Category Archives: KAUFMAN, ANDY




Again, that baffling book, Andy Kaufman Wrestling With the American Dream by Florian Keller (U. of Minnesota Press). The first 67 pages were mostly beyond my understanding. I understood maybe 20% of it–yet, the idea kept me going and I believe that, through my arguing with the book’s text and ideas, I’ve come to understand more about Andy Kaufman and maybe more, fundamentally, about Jean Shepherd. And, through the  catalyst of what this book seems to be saying,  I seem to better understand in what ways Shep and Andy were similar and in what ways different.

For me the beginning of the book  is mostly unintelligible, and the next part, on “The American Dream,” seems to be somewhat akin to the enigma that is Jean Shepherd. (By the way, I disagree with the author’s belief that Kaufman, in any conscious or unconscious way, is commenting on “The American Dream.”  I’m not aware of Kaufman on any level dealing with American cultural or social issues. He deals with humans’ specific preconceptions and attitudes.) I’d like to explain how the first and then the following parts of the book appear to me, not only because it’s interesting unto itself, but for a better understanding of how someone–such as myself–should go about discovering and articulating aspects of Jean Shepherd’s life and career–why did he do what he did?


We’re familiar with the feeling that Shep on the air is giving us the true gen–about life and about himself, that what he is on the air is his real self. An interesting comment quoted in the book about Andy is that he blurred the “distinction between his performance persona and himself.” Don’t we all believe that Shep-on-the-air and Shep, the 24/7 person, are the same? Shep in later years insisted that on the radio, he had been a “performer.”

American Heritage Dictionary: Perform, definition #3. To portray a role or demonstrate a skill before an audience.

One might think that to perform could mean to enact the reality of oneself, or, more likely, it suggests that one is enacting some sort of artifice (a “role”). I’m sure that I, as do most all Shep enthusiasts, firmly believe that on the air, he was being his true self (though not all of himself). I think that what Shep meant by describing himself as a performer and entertainer on the air, is that he presented his true self in a way that used the techniques of theatricality (such as sound volume, emphasis, pausing, exaggerating, some self-editing, etc.) in order to best entertain while self-presenting his real self. Might one say that the radio Shepherd is performing himself? Yet–despite Shepherd apparently telling his life and persona as it was, he simultaneously–without our knowing it at the time–contained many unknowns and contradictions–enigmas.

They both basically, truthfully performed as themselves. But though Shep  only performed as his one true self, Andy performed the roles of his many true selves–except that he didn’t perform a role as the exceedingly intelligent, clever part of himself that he was. He seemed to always bring his performing persona back to the essential childlike Andy that he seemed to mostly be.

Shep photo .drawing

J   E   A   N      S   H   E   P   H   E   R   D

(The image above is not the real Jean Shepherd.

It is a tracing

of an Internet reproduction

of a paper photo print

from a negative

taken through a camera lens

of a performer

being himself.)

A Richard Corless article’s title quoted from the 1981 Time magazine essay

about then-current/unusual comics is

“Comedy’s Post-Funny School.”

(More thoughts on Andy Kaufman Wrestling With the American Dream)

AWKWARD first 50 pages

of A.K.W.W.A.D.

What would an absurdly scholarly, overly pedantic article or book in an obscure university journal be like?

Use frequent quotes from obscure sources and frequently use quote marks for simple, descriptive words and phrases, while leaving the unexplained jargon quote-mark-free, as though we all know what it means.

Don’t write any sentence with straightforward words that can be clearly understood when one can slightly misuse more complex and scientific-sounding words that a highly, yet imperfectly educated “Foreign Man” would concoct.  Also use slightly altered real words that might–but really aren’t real. Such writing and usage would confuse and bamboozle the earnest and intelligent Kaufman enthusiast.

I find it more likely that Andy Kaufman is alive and wrote this book than that it’s the work of a coherent intellect with a cogent theory. I picture Andy doubled over on the floor laughing at us for imagining that this faux-analysis of him is for real rather than its being another chapter in his mind-bending, created world. My question: Was this book a self-description written by a postmortem Kaufman (ghostwritten?) in the style of an imperfectly over-educated “Foreign Man?” (I should say that there are some parts of this book that do make sense and that add to our understanding of Andy.)


Is this man a genius? YES.

Is Shep a genius? YES.

Are they both expressing truths? YES.

AK confounds preconceptions and expectations,

disturbing us and making us rethink things.

JPS expands our knowledge and sensibilities,

widening our world.

After reading this exasperating–yet interesting–book, what are my thoughts about Andy Kaufman’s agenda (“American Dream” etc.)?  I think he was simultaneously an innocent (playing like a child) and a very clever genius who sometimes acted the innocent-role, and who sometimes needed a stern editor. He discovered and expressed various seldom-surfaced aspects of how we think and feel and how we approach the world around us.

Has the book affected how I think about Jean Shepherd? Not in any fundamental way: Radio=genius; writing=good fiction-writer but nowhere up to his radio work; “American Dream”=not specifically, but he worked hard and successfully at describing and expressing himself regarding humanity and its character as revealed in Americans.


(Promotional card for never-realized

lecture tour “On Creating Reality,

by Andy Kaufman,” 1984.) 

“Andy was ‘able to mine the fine line between stability

and chaos,…

audiences struggled

to comprehend the unpredictable,…’”

Michael Smith Dept. of Art & Art History, U. Texas.

Was it worth reading and posting all that stuff about AK

(Especially as it expands knowledge about Shep)?

Geez, I hope so!




Time Mag: AK: “The critics try to intellectualize my material. There’s no satire involved. Satire is a concept that can only be understood by adults. My stuff is straight, for all ages.” ….What makes Andy Kaufman great is his unassumed childishness, and cruelty, acknowledged or not, is as much a question of childhood as innocence.

In what ways are Shep and Andy dead?

In what ways are Shep and Andy alive?

Dead Shep?

Shepherd always insisted that, though many people were afraid to venture, that, because one only lived once it was foolish not to get the maximum out of one’s life. While his greatest pleasures were connected with the life in New York, why did he move to Florida–had he given up on that important part of his life? Had he given up on his eternal struggle to gain more fame and acknowledgment for his achievements? Why did he and Leigh (according to those who knew them best) become recluses in those last years? Why and how did he die of “natural causes” the year after Leigh died? Indeed, did loss of their mutual support  system strike the final blow to his need to live?

Yes, of course I believe that he really died. But, in terms of his artistic legacy, he still lives–audios, books, videos, films, Internet tributes, the power of his influence on his thousands of enthusiastic listeners, and influence on many current creators in various entertainment fields.

My most recently encountered popular media creators who claim Shep as an important influence are author R. L. Stine (young adult “Goosebumps” books) and bestselling author Kate Collins (“The Flower Shop Mysteries,” etc.) whose childhood home was two blocks from Shep’s and who considers him her mentor: “Jean Shepherd’s amazing books had a major influence on my writing style. I write a mystery series but with comedic overtones. You’d recognize his humor in them…. I was twelve when I read Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories: And Other Disasters,  and was immediately hooked. What a gifted writer, a huge talent. I always give him credit for stimulating my interest in writing.”

Dead Andy?

Andy thought that if he hoaxed his own death and people didn’t believe it, he’d “live” forever–be immortal. See below:

Considering all the ways in which Andy sabotaged reality, it’s only logical (?) that some dupes think he faked his death. Regarding his death, the more I read and understand what Andy was like and how he talked about and played with the idea of death in public and in private, the more I wonder if I am not one of those dupes. Am I racing down the road to bamboozlement?

jpAndy death cert.

Real Death Certificate.*

*Or Faked.

I’ve checked out lots of websites about Andy’s death. Through googling, find thousands of hits for variations of this:




The March 31, 2015 New Yorker has an article that begins:

Last month, when the fortieth-anniversary special for “S.N.L.” aired, speculation grew on Twitter that Andy Kaufman would make his big comeback during the live program, possibly by crashing it—an unlikely proposition given that Kaufman died, in 1984….

Kaufman’s posthumous reputation has grown in tandem with the rise of a cult that venerates him as a culture god, the harbinger of our comedy verité sensibility. One of the central tenets of this cult is that Andy Kaufman is really and truly alive….

An early trauma for Andy, it’s said: “Kaufman’s parents probably erred in telling a particularly sensitive young Andy that his recently deceased and beloved grandfather, Papu, had merely gone away on a long trip.”

It’s been said by various people who knew him that Andy was fascinated by the idea of dying–but then actually being alive. An elderly lady does a dance onstage during Andy’s Carnegie Hall appearance and “dies” at the end in front of the shocked audience, then is revealed to be alive.

A professional Hoaxer, Alan Abel (who wangled his fake obit into the New York Times), says that Andy questioned him about how he’d faked his own death.

I recently got a CD:

Andy & His Grandmother outside

Andy & Grandma inside

Andy playing with a mini-audio recorder,

messing with unsuspecting minds.

Culled from 82 hours of interesting stuff in this standard length CD, the final cut here has to do with a woman who is very angry that Andy won’t give her his surreptitiously recorded tape of her; there follows a dialog between Andy and his friend/collaborator, Bob Zmuda:

Andy: Wouldn’t it be great if she killed me, and then you have the tapes?…It would be better if I’m more famous.

Zmuda: [musing about how it would play in public] He took his own act into his own life. He played with people’s heads, not only on stage, but off, and it cost him in the end.

Andy: Wow. Wow. That would be great. Except I don’t think I’d want to get killed though. You know what I mean? I wouldn’t want that part. But we could fake it! When I’m more famous we could fake it….Then wouldn’t people hate me when it turns out I’m really alive?

Zmuda: No, no, because every few months you could die, right? ….And then you know what? And then—and then, for a while, everybody says, “Ah, he’s puttin’ us on.” Then, all of a sudden, you die. And I go on TV and say, “I swear this time it’s true. It’s no joke”....For one year nobody hears anything. We have a gravestone, the whole thing…. And then you come back again.

Andy: A huh.

Zmuda: You know how you come back?

Andy: How?

Zmuda: There’s the stupid “foreign man” like on the Dick Van Dyke Show, or something.

Andy: Yeh.

Zmuda:  Yeh, do it with the same [“Foreign Man”] act. People say, ah, that’s him, that’s him….Then, when you really die, nobody will believe it. Years will go by and they’ll go, “Nah.”….They won’t believe your own death, you’ll be immortal, you’ll go on forever.

Andy: That’s great!

[Unless this entire audio of the proposed death-hoax is itself a double-duty fake: a hoaxed-taped-proposal perpetrated about a death-hoax.]

death of A.K. DVD

America and “The American Dream”

Jean Shepherd and Andy Kaufman, despite some affinities, were, I believe, different in their sense of America and The American Dream.

I’v just read a strange book published by an American university, written by a “Fellow” at a Zurich University: Andy Kaufman: Wrestling With the American Dream. The idea of the author is that Andy, in a frequent way through his performances, commented on “The American Dream.” I don’t see that at all–for me, his actions reflected his take on what all of us think, feel, respond to life round us–especially to many seemingly minor things we don’t think sufficiently about. He manages to confuse us and make us do bewildered double-takes, making us re-think how we approach our basic surroundings. Recognizing  ways in which each of us has thoughtlessly failed to understand ourselves and our surroundings. I don’t think that Andy thought about or commented on America as a particular cultural phenomenon at all. Although he sometimes used subjects such as “Mighty Mouse” and Elvis, I don’t see his use of them as having a particular take on American culture–He seems to me to be essentially a-cultural. Where does “The American Dream” come into this at all?

Jean Shepherd in his commentaries, his American-based stories, his expression of our customs such as in his depictions of some of our American holidays (Fourth of July, Christmas, graduation, etc.), two Jean Shepherd’s America TV series, and his often referring to American ideas and foibles, examines the American persona. He loves America and often lovingly refers to our country in his stories.


Unless otherwise noted, the quotes from Shepherd are from his radio shows;

the quotes from Kaufman are from and other sources.



There’s no way to describe what I do. It’s just me. —Andy Kaufman

When I perform, it’s very personal. I’m sharing things I like,

inviting the audience into my room.

—Andy Kaufman

“Andy’s gift was not his talent or his skills-it was his genius,

the genius of what he dared.” –Judd Hirsch

“He made it virtually impossible to distinguish between

his performing and his life” — Steve Bodow

The above, with some slightly differently translated words,

might well be attributed to Jean Shepherd.

 Andy portrait

I first posted on Shep and Andy on April 12, 2014. (You can find it by clicking on KAUFMAN, ANDY in the list near the left edge of this blog.) There may be a bit of repetition between that earlier one and these current three–I think that reading them all together might be the best way to gather what I hope to express about Andy Kaufman–and the artistic comparison with Shep. I’ve recently become (additionally) obsessed with Andy and I want to write about him to confirm, as far as possible, my own understanding of what Andy is and in what ways I vibrate to his essence. (Actually, I hope to understand better what his essence is.) I do believe there is something of value to fix in my mind in a communicable form regarding connections and differences between Shep and Andy. I hope I can find and articulate them. I discuss here only the radio-Shep because I believe that it is there that the two are most closely aligned.


Jean Shepherd often captured our interest by telling us truths that he encountered and that we probably never realized were true, and he told them in unexpected ways—we are unexpectedly confronted by them and this little shock of recognition is often where the humor and our smile come in.


A major aspect of one’s attachment to Shepherd is the sense that he is “telling it like it is,” truthfully in a way that few others can or do. There is also very much the feeling that Shepherd is speaking directly to the listener as a friend, and not doing a performance (even though in later years, commenting on his radio work, he said that he was indeed, a performer and a fictional-story-teller). Shep’s stories (and even his comments?) had us bamboozled into thinking that they were all true.


Andy in public (dare I accurately say “in performance”?) often presents himself, giving a real sense that he is being the way he really is—truthfully, in a way that no one else does—that he is what one sees and that he is not giving a “performance.” The more I see and understand Andy, the more I’ve become aware of this aspect of his public persona.

Andy Kaufman often disturbed us by poking us in the ribs in a way that we might find at first unpleasant, but which, upon reflection, we realize has fooled us by exposing our own mistaken or limited sense of reality. What an extraordinary experience it must have been for those who, not knowing Kaufman’s “act,” first saw him do his imitations as the “Foreign Man.” At the beginning the audience laughs at him–all the more powerful then, when he transforms himself into Elvis.

kaufman  immitate on Carson

“Now, but not to be the least,

I would like to imitate

the Elvis Presley.”

andy as elvis j.carson 1977

kaufman as elvis dank you

“Dank you veddy much!”

With his innocent-sounding foreign accent, he says he will do imitations. He does a very unfunny one of Ed McMann, and we laugh not at it, but at Andy (“Foreign Man”) for being so awful at it. We feel superior to him. He does one of Archy Bunker, equally bad and we again, with our feelings of superiority, laugh at Foreign Man’s innocence/ignorance. He says he will imitate Elvis and we again expect the worst possible imitation–an oafish result. We are shocked when we find that his Elvis is extraordinary. He has become Elvis. Andy has played with our minds and expectations. He ends by accepting our applause, but not as performer Andy Kaufman—he confounds us again—he switches our expectations by changing his perceived persona, again being Foreign Man with his “Dank you veddy much!” He is not Kaufman, the performer, who thanks us for applauding–it is Foreign Man who has done the great Elvis imitation thanking us! Andy imitating Foreign Man imitating Elvis.


Time Mag: He is continually questioning then undermining the idea of what is funny. “Andy takes a lot of risks,” Zmuda [AK’s associate] says. “What performer in his right mind would go onstage and deliberately bomb?”

Shepherd often commented that his presentation was as a humorist, who builds up a story or commentary slowly, expressing some aspect of the human condition, and that the humor grows out of the situation, maybe producing laughter, rather than telling a joke as do comics. “Well, comedy is a process whereby you’re aiming at making a person laugh, and the end product is the laugh. With humor however, the laugh happens to be the byproduct of what you’re doing.”

Shep said: “There are guys who tell jokes, and those who don’t. I am not a teller. I can see the humor in the world. I deal in humor but I can’t tell jokes. I have never told a joke successfully, ever.”

Kaufman insisted that he was not a comedian—he did not tell jokes. Andy said:I never told a joke in my life.

Aspects of this similarity between Shep and Andy may well be why, in Was this Man a Genius? a book of interviews of Andy by Julie Hecht, he said: “I don’t think any sense of humor is funny. Rarely.  Jean Shepherd is funny.”

In another one of Andy’s successful strategies to confound his audiences, he created the obnoxious lounge singer, Tony Clifton. Once a good percentage of his enthusiasts were aware that Tony was actually Andy,  while his audience, watching “Tony Clifton” on stage and thinking they knew the truth–that it was really Andy–he double-crossed them by appearing as himself while someone else was doing the Tony imitation.


Andy.Tony_                   Andy              Andy or someone else as Tony Clifton

 andy wrestling

Doing his best to make audiences dislike him, he began wrestling women. He crowned himself Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion.

Why was Andy a Shep enthusiast? How was Andy inspired by Shep? Because Shep projected a sense of his real self. Jean Shepherd endears himself to us by being honest, perceptive, telling it like it is, a mentor—real. Andy Kaufman forces unexpected reality upon us by messing with our minds—by making us feel uncomfortable. They both tickle our minds, but in different ways.

One of the ironies in Andy’s professional life is that the Taxi people wanted his “Foreign Man” persona in the sitcom. Accepting the gig, Andy was forced to accept his character being hijacked into a rigid script, saying lines that he had not himself created. That is probably one of the reasons that Andy was so annoying to the others involved in producing that show. It’s said that the feature players complained strongly about Andy’s behavior at the time–but after he died, they seemed to be reconciled to his behavior because they recognized the quirky genius behind what he had put them through. It’s said that Andy, to get out of the straight-jacket of Latka, got Taxi producers to have Latka sometimes afflicted with “multiple personality disorder” so that Andy could enact other characters on the show.

Andy as LatkaGravis

Andy as Latka Gravis in Taxi

Unless otherwise noted, the quotes from Shepherd are from his radio shows;

the quotes from Kaufman are from and other sources.

Stay Tuned for Dead Andy & Dead Shep

(   aka    “Live    Andy    &    Live    Shep.”   )



“I don’t think any sense of humor is funny.


Jean Shepherd is funny.”

–Andy Kaufman from

Was This Man a Genius? by  Julie Hecht


…[she] shared [Andy’s] passion for Kerouac and

radio humorist Jean Shepherd.

–from Lost in the Funhouse:

The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme



What is it about Andy Kaufman? I think Kaufman did some of the most entertainingly startling and outrageously hilarious bits I’ve ever seen. But why did he especially respond to Jean Shepherd? And why does my own sensibility respond to Kaufman’s best and most of Shep?

 Jean Shepherd, in 1959, after his Look, Charlie performance,  invited the entire audience to go across the street to a deli for coffee. Twenty years later, after Andy’s Carnegie Hall performance he invitedcarnegie hallthe entire audience to get on buses and go with him for milk and cookies–a wonderful and well-known piece of Kaufman’s performance art. Andy would have been about ten years old at the time of Shep’s invitation. Maybe a tribute, with several embelishments on Andy’s part? Certainly an indication of Andy and Jean’s similar turn of mind to insinuate a bit of performer/audience, human-to-human closeness with an after-the-performance commonplace: a cup of coffee/milk and cookies before bedtime.

milkAndy drinking his milk with his Carnegie Hall audience

Andy is best known for his very funny and quirky performances as the “foreign man” Latka Gravas, on the sitcom Taxi. It’s said that he disliked doing this as it meant repeating a character over and over (I imagine it was the making of his quirkily unexpected into a repeat occurrence). Apparently on the set, as well as elsewhere during his brief career, he would disrupt the expected commonplace and aggravate all and sundry–from audience to actors to producers.

latka gravas

Latka Gravas

He was a strange person. He seemed incapable of continuously normal, “civilized” behavior–he loved to  stir the pot with the unexpected and exasperating. Was he disturbed? Was he simply an oddball genius? Asocial? Merely quirky?

What an extraordinary experience it must have been for anyone who, not familiar with Kaufman (or maybe being only aware of his Latka Gravas persona), to encounter him in performance as he set himself up as the odd and innocent foreign man with the funny accent; to see him do the ridiculously bad “impersonations” of several well-known people and then to have him say he will then do an impersonation of Elvis. The audience sets itself up for laughing not with him–but at him. He turns his back and readies himself and finally faces those rather hostile expectations, to see that he has the Elvis-look down perfectly. And then he begins to gyrate and sing–he is a perfect “Elvis”!!!! Said to be Elvis’s favorite impersonation of himself.Andy.Elvis


Andy has defied everyone’s expectations. At the end, as he has transformed their image of him into the perfect Elvis persona, he acknowledges the audience’s appreciation by again defying their expectations–with his foreign-man’s “Dank you veddy much!” (Reminding them and bringing them back to the “reality” of his supposed persona, the simple-minded-foreign-man-imitating-Elvis–while, of course, the real person is an additional step back–he’s Andy Kaufman, performance artist.)


One might go on to other brain-twisting feats of Andy Kaufman (such as inter-gender wrestling).

andykaufman as wrestlerwrest            Besides the women he usually wrestled, for the February 1982 Playboy, a pictorial feature shows him wrestling Miss  September 1981, Playmate Susan Smith (above right). Which wrestler won depends on whom one asks. Actually, Andy “won” because it became a feature article in Playboy (and got it mentioned on the cover!) as thus was a promotional furtherance of his act–and besides, he enjoyed grappling women. Wrestling a Playmate must have been a special thrill!

One might then describe how some of his actions fell totally flat (his internal editor sometimes could not keep some necessary reality in mind). But the suppleness of the performances elude simple words. Watch him on YouTube, and get some fictionalized idea in the film  Man on the Moon.

So where’s the relationship to Shep? Shepherd perceived connections between everyday things that most of us don’t notice or notice-and-dismiss, and need prodding to recognize–he called some of these “cracks in the sidewalk” and “straws in the wind.” Unexpected relationships in odd commonplaces one might say. But always based on a one-plus-one-equals-two reality if we only could recognize it with Shep’s acuity. He expressed these perceptions in comments and stories. Andy grasped onto the commonplace of most of us and concocted a bizarro experience we both recognize, and at the same time, experience as a dreamlike, yet for the moment, accepted, unreality. He has us mentally leaping through puzzlements and slipping head first on dadaist banana peels. What differences and yet some intangible similarity!

I wonder what Shepherd would have thought of Kaufman’s finer moments. Here are a couple of comments discovered on the Internet–excerpts from GQ magazine’s 12/1999  interview by Don Steinberg:

Penn Jillette: All he was was passionate and honest and pure. Maybe Andy had something that someone wants to label a personality disorder, and if they want to do that they can just go f… themselves and…. Because what Andy did was really beautiful, and I don’t care what was wrong with him…. The fact of the matter was he did great stuff for the world, and it seems like on every level he told the truth as he saw it. And that’s all that we’re all aspiring to.

Penn Jillette: I remember when he did the TV special that had him interviewing Howdy Doody. Teller came to me afterwards saying how he was just sobbing uncontrollably, how it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, the love for Howdy Doody and the way he was willing to completely capture dealing with Howdy Doody as a real person when you’re a child. With no apology and nothing to protect him. It was just so moving to Teller. I don’t think there’s a month that goes by when Teller doesn’t mention the interview with Howdy Doody as the only moment on television that really moved him.

Kaufman.howdy doody

Penn Jillette: Andy made us be able to just do whatever we wanted and know it was going to be okay. I think if he didn’t come along I would have been a little more afraid to do big hunks of our show that weren’t funny and didn’t have magic in them…. We had headroom all of a sudden. He had pushed the ceiling so much higher that we had plenty of room to jump around as much as we wanted to.

Danny Devito:: He would come into a room, no matter where, and the psychological room would become his room. You were participating in his drama. Whether he was going to pick a fight with a waitress or whatever. It was always exciting. If there was anybody who manifested the phrase, “all the world is a stage,” this was the guy. Everything he did was his art.


Andy Kaufman is quoted in as saying:

•Whenever I play a role, whether it’s good or bad, an evil person or nice person, I believe in being a purist and going all the way with the role. If I’m going to be a villainous wrestler, I believe in going all the way with it and not breaking character and not giving away to the audience that I’m playing a role. I believe in playing it straight to the hilt.

 •I’m not trying to be funny. I just want to play with their heads.

•What’s real? What’s not? That’s what I do in my act, test how other people deal with reality.

•I just want real reactions. I want people to laugh from the gut, be sad from the gut, or get angry from the gut.



Tell me please, anybody, what and where are the connections

to Shep, and what the hell was Andy Kaufman, anyway.



By “connections” do you mean actual connections between Shepherd and Kaufman where Shep’s work found its way into Kaufman’s head? Or do you mean the qualitative similarities between Kaufman’s and Shepherd’s humor? The difference between them, I think, is that Shepherd, off stage, saw and comported himself as a “professional” artist doing his work, while Kaufman had a harder time containing the inner madman that drove his humor.

Seinfeld is a lot more like Shepherd, in that he stands outside himself, objectively evaluating and honing his “act.” Kaufman, though a performer, gave license to his inner demons. In that, I think he made contact with his audience on a very deep level. Shep’s story about Randy beating the bully Farkas almost to death is a good example of his recognizing that we all have an inner demon who might be unleashed at any moment. This is a very profound revelation in service of true humor.  Joel

What was Kaufman? I don’t know enough about him or his work to say, but I would venture that Kaufman connected with the vestigial child in each of us. A child is capable of innocent, yet truly horrific acts. We used to call my grand daughter the “tiny tyrant.” Kaufman, by acting out this aspect of our nature, which adults learned to keep in a cage, made us recognize that it lurked inside us. In that sense he was scary, aggravating and hard to take, yet incredibly funny.  Joel

Remember the Twilight Zone episode of the child who possessed powers to transform adults into anything he wanted, and he kept all about him living in terror if they did not satisfy his every whim? That was the unfunny side of this aspect of human nature.  Joel

“That’s what I do in my act, test how other people deal with reality.” What is more Shep-like than that?  Joel

[Encountered from a Rolling Stone article by Judd Hirsch, who was the main star of Taxi.]:  “And he was a humorist, but his humor was more a lightness of air than any comic design (or delivery). But to be absolutely accurate, Andy Kaufman was amused. He was so amused by his own characters that I believe most people who did not know him or his illusionistic process thought him a little bent. You see, Andy’s gift was not his talent or his skills – it was his genius, the genius of what he dared. His was a rare spirit – an indomitable one. He gave himself the right to fail – and much more courageously than most.”