Yesterday, Defamerpublished an article titled “Is Andy Kaufman Still Alive?” Gothamist, theComic’s Comic,Dangerous Minds, and others posted similar stories. The posts were based on accounts of a very strange ten minutes during Monday night’s ninth annual Andy Kaufman Awards, during which Andy’s brother Michael claimed to not know if Andy was alive, and then may or may not have been reunited onstage with his long-lost niece (Andy’s daughter). I was a judge at the (untelevised) event, so I figured I’d share what I saw and clear some stuff up.
I met Michael in January when I interviewed him about “On Creating Reality,” an Andy Kaufman exhibition at Maccarone gallery in New York. I hadn’t spoken with him since then, but last week I got an email from Wayne Rada, the producer of the Andy Kaufman Awards, saying that Michael wanted me to be a judge at the finals. I said I’d be happy to, and when I got to the Gotham Comedy Club I was told that Michael would be making a “very special announcement” at the end of the show.
After the contestants finished their sets, I went to the basement with the other three judges, who told me that, with the exception of tonight, Michael was always down there with them. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in hindsight it seems obvious that I was asked to take Michael’s place in the judging process so he could focus on making his special announcement at the end of the show.
We probably deliberated for all of about four minutes before coming back upstairs, as the host of the show was wrapping up. Before announcing the winners, he said, Michael would like to say a few words. Michael walked up to the stage and squinted a little in the lights. He’s a soft-spoken man with mannerisms eerily similar to his brother, and when he began to speak the entire room fell silent.
Before I moved to Paris three years ago, although I’d already been to the city and was lucky enough to call French my second language, I still held more than a few romantic preconceived notions. Every metropolis has a set of stereotypes linked to it, and Paris exists in many people’s minds as a charming, luxurious, timeless hub of style and sophistication—in fact, so many people expect the City of Light to be what they want it to be that the reality has rendered some tourists physically sick with disappointment. But just as Paris is idealized by foreigners, Parisians hold oversimplified version of American cities in their heads as well. While we may look at Paris as a sparkling labyrinth of cigarettes and pastel macarons, Parisians look at us with the same Vaseline on the lens—especially when it comes to New York.
Manhattan has always been an object of desire and intimidation for the French, but more recently Brooklyn has been added to the list of boroughs worth idolizing. While what it “means” to be a young Brooklynite may have been discussed and re-discussed in the States until it has lost all meaning (at this point, if you live in north Brooklyn you’re lucky if the New York Times hasn’t done a trend piece focused on your block) it’s easy to forget that are many places where this kudzu of nebulous social indicators has only just begun to lay its delicate roots.
“Sorry, I’m only 19. I can’t buy alcohol,” I mumbled without looking up from the game of Tetris I was playing on my flip-phone. “Say it’s for Pauly. Tell the bartender you’re my intern.” And so, it was 8 PM on a Sunday night after the Comedy Store’s Potluck Open Mic night in mid 2009 that a gullible and obese 19-year-old aspiring comic finally achieved the American Dream: doing Pauly Shore’s bitch work for free.
It had been a year since I had dropped out of Pierce Community College to try my hand at standup comedy and things weren’t going particularly well. The biggest comedy clubs in LA like the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory use what’s basically a half-lottery, half-friendship system for their open mics. I would very rarely get picked. Unlike smart comedians, who would grumble off and leave looking for another place to do a set when they were rejected, I would stick around and watch the show. Partially because I wanted to learn from the performers, but mainly because I had no friends. I was having a conversation with one of the few Potluck regulars who tolerated me when the Weasel himself anointed me as his indentured servant.
I showed up at the next morning for my first day of interning and stood around for 15 minutes, waiting for Pauly to arrive. Finally, a beat-up car pulled into the lot. Pauly stepped out wearing a worn-out T-Shirt with a drawing of his face on it and “PAULYWOOD” written underneath. “Hey duuuude!” he announced, pointing to a massive suitcase in the backseat of his car, “Carry this in for me, Intern.”
Nothing Is Less Funny Than Scientologists Doing Comedy
All the great men of history have had their escape valves, their private passions. Einstein played the violin. Disraeli wrote romantic novels. Napoleon used to rub two ferrets covered in sulphur together until one of them caught fire. So it is with the head of Narconon International, Scientology’s notorious drug-rehabiliation wing.
The guys and gals in Laughworks have been taking their laugh-an-hour routines around the Scientology world for the last decade, but of late they’ve gone quiet. Clark in particular has been busy defending his organization from charges that it routinely took out credit cards in the names of people it was supposed to be helping. All that changed last Tuesday, when Stand Up for Valley Org took to the stage in LA. As the name suggests, it was an entire evening of Scientologyl comedy devoted to raising money for the San Fernando Valley Scientologists’ plan to build an Ideal Org, which is a deluxe kind of church.
Twitter has also held a greal deal of fascination for me. As someone with a lowly amount of followers, it has always geeked me out knowing that you can @ or talk to someone that you would never have the opportunity to speak to in real life.
For some reason or another I have always held a great amount of respect for Michigan. I started following Karl Welzein née @DadBoner just to get my lowest-common denominator kicks. With tweets like “Starbucks acts like they’re so fancy. You sell hot black water and muffins. Calm down.” and “Never understood why people count how many drinks they have. A real man drinks by body feel. More natural. Boozin’ ain’t math, you guys” I knew I had to met this man some day. By the time our series My Life Online rolled around I knew the man behind this satirical masterpiece would be perfect for the show. I looked online and saw that Ology and Deadspin had discovered that a comedian named Mike Burns was DadBoner, but Mike had neither confirmed nor denied if that was the case. I was intrigued. I saw that Mike was repped by Creative Artists Agency and did a cold call to the offices general LA number. In what only can be defined as sheer luck, I was put on a conference call with Mike Burns and his agent who then told me he would give me the DadBoner exclusive (whatever that means.)
When I met Mike outside his apartment in Echo Park he seemed tired and a bit rough around the edges. He eyed me warily as only a veteran of the comedy and entertainment world can. He smoked a cigarette and asked me what we should do. It seemed fitting that Mike was the man behind this gluttonous, out there twitter feed. Karl could say all the things that Mike wanted to but couldn’t say in his own voice (for fear of retribution). It later occurred to me that every one of us might have a Karl inside; Mike is just more wanton to let him out.
I traveled out to LA for Click. Print. Gun and Jerome LOL and, as it turned out, to have some drinks and get to know Mike and his crew. We watched WWE, drank some domestos (that means beer), and talked about the internet as it relates to comedy. I like to think of it as a tragicomedy.
Pretty much everyone in America, sans a “longtime fan” in Phoenix and (hopefully) Jay’s wife, Mavis, hates Jay Leno. That being the case, Leno-gate 2013 has definitely taken a toll on the Chinned One’s ego. Now, it’s finally official, and Jay is on the outs. No one has stood up and defended Jay’s honor, even though we all know what’s at stake. It appears the American public really is cool with letting that smarmy little Capital One spokes-shit Jimmy Fallon take over TheFUCKINGTONIGHT SHOW. Clearly we’ve lost our way, and our collective minds. Listen—Leno wasn’t voted “America’s Late Night Leader” for nothing, OK? What the hell has Fallon ever won? “Most Manchildest Saturday Night Live Cast Member (Ever Since Adam Sandler Left)”? I’m tired of y’all hating on Jay. If you think Leno hasn’t made the world a better place during his 20-something-year tenure at the helm of The Tonight Show, you’re out of your goddamned mind.
HE, NOT UNLIKE THE UNION, MAKES US STRONG
A few years ago, People magazine revealed that Leno consumes two (as in, more than one) chicken sandwiches from Johnny Rockets (as in, Johnny Rockets) for lunch every day. People didn’t publish this shocking revelation as part of a smear campaign against Leno—he willingly gave them this information. His lack of shame is admirable and something those of us who constantly live in fear of other people’s judgement should aspire to. Do I like Arby’s? Yes. Was I ashamed to admit that fact for decades? YES. Leno’s bravery, however, has made me embrace my monsterism. Fuck the haters. Pass the Horsey Sauce.
HE’S A POWERFUL SOCIAL CRITIC
With his recurring “Jaywalking” bit, Leno has shed some much-needed light on the rampant problem of Midwestern ignorance. I mean, lemme get this straight—nine out of ten Affliction-clad crackers can’t name oneSupreme Court Justice? No wonder this country’s going down the drain!
HIS FUNNY CARS ARE FUNNY
Every time one of his funny cars breaks down on the I-5, you know pretty much everyone who drives by laughs their balls off at his misfortune. Regardless of how you feel about Jay’s iteration of The Tonight Show, you’ve gotta admit the man’s bringing light and laughter to people’s lives in at least one regard. Unlike Jack Paar, who was deeply humorless and, in his spare time, beat orphans with golf clubs.
Editor’s note: There is no relation between this piece, written by our longtime columnist Jizz Jussinger, and the piece in GQ by Friday Night Lights Author and generally despised human being Buzz Bissinger about his “addiction” to buying ludicrously expensive Gucci clothes and accessories that’s cost him half a million dollars. Any similarity between Jizz’s article and Mr. Bissinger’s is entirely coincidental.
I have an addiction. It isn’t drugs or gambling; I get to keep what I use after I use it. But there are similarities: the futile feeding of the bottomless beast and the unavoidable psychological implications, the immediate hit of the new that feels like an orgasm and the inevitable coming-down. In the past few years, I’ve bought 81 graphic tees. Dozens of shorts, both board and cargo. My name is Jizz Jussinger. I am 58 years old, the author of Some Kids Play Football but It’s Complicated and Award-Winning, father of three, husband. And I am a shopaholic.
It started three years ago. I have never fully revealed it, and am only revealing it now in the hopes that my confession will incite a remission and perhaps help others of similar compulsion. If all I buy is Old Navy, I will be fine. It has taken a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t work but Old Navy men’s clothing best represents who I want to be and have become—a laid-back guy you’d be unafraid to call “dude,” a Yacht Rocker from a landlocked state, someone who would be good at surfing if he tried, probably. During a recent trip to the Navy, a fellow shopper said I looked like “Luke from The OC,” a compliment that at this point in my life means more to me than any piece of writing.
I own 124 polos, 75 sweaters emblazoned with Old Navy Athletics, 41 pairs of khakis, 12 track jackets, and 115 pairs of novelty-print boxers covered in pizza and beach balls and burgers and ducks. Those who conclude from this that I have a John Hughes fetish, an extreme John Hughes fetish, get a grand prize of zero. And those who are familiar with my choices will sign affidavits attesting to the fact that I wear polos every day. The self-expression feels glorious, an indispensable part of me. As a stranger said after admiring my look in a red-sleeved raglan and a pair of plaid cargos with flip-flops, “You don’t give a fuck.”
Ah, the Academy Awards! The four-hour event when the actresses, actors, directors, and producers who create the most popular artistic medium in the world are finally given their due. It’s a time for everyone to gather around their television sets and bask in a night of song, dance, jokes, emotion, and a celebration of films. Haha, just kidding! Like all major events where anyone talks for more than half an hour, it was a chance for people to get extremely angry about what others were saying and doing. Here is an incomplete list of the events that happened during the Oscars that people took offense to. (Some of these are serious things that you should get upset about and some are just some bullshit that you shouldn’t even think about; I’ll trust you to decided which are which.)
Robin Roberts not having hair because she has a rare blood disorder.
Lena Dunham (I don’t know if Lena Dunham was even at the Oscars, but it’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere, is always getting offended by Lena Dunham, and someone else is offended that that person is offended.)