I remember excitedly taking the disc out of its case and inserting it into my player. This was it, I was finally going to watch my brand new Andy Kaufman DVD, a recording of a show he did for PBS’ Soundstage that aired in 1983, the very year I was born. I press play. Then…
“We now join the Andy Kaufman show, already in progress.”
Wait, it’s coming in in the middle of a scene, did the DVD player skip or something…
No, no, no. Of course not. This is classic Andy, gleefully screwing with people’s heads, the entire purpose of the bit to make me wonder, exactly as I did, if something was wrong with my DVD player.
This is the story I tell people when they ask about my Andy obsession, because, as I have just stated, I am obsessed with Andy Kaufman. It’s one thing for a person with no knowledge of Andy to think the DVD messed up, or even for someone with a curious, middling interest, but me? The disciple? The one whose love for Andy makes Christian’s love for Jesus seem weak and whose brain is so enamored with Kaufman’s work that he has to be reminded that not everyone thinks like he does and most are baffled and turned off by these antics? He got me?
Yup, and that’s why he was so great. A life dedicated to him and he still got me, genuinely, for a few seconds. The fun and frustration of Andy was never knowing.
His influence is impossible to understate. He’s the godfather of the entire reality TV genre, and the direct parent of people like Tom Green, Sacha Baron Cohen, Tim & Eric, and Eric Andre. He is the one who invented trolling decades before it was even a word, the one who truly understood the same underlying principle of humanity that causes pick-up artists to have success: that’s it’s not about what you think, but what you feel. His abrasive parody of a lounge singer, the fleshy-faced Tony Clifton, was a character centered around a nucleus of disturbance, driven by the immaculate knowledge that when you get them to dig their claws in, you’ve truly got them.
As you should be able to tell from this article so far, me associating Andy Kaufman and his influence with various areas of life isn’t that uncommon. So I was quite surprised this year when I began to receive a bunch of memes and articles from friends comparing my idol to a man who spent the entire year leaving the media and us as hopelessly strung out as one of Andy’s sexually charged bouts of overhyped female wrestling: President-elect Donald Trump.
There it is. The person who is now our President being mentioned in the same sentence as perhaps the greatest trickster of all time. I smelled Kaufmanism on Trump immediately, but figured it was just me. Then I realized many others had the same idea.
There is a separate article to be written about how I, and we as a society, have a hard time telling if Trump is serious or not, the very hallmark of a Kaufman performance. But that’s not what’s important here. We can debate his intentions until Andy’s corpse pops up and starts dancing again, something all of us fans are patiently waiting for. The point is, it wasn’t just me detecting the direct influence of this oddball cult comic, but everyone. That means that this entire Presidential campaign undeniably has vibes of Andy’s work.
And you know what that means?
It’s time to give up.
It’s time for every bug-eyed disciple of Andy looking to cause any kind of similar stir to throw in the towel, shut off the Mighty Mouse record, and call it a day. It’s over. It’s done. We’ve been hopelessly outshined. What can we possibly do now? Disrupt a show at a comedy club? A television program? Do some nutty stunt out on the street? This guy just fucking Kaufmaned the goddamn Presidential race.
How can we get higher than that? How can we possibly inspire more madness and confusion and beautifully absurd moments than Donald Trump has this year? Most in the spirit of Andy is how the media whines about his endless coverage while endlessly covering him, with Trump’s ‘I dare you not to react’ antics exposing as much about our species as the aforementioned pick-up game did.
I am not here to discuss Trump’s politics or effortlessly spark more debates by talking about the morality and ethics of what he has done. I’m not here to sing his praises or throw mud at him. I’m not here to worry about our future.
All I’m saying is we have a new undisputed king of Kaufmanism, one who took a concept birthed in cult comedy and relegated to the outer reaches of the internet, trolling, and made it worldwide, global, mainstream, catching an audience the magnitude of which Andy probably never dreamed of. Sure, he was like the Kanye of the early 80′s when his wrestling drama was constantly front page, but even then, he was just an entertainer.
And that’s why, my dear brothers and sisters of Kaufmanism, we all need to give up. Andy’s spirit of anarchy has been unleashed in a way that no one thought possible, and any attempts we make to honor his behavioral science-based madness will simply pale in comparison.
Grandiose are our imaginations may be, I don’t think any of us ever even attempted to think about using Kaufmanism to enter Washington, let alone succeeding in the process. No matter where we go from here, my particular mind has been blown by this unexpected shoving of my weirdo god’s influence into mainstream culture, and in that aspect, I must say, to whom or whatever merry prankster, if any, is out there controlling all of this:
Tank you veddy much.