Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally

by Joni Abilene

I’ve gotten my hands on Bob Zmuda’s newly released and controversial, “Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally.” It’s an interesting read so far but (I hate to say) not as good as “Andy Kaufman Revealed!” in which Zmuda brought us closer to the late comedy genius and in a much more honest and heartfelt style. If only the film “Man on the Moon” had been based more on that book and less on someone’s glorified version of what Kaufman represented–which was an almost a wax-figure reflection of the truth. Zmuda’s stories of the infamous Mr. X and the birth and eventual shared antics of Tony Clifton, plus the behind-the-scenes drama and upsets which eventually led to Kaufman’s possibly premeditated disappearance from society, is a thrilling read. Zmuda’s current work is less story and more of a letter to his long lost friend. With an almost a begging tone, it fills Kaufman and the reader in on what has changed in the world since the mid-80s, namely the burgeoning adoration for a legend many now would call the inventor of the ‘troll,’ a person who purposely instigates trouble for their own entertainment. The Foreign Man character, the bad jokes, the famous stunt at ABC’s short-lived TV show “Fridays,” were all were done to create friction and chaos, something Kaufman seemed to thrive off of. But all of this, unfortunately, had the effect of ruin and isolation. And then came the cancer.

In “Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally,” we are being told that there is no more doubt, Kaufman’s time has come, the was no cancer and he will return. Soon. Zmuda offers money, security, shelter. Kaufman’s once comedy co-writer and fellow instigator of trouble is like a younger brother who’s older sibling got caught smoking at the local football game. He knows where he’s hiding and has sent out the message: It’s okay. Dad won’t kill you. But is the world ready for Kaufman’s return? Have we really forgiven him for all the lies and stunts? A death hoax being the most elaborate prank anyone could ever pull off.

It’s an interesting book because it brings up an interesting idea. Social rebirth? No one has left so many questions unanswered. If Kaufman does emerge from hiding, he’ll undoubtedly be joined by a collective of fans who will stand by his return, despite the reality that the Kaufman we once knew will be older, heavier, grayer and perhaps less willing to pull off a slew of 7-year-old mentality pranks. Of course, you all know I want to wrestle him when and if this happens. And the setting should be Letterman, NYC. Musical guest, Elvis.

 

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