at the too young age of 35, andy kaufman died 25 years ago on may 16, 1984. for that tiny percentage of the population who believe he faked his death and is somehow, miraculously, still alive out there - get over it. while he was know for his elaborate hoaxes, including rumors that he planned to stage his death and "reappear" 20 years later, his death from the complications of lung cancer was very real.
when kaufman died i was just about to graduate from college. he had already run through an incredibly strange career of performances. he insisted on calling himself a "song and dance man" instead of a comedian. the proper moniker for him was probably "performance artist." from his appearances on saturday night live (including the first show) and other late-night programs, to his live shows, and then the inter-gender wrestling weirdness - probably the most "normal" aspect of his career was the role of latka on "taxi."
two of his most controversial bits: the "fridays" program sketch where kaufman stepped out of character (to the astonishment of the other actors not in on it) and the slap down from lawler on the david letterman show (although he had actually been hurt during one of their matches) - where both less spontaneous than originally believed.
r.e.m.'s song, "man on the moon," was a fitting tribute to kaufman. so too was jim carrey's performance as kaufman in the film, "man on the moon" (although the film took liberties with the actual timeline of events in his life). i love hearing the song because it instantly reminds me of him. having witnessed most of his very short career unfold as i grew up, kaufman has a very sentimental place in my heart.
despite the controversies, or maybe because of them, kaufman was always able to get a(sometimes extreme) rise out of his audiences. he was a true performance artist.
rip: andy kaufman