Someone Explain Andy Kauffman to Me!

We saw about 1,000,000 commercials for “Man on the Moon” this weekend. I have absolutely no desire to see this movie because I just don’t get him at all.

He was great on Taxi but his other humor just isn’t humorous to me!

Fans of Andy Kauffman… what’s so great about him? Was it just that he was different from anyone else out there?

Enlighten me.

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, dogs are from Pluto.

Yeah, I’m lost in his humor.

He was funny when he appeared on “Van Dyke and Company”, doing his ignorant immigrant on which Latka was based. And I liked Latka too.

But his wrestling “bits”, whether staged or not, were just mind-numbingly stupid.

He was different from all known life forms. He took performance art to a new level. A few years ago,they had a special on him. I would not turn the channel til the next program came on cause I was Sure he was going to appear and say,“I’m alive after all!Fooled ya>” When someone dies,and most people think its another joke,you know you have mastered the art of put-on.

The skit on Saturday Night Live where he sings the theme song to Mighty Mouse makes me crack up every time.

Here I come to save the daaaaaaaayyyy

Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.

I certainly wouldn’t look to a biopic for insight into a guy’s humor (as opposed to his life, maybe) though I realize that’s simply what brought up your question. I cannot think of how anyone could ever explain a comic’s humor. Has that ever been done successfully? I suppose there are college courses about that somewhere but I’d rate them with college courses about rock music. I cannot say I understand why people even expend much effort on trying to get a handle on why Kaufman was funny, if they don’t already get him.

I thought Andy was funny. I realize others did not. I do not believe the twain will ever meet or even understand each other.

If you’re simply looking for reassurance that Kaufman was not in the same class as Paulie Shore, who nobody gets, then please believe that they were in no way similar.

I guess this is like my girlfriend trying to understand why I enjoy thrash music or collecting postmarks? I, on the other hand, do not try to understand her appreciation for quilts and dancing. I simply accept that we are strangely different, in a nice way.

Maybe I am unique? Other people read books or see films and identify with different characters. I never do.

Oops, I seem to have wandered from the OP, haven’t I.

Nah, putrid what you’re saying makes sense.

I just consider myself to be an open-minded person. I enjoy all kinds of music, art, movies… I think Tom Green is hilarious.

I just don’t get it. I suppose I’ll be happy with the fact that I enjoy parts of his comedy.

Kaufman’s humor was more ABOUT humor than strictly jokes. He set up the audience to expect a joke, and play against their expectations. The joke is usually on the audience, who expects something funny and finds Andy laughing at them for their expectation. In other words (to point out one routine) what’s so funny about Kaufman challenging a woman to a wrestling match? Answer: Nothing. Why did you think it would be?

“East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Marx
Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.

I think one of the things Andy tried to do was force the audience to react to what he was doing. Once he got this reaction, he made us think about why we responded the way we did. Therein lies the humor.

One of my favorite Andy-isms was when he read The Great Gatsby on SNL. He started reading, totally deadpan, on and on. After several minutes of this, the audience started to hoot and holler. Andy looks up from the book, totally offended and says, “Now look, if you don’t quiet down, I’m not going to continue reading.”

Part of the deal with Andy’s humor was you never knew with a particular bit if he was serious or not. Like with the famous feud with Jerry Lawler. Was he really mad? Or was he just yanking all of our chains.

Andy had a genius for getting people involved in what he was doing – for making us buy into his put-ons.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

You might want to check out an article on Kauffman in the 11/25 Rolling Stone.

I think you need to take a look at his professional wrestling stint in Memphis to best understand Kauffman. He played a bad guy “heel” in Memphis, saying and doing things to make the fans boo and hate him.

If you were into Kauffman, you watched all this and laughed at how funny it was that he could get people to react to him this way. For example people that closely follow pro wrestling “know” that it is fake and the characters in the ring are just trying to illicit a response form the crowd, and are NOT like that in real life.

If you were NOT into Kauffman, you were probably one of those in the crowd booing him and getting upset. For example, like a wrestling fan that thinks that everything that happens in the ring is real.

Kauffman was like an inside joke- either you get the joke because you knew what Kauffman was trying to do (work people 24 hours a day) or you thought the joke was stupid because you just saw this guy acting like a jerk on and off stage.

Well I GET the joke. I just don’t think it’s funny. Sort of annoying, really. I saw the same bio-show as mentioned earlier, I think, and while I found him interesting, I didn’t find him amusing. Not even on TAXI.

Andy Kauffman was an annoying two-bit comic, his two only redeeming qualities, as I see it, is that he didn’t take himself seriously and he was unpredictable.

He could not act and was rarely funny. Latka was the worst character on Taxi. . .well right behind that terribly boring average lead guy whose name I can’t even remember because he’s just so boring and average.

And if I hear that damn REM song one more time I’m going to kill someone.

Hell is Other People.

Condescend much, ugly? Maybe, just perhaps, possibly there might be people who “got it” and still didn’t appreciate it. It’s just not funny to me to see him get stupid people riled up, because it’s too easy and has no comedic value. “Wrestling fans = idiots” is a fact already known to me, and watching Kauffman demonstrate it is no more funny to me than seeing Hulk Hogan do the same thing.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

If you don’t get Andy, then he’s making fun of YOU and it IS funny.

Isn’t this thread, and the fact that we’re arguing about Andy and his work a kind of validation of my earlier point? Isn’t there some humor in the fact we’re seriously debating the “funniness” of a comic who has been dead for 20 years?

Again, I say Andy wanted to get people to react. He didn’t care what the reaction was. He would welcome your dislike – the more violent your hatred of his work, the better.

He got your attention. He made you look.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

Not 20 years… he died in '84.

O p a l C a t

Andy Kaufman may have started out wanting to be an actor or a comic, but in the end…he was just plain crazy. Seriously. I think he went nuts and nobody saw it (or wanted to see it) because he was a little over the edge all along, so they thought it was an extension of that. Toward the end, he was NOT funny. He was creepy and threatening and nuts. Mostly creepy. I don’t think that doing the unexpected equates to funny. The documentary interviews of his friends and colleagues portrayed a bunch of people who were mostly worried about him and baffled by his bizarre behavior. These were funny people who no longer thought their friend was very funny. It’s a tragic story, really.

The thing is, I think Kaufman was out to entertain himself, not the audience. Kaufman did stuff that made Kaufman laugh.

As such, I really didn’t like his style. It’s counter to what entertainment is about.


Please explain to me “what entertainment is all about”. Please make sure your definition is broad enough to include all the wide range of things people do for entertainment, varying from, for instance, watching the Lawrence Welk show, to cliff diving, to hunting and killing small animals. Please make sure that this broad definition could not possible include what Andy Kaufman did within its ambit.

Thank you.

Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars.

possibly, dammit!

I assume Jerry Lawler was the rassler who punched Andy in the face on the David Letterman show. That sure looked real to me, but you mean to tell me that it might have been stageed, and for fifteen or more years I’ve been taken by it?