Cindy Williams and Andy Kaufman embrace the awkwardness in this hilarious interview
January 31, 2023 Andrew Buss Features, In Memoriam, News
In the 1970’s, Cindy Williams was one of the biggest stars in television. In addition to her more serious film work in The Conversation and American Graffiti, Williams was also the star on the hit sitcom Laverne and Shirley, alongside Penny Marshall.
Yesterday, we learned the sad news that Williams passed away at the age of 75, after a brief illness. There’s been countless articles that have highlighted Williams’ physical comedy chops, which she displayed on Laverne and Shirley. However, we want to take a look at another classic moment that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much as it should.
In the mid-70’s, Williams joined her friend Andy Kaufman on his ABC special, Andy’s Funhouse. Despite being taped in 1977, the show wouldn’t hit TV until 1979, after Taxi became a hit and Kaufman became a household name. What Kaufman enlisted Williams to do was something that was way ahead of its time.
In the special, Kaufman hosts a fake talk show and brings Williams out as his guest. From the jump, Andy nervously fumbles through questions – often repeating the same questions -, inserting awkward pauses, and then asking her if she’s ever been under the care of a psychiatrist. Williams is so convincing in how she effortlessly handles the situation that there’s no doubt people at home thought this was genuine.
Kaufman then forces Williams to sing on the spot. The song was Mack the Knife, which Williams didn’t actually know in real life. Despite her insistence that she wasn’t prepared and hadn’t rehearsed with the band, the music chimed in and Williams went along with it. Kaufman could be heard literally feeding her the lyrics.
“That was the elevated layer of it that I loved,” Williams once said of Kaufman’s knack for making the audience question if something was real or not. “That was the fun of it. And then the audience catches on later. It’s not like ‘set-up,’ ‘set-up,’ ‘joke.’ He never ever tried to exclude the audience. He was including them in a way that had never been done before. And even though he was a master manipulator, it was always done in an endearing and fun way.”
With both of their comedy personalities combined, this bizarre interview makes for something that has to be seen. If it were to air today, perhaps it’d be a lot more apparent that it was a joke. In the 70’s, when there was still more a polished vibe to “show business,” with the old guard still very much in charge, you were less likely to see something this unusual on TV.