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Andy Kaufman: Architect of Reality

by
Daulton Dickey.

During his truncated career, Andy Kaufman inspired a variety of emotions. People loved him, despised him, hated him. Others called him a genius, a surrealist, or a Dadaist. His detractors denounced him as unfunny. ‘He’s not a comedian at all,’ they might say. ‘He’s a whackjob.’ Questions about his mental health surfaced. Amateur psychologists diagnosed him with split personalities or schizophrenia. No one knew what to make of him yet everyone tried. A unique, singular performer, Kaufman destroyed every preconception about comedy and the performing arts. He didn’t blur fantasy and reality—he created reality wherever he went, and few people, it seemed, could grapple with it.

No one attending one of his shows knew what to expect. No one interacting with him—either on or off the stage—knew to whom they were speaking. Is this a character? A put on? Is there a real Andy? His last girlfriend, Lynne Margulies, considered the latter question absurd. There was no real Andy, she’d say. She expressed this sentiment to Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the screenwriters of Man on the Moon, the Kaufman biopic starring Jim Carrey.

Until that moment, they couldn’t get a handle on the “real” Andy Kaufman. Without determining who Kaufman was, Alexander and Karazewski couldn’t envision a movie at all. Margulies’s insight changed everything. (more…)