Lost in time: the fading fame of Andy Kaufman

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/03/27/lost-in-time-the-fading-fame-of-andy-kaufman.html


I love Laurie Anderson’s song about hanging out with Andy Kaufman in the late 70s…

Also, Andy Kaufman in wrestling was very funny…

And another video about that…

And of course… REM!


Mass fame is indeed fleeting and fickle, but for people who care about history – especially the history of their own craft or profession – geniuses like Kaufman will live on for decades to come.

Just the other day on Curb Your Enthusiasm, there was a little throwaway exchange between Larry and Conan O’Brien about Fatty Arbuckle. For whatever reason I couldn’t stop giggling about it, but I know 99% of the people watching wouldn’t know what they were talking about.

Also, that interview you posted is one of my favourites. Kaufman’s sweet-natured awe at being in Welles’s presence and the latter’s respect for the former is absolutely charming.


If you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend Jim & Andy on Netflix. A behind-the-scenes documentary about Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Kaufman during the filming of Man on the Moon.


It’s not unusual to hear people say that kids today don’t know the real classics that they grew up with…but then when you ask them about the ones from a generation before, they don’t know those either. If we want people to appreciate the past we can’t just make it about ourselves. :man_shrugging:


I don’t think he is forgotten by millenials (the older ones at least) but we only know him because of the Jim Carrey film in 1999.


I remember as a kid seeing Art Linkletter selling that “LIFE” board game and wondering why he was famous.

There’s a 20-something kid I know who’s into music, who knows a lot of the classics of rock and hip-hop, but didn’t know who Limp Bizkit was. I found that kind of satisfying.


Fame is fleeting. A lot of ‘bestsellers’ from more than 20-30 years ago are being used to prop up furniture in used book stores.


My (13 yo) son and I recently watched Apocalypse Now. It was definitely a proud father moment when I pointed out the scene with Francis Ford Coppola as a battlefield reporter and his response was, “yeah, I caught that.”

I’m pretty sure most of his peers would struggle to recognize FFC’s name, let alone visually identify him in his late 30’s from 2 seconds of screen time.


Time to put a little Slim Gaillard, Homer and Jethro, and perhaps some Jeri Southern on my player. :smiley:


Great article, this is the kind of thing I love about boing!


I wish more people didn’t know who Limp Bizkit is.


Maybe a little Spike Jones?

And how to appreciate Billy Barty’s performance when no one remembers who he’s doing impressions of?


Mine too. This bit is a masterpiece.


Thanks to digital formats, there will always be at least a few fans of every celebrity actor and musician after the invention of film and phonograph. I know Andy Kaufman from watching Taxi, a show that ran before I was even born. Even once it’s gone from all streaming services and all the video tapes and DVDs have degraded into oblivion, someone, somewhere will still have video files that can be played and shared. Everyone’s fame fades, but those lucky enough to have their work preserved will have some small measure of immortality. Books have already proven this to be true- Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, or, going back much further, Homer and Sappho, are all long dead but will remain famous as long as something in their work still speaks to people in modern times.


Love seeing the City Slickers! (And I particularly enjoy Billy’s impression of Jimmy Durante because I swear he looks a lot like Jimmy when he does that!)


My daughter will often have music on her phone to play in the car over the stereo… she likes modern stuff, for sure (Megan the Stallion, Charlie XCX, Rina, K-pop/J-pop, anime soundtrack, Ghost, Lemon Demon, Lingua Ignota, etc)… but she also likes 80s industrial (Skinny Puppy, a Chemlab track today) and 80s/90s alt pop (Poe, Cibo Matto, Kate Bush), and then just random stuff. At various times she’s had King Crimson, Jimmy Hendrix, Buffy St. Marie, Anika, and other random stuff… kids today do have access to all sorts of content that is easier for them to access that we did as kids, and our parents did. The ones that care to dig, can certainly do so.


I love Man On The Moon, it’s one of the few movies that tears me up.

When he died I kept waiting for Tony Clifton to bring Andy back. I really thought it was another bit.

Famous people have a little more longevity then us regular folks.

After my daughter goes and a couple great nieces, nephews, and a couple kids of some good friends go, I’m forgotten.

So after I go, within 50 years tops, probably a lot less, I’m completely gone.

Doesn’t really bother me though. What matters is today.

The Fridays bit was awesome, I remember it when it first ran. The thing about Andy was you never really knew what was real or not real, even his apology had you guessing.

And, before everything else was his Elvis impersonation.


I’m really enjoying the youth discovering the music from when I was their age, it makes me appreciate it all over again, for example Tracy Chapman on TV again.

One problem is that I can play them something deep and important from my time and it probably won’t click, but then they hear a catchy pop tune from the same year and they love it.

Ask you local millennial if they know Blazing Saddles…


I guess I don’t get this obsession with wanting “the kids” to be into the same things that we are? Like, they have their own interests, signifiers, contexts, etc, that means just as much to them as the things we love mean to us, in part, because it brings us back to a time and place that we wish to remember. They are in the midst of discovering that meaningful connections through culture that we have to the culture we consume. And likely our own parents were like “well, I just don’t understand how you can’t love this piece of music that I did when I was young” but it just didn’t connect with us in the same way, because we weren’t there in that context that they were.

So, of course it’s great to introduce our kids to the culture we enjoy, I’m just not sure that we should consider the kids to be culturally deprived if they don’t have the same love for that thing that we do ourselves. I mean, and probably, why shouldn’t it go both ways? Why not let our kids introduce us to stuff they love to? My daughter was the one who got into the Southern Reach trilogy, for example, and lots of animes that I probably would have never seen had she not seen it first. And I’m having a new found appreciation for some of the music she’s introduced me to. :woman_shrugging: