A Banned Andy Kaufman Gets One More ‘SNL’ Chance


The story of Andy Kaufman’s ban from Saturday Night Live is a protracted and tangled one. And, in step with the boundary-pushing comic’s profession aim of protecting audiences guessing, the payoff of the late comic’s remaining SNL look solely doubled down on the controversy surrounding Kaufman’s tumultuous time on the groundbreaking sketch comedy sequence.

Because the story goes, Kaufman after which Saturday Night time Reside producer Dick Ebersol obtained right into a screaming, profanity-laden argument backstage in the course of the Nov. 13, 1982, episode, reportedly as a result of Ebersol had reduce Kaufman’s newest visitor look on the final minute. Kaufman stormed off, and, in the course of the episode, Ebersol made a uncommon look on the present itself, explaining that Kaufman’s materials had grown stale and that Kaufman merely wasn’t humorous anymore.

It was a wierd and uneasy factor to observe, which, naturally, was all a part of the plan. Kaufman, whose latest stint because the self-created “intergender wrestling champion” noticed the comedian grappling with ladies throughout his act and at professional wrestling venues, had succeeded in producing loads of adverse publicity, as was Kaufman’s intention. So the concept the notoriously controlling Ebersol would take to SNL to trash Kaufman was not less than believable — which is how he and Kaufman wished it. The subsequent week, SNL introduced an unprecedented call-in vote during which viewers may dial certainly one of two 900 numbers to find out whether or not Andy Kaufman would ever be invited again to Saturday Night time Reside.

The vote was performed straight by the solid — as a result of virtually all of them have been, just like the viewers, in the dead of night. Kaufman, in response to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s account of the early days of SNL, Saturday Night time, spent the week main as much as the vote worrying that the vote — cooked up because it had been between he and Ebersol — would go towards him. And that’s simply what occurred, with 195,544 callers voting (at 50 cents per name) to ban Kaufman from SNL without end. Kaufman by no means would seem on Saturday Night time Reside once more, earlier than the comic died from a uncommon lung most cancers simply over a yr later on the age of 35.

Or relatively, Kaufman by no means appeared dwell on Saturday Night time Reside once more. It was on the Jan. 22, 1983, episode of the present, hosted by Lily Tomlin, that SNL viewers have been handled to what seemed to be one other gratuitous low-cost shot on the now-exiled comic. With solid member Brad Corridor appearing because the anchor for Ebersol’s “Weekend Replace” information section (briefly retitled “Saturday Night time Information”), Kaufman was given yet one more kick whereas he was down. Corridor, precisely reporting that Kaufman had been shopping for advert area on TV stations across the nation, defined that the “semiretired comic” was desperately begging America for an additional likelihood to return again to Saturday Night time Reside.

Watch When Andy Kaufman Was Voted Off ‘SNL’

Corridor then aired Kaufman’s precise advert, which the anchor defined had run solely within the extra reasonably priced markets of Macon, Ga., Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb. In it, Kaufman stands uncomfortably posed in entrance of a backdrop of blue-screened pine timber and explains that he’s utilizing his personal cash to buy airtime at particular person stations in an try to get Ebersol and SNL to rescind his ban. Kaufman performs it completely straight, thanking Saturday Night time Reside for “all the good years” and thanking the “169,000 folks” who voted to maintain him on the present (the full was 169,186), explaining that it made him really feel good that so many individuals appreciated his work.

“That’s fairly unhappy,” Corridor famous sadly because the advert ends, incomes a chuckle from the confused viewers, earlier than happening to notice that not solely is Kaufman nonetheless banned, “however he now owes the NBC community $80,000 and a few change.” Andy Kaufman’s comedy was a one-of-a-kind mix of showmanship and provocation, and this remaining bit on the present that helped elevate his profession (Kaufman was on the very first SNL episode in 1975) was an ideal encapsulation of Kaufman’s inimitable model. Kaufman did prepare dinner up the entire thought with Ebersol, regardless that he relished his recurring highlight on the present.

Simply as his supposed feud with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler was revealed as a hoax lengthy after Kaufman’s demise, virtually everybody at Saturday Night time Reside was stored clueless as to the actual stakes behind the vote. On a podcast look, solid member Gary Kroeger famous that he regrets being the one to introduce the 900 numbers on that fateful night time, explaining that he imagined all of it to be a joke.

Kroeger was half proper: Whereas Kaufman was behind the stunt, he was nonetheless dedicated to abiding by the end result. His subsequent, low-rent public pleas for a keep of SNL execution have been one other piece of Kaufman’s efficiency artwork however have been additionally little question supposed to deliver him again into the present’s orbit. That SNL aired his pleas solely to mock him one remaining time was simply the icing on the cake, a meta-textual gag that left these watching baffled and uneasily amused. It could not have been how Andy Kaufman wished his tenure on Saturday Night time Reside to finish, nevertheless it’s robust to think about he wasn’t happy to exit on such a wierd and chaotic notice.

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