With an unorthodox comedy brand and on-point impersonations, Andy Kaufman was quite a comedic, and controversial, sensation back in the 70s. As a young buck, Kaufman began sharing his eccentric personality at children’s birthday parties and during several at-home shows that he performed for his regular cast of imaginary friends. After two years of college, Kaufman sensed his comedic calling and headed straight to plethora of night clubs that populate the East Coast. Sure, he performed as a stand-up comedian night after night, however, since the start of Kaufman’s career, he never described himself as a “comedian” per say.
Despite his college success with his very own campus TV program, Uncle Andy’s Funhouse, Kaufman considered himself more of a performer or “song-and-dance man” because of his unconventional stage acts such as the “Foreign Man.” Because of Foreign Man’s array of impersonations from Elvis Presley to Richard Nixon, Kaufman was soon discovered by Budd Friedman. As he performed at one improv location in New York to another in Los Angeles, Kaufman amassed a gang of friends including well-known comedic actors: Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke.
After his national TV debut, Kaufman became one of the comedians to join the first season of the hit comedy program Saturday Night Live. Kaufman left his mark on SNL with an impressively precise “Mighty Mouse” lip-synch and the notoriously misogynistic “Intergender World Wrestling Champion” character that was inspired by his profound obsession with professional wrestling. His contagious humor and surmounting notoriety were catalysts for Kaufman’s several TV appearances on shows like Van Dyke and Company and The Dating Game. His most widely-known appearance was at Carnegie Hall, where he attempted to gather the thousands of audience members and have them bussed out for milk and cookies at a Manhattan café.
Kaufman was prominently known for his erratic behavior and remarkable ability to confuse and entertain his audiences at the same time. Whether people laughed at his stupendous behavior as Latka Gravas on the ABC sitcom, Taxi or attended one of his stand-up comedy nights, the world agreed that despite his out of the ordinary sense of humor, Kaufman maintained his originality and lightheartedness. Sadly, Kaufman’s career was short lived after dying from lung cancer at age 35, but decades later, he lives through the several performers his raw persona inspired such as Jim Carrey and Robin Williams.