t in the greatest shape and it would have been childs play to simply pin him, rather than pile drive him and risk killing the man.

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Kaufman’s neck wasn’t broken. He apparently just strained a muscle or something, but Lawler didn’t even believe that. I have the incident on Letterman on tape, and Lawler made fun of his neck brace - “I’ve seen guys in car wrecks who didn’t wear a collar this long”.

Lawler’s supposed motivation for hurting Kaufmann instead of just pinning him is that he WANTED to hurt him. He told Kaufmann that if he got into the ring with him he wouldn’t be walking out. He was mad about Kaufmann’s continual ridiculing of wrestling, and Kaufmann said a lot of very unflattering things about Lawler personally in the weeks before the match.

Anyway, the whole thing was probably staged. Andy Kaufmann staged all kinds of other similar stunts before he died (remember him getting permanently barred from Saturday Night Live because of a phone-in vote?)

According to the Andy Kaufman special on E!, it was all staged, but Andy being the nut that he was insisted that Lawler actually hit him on Letterman, not use a fake wrestling punch. The coffee throw was impromptu, and actually kinda dangerous, you can kinda tell he missed on purpose. The neck injury was legitimate, and accidental. When he was piledrove, and presumably because Andy wasn’t well practiced in wrestling, and they didn’t practice any of it, the injury was a unfourtunate accident that Andy used to the nth degree for effect.

I can’t wait to see Man in the Moon starring Jim Carrey. I can’t think of a better actor for the role.

The only info I have had about the events are the specials shown on Comedy Central, but from those I felt comfortable concluding that it was an act.

The biggest giveaway I could see was the coffee throw on Letterman. You can see that Andy picks up the coffee and pauses, as if to give Lawler warning that he should dodge. He waits for Lawler to get up, and then throws the coffee at his chair. If he really wanted to hit Lawler, he could have just been quicker, and Lawler wouldn’t have been able to get out of the way.

I am impressed that Lawler seemed to keep to the story even after Andy’s death. I guess he saw it as yet another act in the normal theatre of his wrestling career.

Another nod is that in threatening tapes shown that were supposedly intended for Lawler, his “lawyer” was actually Bob Zmuda-- Andy’s buddy and frequent partner in crime.

How about the night that AK went nuts on the old live TV show “Fridays?”

Part of it was staged, but apparently, not everyone in the skit was aware of it.

Yes, I remember that skit on Fridays well.He just sat there,blinking,then put butter in Michael Richards hair,upon which they both went at it.

Does anyone else find Andy Kaufman as annoying as I do? I never thought he was funny; he struck me as being emotionally and mentally unhinged–I got the same reaction from Chris Farley. They didn’t need an audience as much as they seemed to need psychiatric care. Somewhere between “pathetic” and “creepy.” I actually felt sorry for Farley after seeing some interviews with him–he seemed so desperate and frightened! Kaufman, though, just came off as cocky and annoying.

Now, what with Jim Carrey’s film (and don’t get me started on HIM!), we’re going to be subjected to Andy Kaufman all over again . . . I wonder what idiot is going to film The Jim Carrey Story in 2019?

I like Andy. I don’t like Farley though. Or Carrey. Either of the Carreys.

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There is a new book out by Bob Zmuda, Andy’s friend and assistant. He tells all about Andy’s career and jokes. According to him, the whole feud with Lawler was set up and Andy was never hurt. He also said that the coffe Andy threw was only lukewarm.

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Wow - I thought I was alone in my feelings about Farley and Carrey. I liked Kaufman, but the wrestling thing got old in a hurry. Watching Farley always made me feel like I was being invited to jeer at a circus freak - not my idea of a good time. Carrey I find physically repellent - and not funny at all.

Good analogy, aseymayo. Especially toward the end, I felt like politely averting my eyes and calling 911 when Kaufman or Farley did their “bits.”

And how long will it be before Andy Dick winds up on a memorial cover of Entertainment Weekly?

I didn’t HATE Andy Kaufman… I just got tired of hearing how “Brilliant” he was! I thought he was a mediocre, hit-or-miss comedian. Sometimes he’d do something very clever and original, but for every funny bit, there were three or four stupid bits that dragged on forever.

Now, this is a personal bias, but… in my opinion, the words “brilliant” and “stand up comedian” should never be used in the same sentence. Jonas Salk is brilliant. Sir ISaac Newton was brilliant. Even the best comics in the world are just entertainers. Bottom line is, Richard Pryor is NOT qualitatively different from, say, Carrot Top or Milton Berle. They ALL tell jokes and try to get laughs.

My experience has been that, when a critic calls a comedian “brilliant,” it’s a code for “too busy being experimental, or scoring political points to bother being funny.”

I remember a few years ago,they did a retrospective on Andy K.At the end,I wouldn’t change the channel until the next show came on,I was sure Andy was going to appear and go,“Hey,I’m alive after all!”

How’d he die?

cancer.I forget what kind.

Lung cancer. And he wasn’t a smoker, so some of his friends thought it was a put on until he actually died.

From an Andy Kaufman tribute site…

“In the early evening hours of May 16, 1984, Andy Kaufman succumbed to a rare form of lung cancer. He had been sick less than one year and died at the age of 35.”

Strangely enough, I was in Memphis last weekend and was astounded to see Jerry Lawler’s name and face plastered on billboards as “The Fireworks King.” Don’t know if he’s just the spokesman or if he’s in the exploives trade now.

I was even more astounded this morning to hear him interviewed as a candidate for mayor of Memphis. He’s running a distant third, but it’s a pretty large field, so I guess that’s still respectable.

Following Jesse Ventura’s lead, would that make him Jerry “The Bottle Rocket” Lawler?

I remember there were rumors in the late '80s that Andy Kaufman might have died of AIDS–it was still relatively unpublicized (well, deaths were, in the U.S.) in '84 and might have been mislabeled as lung cancer. But, as I say, this was only a rumor . . .