This article originally ran in the Dec. 17, 2015 issue of Smashpipe. It was written by Jim Knipfel and Tony Sokol.
Legendary provocateur takes on his greatest challenge.
If it seems like the presidential race this year looks more like a wrestling match than a gubernatorial procedural, you’re right. Andy Kaufman is back and he’s not looking to play Mighty Mouse over women wrestlers
Long rumored to have faked his own death as effectively as his hero Elvis in the early ’80s with plans to make a shocking reappearance decades later, no one could have imagined that reappearance would be as the Republican Party frontrunner.
Andy Kaufman is the Bigfoot of dead comics, sightings have been everywhere since he reportedly succumbed to cancer in 1984, most of these tied to the workings of Bob Zmuda, Andy’s mighty mouthpiece.
Years after reportedly Kaufman died, abusive singer Tony Clifton was still performing. Clifton was a character played by Kaufman’s writing partner, co-conspirator, and best friend, comedian Bob Zmuda, who everyone also thought was Andy and who sounds remarkably like Donald Trump. Zmuda maintains that, on his deathbed, Andy Kaufman said keep Tony Clifton alive.
If he didn’t die in die in 1984, Kaufman would be 66 years old today. But then, if Lincoln were alive today, he’d be over 250 years old. There is also the possibility that Kaufman faked his death in 1984 and died in the meantime, possibly at the hands of Seinfeld’s Michael Richards.
Kaufman claimed that if he were to fake his death, he would come out of hiding 20 years later. That would have happened in 2004. Donald Trump appeared on Saturday Night Live in 2004. Trump’s monologue was very Kaufman, taunting the audience, claiming that SNL was luckier to have him than he was to have them. Bagging. Boasting. He could have been Kaufman on Merv Griffin, taunting the whole of femininity.
Like Trump, Kaufman built a successful career om an extremely limited number of routines and catchphrases, many of which entered the popular lexicon. Although Trump has never been known to say “Tank you veddy much,” (or even “thank you,” period.), it’s hard to ignore the fact that Kaufman’s alter-ego, Tony Clifton, was a loud, boorish, confrontational, and occasionally violent entertainer with a massive ego and no talent who somehow managed to become an extremely popular figure in his own right. And Clifton’s hair, it must also be noted, was of questionable pedigree.
Trump is the master of the deal and if he were offered a deal to take a powder and rent out his life to the king of hoaxster comics, he would jump at the chance. Trump was still parking cars in the garages his construction mogul father built, he’d majored in strategic parallel parking in military school, when he caught the World Intergender Wrestling Championship at the Atlantic City Hotel and Casino in 1981. Inspired by the celebrity who got to pin Playboy Playmate Susan Smith for three seconds, he also had the audacity to want to keep the prize money for himself. “Charity? Nobody said anything about charity. I want my money. I earned it. If you want charity, go get Jerry Lewis,” Kaufman demanded.
Kaufman and Trump both have the unique ability, it seems, to take golden opportunities and drive them into the ground. While Kaufman regularly destroyed appearances, on shows like Merv Griffin, SNL, Fridays and Late Night with David Letterman, alienating his core audience (along with everybody else) and choosing “Heartbeeps” as his one cinematic starring role, Trump, in the years following Kaufman’s supposed death, commandeered much of the Atlantic City boardwalk with his Plaza, Castle, and Taj Mahal casinos, only to allow all three to go bankrupt. Who loses money on a casino if not consciously attempting to make an aesthetic point?