Lost in time: the fading fame of Andy Kaufman

Why should any generation have more interest in or reverence for the entertainers of previous eras than they have for the entertainers of their own era? Are people supposed to stop making new art?

It’s not like people who grew up in the 1960s were always going on about vaudeville.


We had a VHS recording of Andy Kaufman performing “Mighty Mouse” when I was growing up. The first time my brother played it for me changed the course of my humor forever. It still holds up today.

His being forgotten over time is disappointing, but that’s just the nature of things, isn’t it? (Plus he was well known for a time but made sure his appreciation was niche.) The evolution of art and the sheer amount of what’s being created makes it difficult to retain the old and keep it relevant/in the cultural consciousness. I’m curious if the fear of “losing” these things from our past comes from a place of cultural narcissism (“They need to know about this stuff because it blows all of theirs out of the water!”) or fear of irrelevancy (“I need the stuff I spent so much time with to have mattered!”), or somewhere in between. Everyone can speak for themselves, but every generation seems to do this. Sometimes I think we should be more concerned about the things we’re told have a timeless merit that must therefore be presented to new generations as having value and relevancy to them as well.


If only there were a squee emoji.


It may depend a bit on which subgroups you ask. I don’t know which younger groups would be as familiar with Gilda Radner, but there are certainly many aware of Lily Tomlin. She was the voice of Ms. Frizzle, of course, but she still get memorable roles. I noticed that she was particularly celebrated in the Netflix queer comedy special, Stand Out: An LGBTQ+ Celebration.


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