The man was more concerned with challenging and confounding his audience than provoking mere laughter, and a generation of eccentrics eagerly joined his cult.
Among them was Canadian teenager Jim Carrey, gifted with his own brand of comic lunacy. (When the director referred to Andy in the third person, Carrey would gripe, "You talk like I'm not even here.") A film crew captured Carrey's behind-the-scenes madness, and the long-unseen footage forms the basis of the new Netflix documentary co-star, marvels at Carrey's transformation. "For Andy's brother, Michael Kaufman, and Carol (both of whom spent time on set), it was like that.
"This may sound a little wooo-hooo"—she mimics a cuckoo bird—"but I do believe he allowed Andy to come through him.
Mention the film's name, and they let out a noise like a balloon deflating. "They copped out, saying there is no Andy Kaufman." For Carol, the movie betrayed her brother's affectionate spirit, making him seem erratic and unhinged, as though his wacky stage behavior was all he ever was.
"It was about his career, and there wasn't anything that was warm and nurturing and anchoring.
"Plus," Carol adds, "Michael and I don't get to see each other often.
So this is really nice."That, too, reflected Andy's spirit: Both siblings insist he Michael is fiercely protective of his brother's legacy—particularly from those who might exploit Andy's name for personal gain.
Related: Is Donald Trump really just Andy Kaufman in disguise?
An investigation In early November, I pitched Michael my idea: Let's watch together; I'll record your reactions in real time. "There's an Andy spirit to this whole thing," Michael exclaims when we meet (a neat compliment—like Yoko Ono describing your music as "Lennon-esque").
The biggest offender: Andy's close collaborator Bob Zmuda, who published a book several years ago, claiming, with minimal evidence, that Andy's death was a prank, and he'd be revealing himself any day now.
("I'm just disappointed in his behavior.")And Michael was leery of .
He did not like the trailer, which showed Carrey's hyped-up Tony Clifton ramming his car into a wall (more a Carrey move than a Kaufman move, he felt). "I'm just standing there, crying, saying: 'Andy, Andy, it's beautiful!
He did not like that he was denied permission to see a screener of the film before being asked to approve some archival clips. I'm sorry, Andy, that I wasn't there the first time. But I'm here.' It was a real healing."* * *We watch on a projector screen in the private back room of a bar in Brooklyn.
And the person that was willing to do it wasn't so bad—they were trying their hardest, so they had their heart in it." Why not embrace that?