May 16th marks the 25th anniversary of the comedy institution Comic Relief which will return to its roots where it all began, The Comedy Store in LA. It also raises new rumors about the return of comedic legend Andy Kaufman. Almost immediately after his passing from cancer 26 years ago, there were rumors that Kaufman really was not dead and he was pulling one of his infamous jokes on us.
Years before his death, Kaufman confided in close friends that he wanted to pull a death hoax on the world. His close confidant and writing partner/producer/best friend, Bob Zmuda stated that Andy was obsessed with the idea and said if he were to do it, he wouldn’t return for at least 10 years. But Zmuda maintains the opinion that Kaufman truly did die and his death was not faked, claiming he didn’t think he would be cruel enough to go this long without contacting his if he were still alive. Zmuda is also the creator of Comedy Relief which has gone on to help raise millions of dollars for people in need. Most notably with the help of Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams during televised marathons on HBO.
So the question still… Why are there allegations the 25th anniversary of Comic Relief At The Comedy Store will be the return of Andy Kaufman? It all has to do with Tony Clifton…
Clifton, the boozy, untalented, and confrontational lounge singer who was “discovered” by Kaufman announced he’ll make a return to The Comedy Store on the exact day he first did at Comic Relief 25 years ago. Many believe that Tony Clifton is the alter ego of Andy Kaufman, and proof that he’s still alive. Speculation of this was fueled when one year after Andy’s death (May 16th), Clifton showed up at The Comedy Store for Comic Relief 1. Though its never been acknowledged by those involved, it’s commonly believed Clifton has been portrayed by at least 3 people over the years – either by Kaufman himself, his brother Michael, and mostly Zmuda.
Either way, Clifton backed by the 12-piece Comic Relief-sponsored Katrina Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra, and burlesque troupe the Cliftonettes, will be on hand on May 16th. In recent interviews, Zmuda stated that ads were taken out in newspapers all over the globe alerting Andy to this fact, “just in case he’s out there” and wanted to return to The Comedy Store.
So the bottom line is this. Andy Kaufman is still a comedic genius who 25 years after his death is just as interesting now as he was then…and there are some pretty solid ways to ensure a sold out crowd for a night of charity comedy.
Tony Clifton’s appearance during Comic Relief 1 as portrayed in the 1999 movie Man On The Moon where Jim Carey played Kaufman and Paul Giamatti portrayed Zmuda.