In this video release of a 1983 episode from the critically acclaimed PBS series Soundstage, oddball comedian and satirist Andy Kaufman is featured in one of the last performances before his untimely death in 1984. Considered by some critics and fans to be a Dadaist, and known for blurring the borders between his stage persona and his "true" personality, Kaufman inflicted a brand of humor that was unique, sometimes slipping beyond comedy into performance art -- or mental illness. Here his format is the late-night talk show, and his sidekick is a marionette of his alter ego, obnoxious dive-lounge comedian Tony Clifton. Also included in the show: Kaufman reprises his Foreign Man character, impersonates Elvis Presley, seems to expose guest Dr. Alex Schorr as a fraud, and apparently has a genuine argument with his former girlfriend Elayne Boosler. ~ Steve Blackburn, Rovi -- In 1980 a very similar looking show would be filmed for PBS's SoundStage, called the The Andy Kaufman Show. It would feature a peanut gallery like Funhouse and is often confused with Andy's Funhouse. The show opens right in the middle of an interview Kaufman is doing in which he is laughing hysterically, and then he proceeds to thank the audience for watching and the credits roll. After this, opening credits do come on and the show has its "proper" beginning. This show is easy to confuse with Andy's Funhouse as they both feature "The Has-Been Corner" and Kaufman wears his "I Love Grandma" shirt in both shows among other similarities. --
The late comedian Andy Kaufman had a sense of humor that was definitely an acquired taste. And speaking of taste, Stan Frazier got to consume a good deal of his offbeat stylings -- amongst other questionable things -- on a PBS special in 1983 called Soundstage: The Andy Kaufman Show. But more of that after a bit of back story...
Kaufman was long fascinated by the professional wrestling business, so much so he actually made wrestling a regular part of his stand-up routine. Calling himself "The Intergender Champion of the World," he defended a championship title against women in primarily legitimate contests. Kaufman would do a whole performance, like a wrestling promo, before the matches where he would berate the women into pure rage. The women truly wanted to kill him, and it's a wonder Kaufman kept his undefeated streak intact after several hundred contests.
One of the most successful professional wrestling promotions of the early 1980s was the Championship Wrestling Association (CWA), known to wrestling community as the Memphis promotion, operated by Jerry Jarrett. Some of the brightest and most colorful performers in the industry worked here at the time: the Fabulous Ones, Beautiful Bobby Eaton, Jimmy Hart, the Moondogs, Superstar Bill Dundee and many others. The top dog in the area, without question, was Jerry "The King" Lawler, and he used Kaufman's love of the sport, along with his willingness to do anything to be a part of it, to create one of the most famous (or infamous) wrestling angles of all time. Without going into great detail, Kaufman wrestled Lawler at the Mid-South Coliseum and was on the receiving end of two piledrivers, which sent him to the hospital. Soon after, Lawler and Kaufman has an altercation on Late Night with David Letterman. For years people wondered if what they witnessed was real or scripted, but it was in reality one of the best kept secrets ever.
Kaufman met Stan Frazier in Memphis. Frazier (who was jumping between several goofy gimmicks at the time) was a part of Jimmy Hart's First Family, a group of heels that dominated the area's storylines. For most of his run in Memphis, Kaufman was a member of the First Family.
How Andy Kaufman landed a special on the ultra-conservative PBS in the early 1980s is completely beyond me. His comedy was anything but universal, and I would have expected An Evening with Señor Wences before this. But there it was, and it has grown to be a bit of a cult hit over the years.
I could go into full detail of the show (available on DVD and VHS everywhere), but I'd rather focus on the matter at hand. Stan Frazier had a small and memorable part in the special that is best described visually.