Andy Kaufman Tribute Review - At The Silent Movie Theater

Rare and previously unseen Andy Kaufman footage AND an appearance from the Great Tony Clifton made for a great evening

Andy Kaufman had me at “Here I come to save the day!”

When I was a little kid, local station KTLA used to re-run 70’s era Saturday Night Live weeknights at 11:30. This was a problem, as my bedtime was 9. So every night, I would make a little soundproof “tent” out of my comforter to watch the show. It also cut down on light emissions. The perfect crime - were it not for Andy Kaufman.

One night (though slightly less than a decade since it aired), Don Pardo announced, “Special Guest Performance by Andy Kaufman!”

Aw, man! The guy from Taxi???

Like I said. I was a little kid. I had yet to recognize the intricate awesomeness of sitcoms like Taxi and Cheers. I looked at the Cheers rerun that preceded SNL as an endurance contest. They were something my folks and older kids watched. I guess this means that my folks and older kids were pretty cool.

So about halfway into the show, Andy Kaufman takes the stage and pulls out a child’s record player - the self-contained unit that had a cover and handle on it, so you could lug it around. In other words, I had the same record player.

"Here I Come To Save The Day!"

Kaufman placed the needle on a 45 of the Mighty Mouse theme… and then he just stood there - anxiously waiting, looking like he was about to burst. When you’re a kid, that’s the kind of energy you relate to.

And then, the bundle of nerves exploded. Not with some ferocious attack of wacky schtick, but with a wave as smooth, controlled and effortless as he made his discomfort appear - kind of like Roy Rogers by way of a Rose Parade Queen. It was somewhere between polished, observational stuff, and a love of pop culture that rarely continues into adulthood.

Here I come to save the day!” he lip-synched. And if you’re a kid, isn’t that the only part of the song you want to do anyway?

Then, seamlessly, he immediately returned to anxiously waiting the next chorus. By the second time he launched into the “Here I come…” I was stifling a laugh, as was the tradition in my Private Time under my “blanket tent.” By the end of the bit, I was laughing so loudly that my mother heard, and that was it. Getting grounded for a curfew violation - only to be augmented by the fact that I was so in hysterics, my mom thought I was laughing at her, which made things a lot worse - was a small price to pay. I was hooked.

That’s how it was at The Andy Kaufman Tribute on December 3rd, at The Silent Movie Theater. More than an a Cinefamily event showcasing rare Kaufman chestnuts, more than a promotional event for Lynne Marguiles’ new book Dear Andy Kaufman: I Hate Your Guts - it was an incredibly beautiful and touching evening full of incredible anecdotes about the late comedian.

Lynne Margulies signs copies of Dear Andy Kaufman: I Hate Your Guts

I wouldn’t say it was like a wake - it was more like the after-wake party where a few good friends get together at an all night diner and tell stories that you just don’t tell in a church, or in front of parents. In between the videos - both unseen footage, and familiar favorites - Andy’s writing partner, the great Bob Zmuda, and his girlfriend at the time of his shedding of this mortal coil, the equally great Lynne Margulies, shared anecdotes that - for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it - really made me feel like part of the family. I’m sure most of the audience felt the same way. Kaufman’s “sister” Little Wendy (Polland) even showed up to share a couple stories.

There were two video montages: one was a compilation of his most famous and notorious bits; and another spotlighting Kaufman’s career as the Inter-gender Wrestling Champion of the World. However, Ms. Margulies brought along a truly rare and wonderful treat - Midnight Snacks. And I don’t mean that she put us all in a bus and took us for milk and cookies. Dare I say it? Her Midnight Snacks were even better than milk and cookies!

Move over, Charlie Rose!

Midnight Snacks was a show that Kaufman did for three weekends (in 1977) at Bud Freidman’s Improv. Freidman gave him a spot, allowing him to do whatever he wanted… at 2:30 in the morning. The result was a mock talk-show - a prototype of what would become his television specials. The visual of him, as the host, sitting in a desk that towers over his guests still kills me, every time. Perhaps the funniest routine was “Has Been Corner,” in which he gleefully chips away at Richard Beymer’s psyche, eventually reducing the erstwhile West Side Story star to tears as he sings “Maria.”

Never one to miss a great party, the inimitable Tony Clifton took time out from his world tour to grace the audience with some tunes and some jokes. (And an incredible burlesque dancer!) Some say the truly talented comedians don’t have to rely on dirty words to get a laugh. This is also true of Mr. Clifton. For example: What’s eighteen inches long, has a purple head, and can make a woman cry all night long? Crib death.

Lynne Margulies' new book is a collection of angry letters from womnen during Andy Kaufman's days as The Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World

After the tribute, the party moved to the Silent Movie Theater's patio where Lynne talked to fans and signed copies of Dear Andy Kaufman: I hate Your Guts - a collection of letters written by would-be adversaries from the height of his wrestling “career.” Misters Clifton and Zmuda were conspicuously absent. When it was announced that Tony Clifton would in fact, be appearing, Zmuda made for the exit, leaving poor Lynne to endure Clifton’s jabs alone.

The Silent Movie Theater's patio area: an oasis in the middle of a cinematic oasis

Dear Andy Kaufman: I Hate Your Guts is in bookstores and available online. Lynne Margulies is also working on more Andy Kaufman DVDs from her extensive collection of archive footage. Tony Clifton will be bringing his Las Vegas revue to the Comedy Store in May. Andy Kaufman remains dead.

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