In the 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live with host Eric Idle….Andy Kaufman challenges any woman in the live audience to wrestle him after belittling women’s strength compared to a man’s….as he offered $500 to any woman that could pin him within 3 minutes….to which 5 different women from the audience took the challenge….when the live audience chose whom they thought could beat Kaufman out of the five challengers….which turned out to be Mimi Landers….and the two put on a wrestling match unlike any other seen before….and Mimi proved to be one heck of a match for Kaufman….who was winded at the end of the match.
Inspired by the theatricality of kayfabe….which was the staged nature of the sport of professional wrestling….and his own tendency to form elaborate hoaxes…..Kaufman began wrestling women during his act and was the self-proclaimed “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World” taking on an aggressive and ridiculous personality based upon the characters invented by professional wrestlers. He offered a $1,000 prize to any woman who could pin him….as this video seen herewith was very early in the development of Andy’s wrestling persona…as he would later employ performance artist Laurie Anderson, a friend of his, in this act for a while.
Kaufman initially approached the head of the World Wrestling Federation….the one and only Vince McMahon Sr…..about bringing his act to the New York wrestling territory. McMahon dismissed Kaufman’s idea as the elder McMahon was not about to bring “show business” into his Pro Wrestling universe. Kaufman had by then developed a friendship with wrestling reporter/photographer Bill Apter….and after many discussions about Andy wanting to be in the Pro Wrestling business….Apter called Memphis wrestling icon Jerry “The King” Lawler by introducing him to Kaufman by telephone….as he would finally step into the ring….in the Memphis wrestling circuit with The Man….Lawler himself…..as Kaufman taunted the residents of Memphis by playing “videos showing residents how to use soap” and proclaiming the city to be “the nation’s redneck capital.” The ongoing Lawler / Kaufman feud….which often featured Jimmy Hart and other “heels” in Kaufman’s corner….which included a number of staged “works”….such as a broken neck for Kaufman as a result of Lawler’s piledriver and a famous on-air fight on a 1982 episode of Late Night with David Letterman.
For some time after that first match, Kaufman appeared wearing a neck brace, insisting that his injuries were much worse than they really were. Kaufman would continue to defend the Inter-Gender Championship in the Mid-South Coliseum….while always offering an extra prize….other than the $1,000 for being pinned….for the woman who pinned him would get to marry him and Kaufman would shave his head.
Eventually, the feud and wrestling matches were revealed to have been staged works….and the two to be good friends….which all wasn’t disclosed until more than 10 years after Kaufman’s death…. when the Emmy-nominated documentary A Comedy Salute to Andy Kaufman aired on NBC in 1995. Jim Carrey was the one who revealed the secret….and later went on to play Kaufman in the 1999 film Man on the Moon. In a 1997 interview with the Memphis Flyer….Lawler said he had improvised during their first match and for the Letterman incident. Although officials at St. Francis Hospital stated that Kaufman’s neck injuries were real….however, in his 2002 biography It’s Good to Be the King … Sometimes….when Lawler detailed how they came up with the angle and kept it quiet….so even though Kaufman’s injury was legitimate….the pair pretended that the injury was far more severe than it was. He also said that Kaufman’s furious tirade and performance on Letterman was Kaufman’s own idea….including when Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair….as promoter Jerry Jarrett would later recall that for two years he would mail paychecks to Kaufman, with payments comparable to what other main-event wrestlers were getting at the time….but Kaufman never cashed any of them.
Kaufman appeared in the 1983 film My Breakfast withprofessional wrestling personality “Classy” Freddie Blassie….which was a parody of the art film My Dinner with Andre….when Lynne Margulies, sister of the film’s director, Johnny Legend, appears in it….and would go on to be in a relationship with Kaufman.
In 2002, Kaufman became a playable character in the video game Legends of Wrestling II and a standard character in 2004’s Showdown: Legends of Wrestling. In 2008, Jakks Pacific produced for their WWE Classic Superstars toy line….an action figure two-pack of Kaufman and Lawler….along with separate figures release for each of them.
There are no two ways about it….Andy Kaufman was brilliant at being Andy Kaufman….and he had the courage to be who he was….and brilliantly funny at the same time….for this video below give you a picture of just how unique this man truly was….with that gift to make folks laugh. ENJOY!!!