Andy Kaufman Born
January 17, 1949
The Man on the Moon was an inspired, often baffling, comic visionary.
Born January 17, 1949, Andy Kaufman was one of popular culture’s true originals. Although he starred on a popular sitcom, Taxi, his true fame was generated by his bizarre stand-up comedy and his equally outrageous stunts and public appearances. He was closer to an art world performance artist than someone that Hollywood might produce because, unlike most comedians, Kaufman made his own persona deliberately unstable. His characters could be winsome and charming or ugly and abusive. A comedy show would veer into the surreal when he would read The Great Gatsby – the whole book – aloud to his audiences. And when he undertook professional wrestling, it was unclear how serious – and how injured – he actually was. Kaufman died in 1984 of lung cancer. He was a non-smoker, so his many fans waited for his reappearance, convinced that this was one final joke. Of course, he never did return, although he was memorialized by Jim Carrey in the Milos Forman film Man on the Moon, which is also the title of an REM song about the comedian.