Andy Kaufman Voted Off ‘Saturday Night Live’

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Say what you’ll concerning the late Andy Kaufman, however the eccentric comic at all times dedicated to the bit. Simply have a look at the Nov. 20, 1982, episode of Saturday Night Live for proof.

The patron saint of trolling humor, New York-born Kaufman spent his all-too-brief profession pioneering an impossible-to-define model of comedy that relished within the uncomfortable and the outlandish. For a brand-new late-night comedy present searching for to revolutionize stale TV comedy formulation, Saturday Evening Stay seized upon Kaufman for its first-ever episode, permitting Kaufman to nervously shuffle from foot to foot because the previous cartoon Mighty Mouse theme performed on a scratchy document participant at his facet, solely coming to electrical life upon lip-synching the “Right here I come to save lots of the day!” refrain.

It was an outre piece of conceptual comedy (Kaufman pauses to take a drink of water between choruses, seemingly worn out by his efforts) that nonetheless emerged as a real crowd-pleaser, Kaufman’s seeming guileless showmanship one of many highlights of that first present. Not that Kaufman rested on his comedian laurels. The comic’s profession on and off Saturday Evening Stay escalated in strangeness and confrontational braveness by squandering potential goodwill engendered by his simple skills as a performer with an rising need to up the ante and switch up the audiences’ irritation.

On SNL, Kaufman alternated Mighty Mouse-style impressed silliness with more and more meta bits similar to having his common “International Man” character (later refashioned as Taxi’s Latka Gravas) break down in tears after a number of of his jokes bomb, just for his strangled cries to segue right into a musical quantity accompanied by Kaufman’s bongo virtuosity. However that was nothing in comparison with Kaufman’s intentionally off-putting SNL gambits because the years went on, as in his prolonged look merely studying from The Nice Gatsby on the Season 3 Art Garfunkel-hosted episode, his English-accented persona changing into an increasing number of aggravated the extra the viewers does at his interminable studying. And that’s all earlier than Kaufman dove into the battle of the sexes by declaring himself the “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World,” by inviting feminine viewers members (secretly viewers vegetation) to struggle him onstage.

The skilled wrestling world was particularly inviting for (though to not) Kaufman, the game’s blurring of strains between efficiency and notion (termed “kayfabe” within the business) an ideal place for Kaufman to ply his signature type of comedy as confrontation. Certainly, Kaufman’s remaining look on Saturday Evening Stay remained (and, to some extent, nonetheless stays) enshrined within the realm of the “labored shoot,” during which precise and faked battle intertwined in a real-world spectacle of onstage and backstage warmth.

Watch When Andy Kaufman Was Voted Off ‘SNL’

As the story unfolded, in late 1982, Kaufman and then-SNL producer Dick Ebersol have been heard getting right into a screaming struggle backstage after Ebersol reportedly minimize considered one of Kaufman’s newest button-pushing visitor spots from an episode. After that, Ebersol, making a uncommon onscreen look on the present (in contrast to former and future producer Lorne Michaels, who’s develop into a recurring character), popped up throughout the Nov. 13, 1982, episode (hosted by notoriously crabby Robert Blake) to elucidate that, in line with Ebersol, Kaufman’s spot was minimize as a result of the comic had “misled us into considering, proper up till airtime, that his materials was as much as the present’s requirements.” Persevering with, Ebersol, to the gang’s enthusiastic settlement, opined that Kaufman simply wasn’t humorous anymore.

Kaufman’s model of straight-faced hoaxing had lengthy saved audiences off guard, the earlier yr seeing him get into an apparently actual on-air struggle with Michael Richards on the set of ABC’s reside SNL clone Fridays and moving into one other physical altercation with pro wrestler Jerry Lawler on a 1982 episode of Late Evening With David Letterman. That Ebersol’s public condemnation of Kaufman might be one more work was a risk, at the same time as the general public nonetheless puzzled over simply what, if something, about Kaufman’s life and profession might be taken at face worth. (That the notoriously humorless Ebersol appeared genuinely involved with “setting the document straight” about his reserving selections helped promote the idea as a lot as something.)

As with a lot of Kaufman’s materials, the entire incident was a set-up between the comic and Ebersol, with even many at Saturday Evening Stay saved at midnight, some complaining publicly about how Kaufman was being handled. Kaufman and Ebersol doubled down the next week, when, on the episode hosted by 7-year-old Drew Barrymore, forged member Gary Kroeger got here onstage and, subsequent to {a photograph} of Kaufman, introduced that SNL could be holding a reside phone ballot to find out whether or not or not Andy Kaufman would ever seem on SNL once more. “This present is reside and we’re doing this for actual,” Kroeger assured the viewers, dutifully warning callers that they’d be charged 50 cents each time they referred to as considered one of two 900 numbers to forged their vote.

And it was, certainly, for actual, as Kaufman and Ebersol saved the reality behind their feud secret each upfront and for years afterward. Throughout the present, each Mary Gross and a shirtless Eddie Murphy emerged at factors to present out the 2 numbers, remind West Coast viewers that they’d be watching too late to get in on the pivotal ballot and make their impassioned pitches to sway the vote in Kaufman’s favor. Gross learn out the “Dump Andy” cellphone quantity quick sufficient for viewers to probably miss it, whereas Murphy, expressing his friendship with and admiration for Kaufman, threatened to “punch within the mouth” anybody who voted to ban him from the present. There was even a person-on-the-street section, the place New Yorkers have been vocally break up on Kaufman, together with an uncredited Ed Asner popping as much as throw his vote within the “Dump Andy” column.

All through the episode, issues don’t look promising, with the preliminary rely seeing Kaufman shedding by roughly 10,000 votes. Finally, because the forged gathered with Barrymore for the goodnights, it was as much as Kroeger to ship the ultimate tally: “Hold Andy” obtained 169,186 votes, whereas “Dump Andy” ran away with it, tallying a whopping 195,544. Kaufman, Kroeger famous sadly, would by no means be on Saturday Evening Stay once more.

Watch When Andy Kaufman Was Voted Off ‘SNL’

And he by no means could be. Kaufman was secretly saddened by the end result, even when it allowed him to proceed mining the bit for all it was value, with the comic even spending cash to purchase native TV airtime in three inexpensive minor markets (Des Moines, Macon and Omaha) to ship a seemingly heartfelt and suitably low-rent attraction for viewers to flood NBC with calls of assist. SNL saved up the gag, too, with the Dec. 11, 1982, episode seeing then “Weekend Replace” anchor (technically then referred to as “Saturday Evening Information,” due to Ebersol) Brad Corridor enjoying considered one of “semiretired comic” Kaufman’s adverts earlier than saying that Kaufman now owed NBC $80,000.

Kaufman maintained his secrets and techniques so nicely that his surprising 1983 analysis with a uncommon type of lung most cancers was seen by many as however one other boundary-pushing joke by the lifelong nonsmoker and health-food fanatic. The identical goes for Kaufman’s demise the next yr, with persistent rumors circulating that Kaufman had lengthy talked about faking his demise fueling conspiracy theories from followers hopeful that the comic would emerge alive sooner or later when he felt it will get probably the most gratifying response. Followers are nonetheless ready, because it’s develop into solely too clear that not even Andy Kaufman would perform a gag this lengthy. Kaufman certainly died on the age of 35 on Might 16, 1984, by no means having returned to Saturday Evening Stay.

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