The story of Andy Kaufman’s ban from Saturday Evening Reside is an extended and tangled one. And, in step with the boundary-pushing comic’s profession aim of preserving audiences guessing, the payoff of the late comic’s ultimate SNL look solely doubled down on the controversy surrounding Kaufman’s tumultuous time on the groundbreaking sketch comedy collection.
Because the story goes, Kaufman after which Saturday Evening Reside producer Dick Ebersol obtained right into a screaming, profanity-laden argument backstage throughout the Nov. 13, 1982, episode, reportedly as a result of Ebersol had minimize Kaufman’s newest visitor look on the final minute. Kaufman stormed off, and, throughout the episode, Ebersol made a uncommon look on the present itself, explaining that Kaufman’s materials had grown stale and that Kaufman merely wasn’t humorous anymore.
It was a wierd and uneasy factor to observe, which, naturally, was all a part of the plan. Kaufman, whose current stint because the self-created “intergender wrestling champion” noticed the comedian grappling with girls throughout his act and at professional wrestling venues, had succeeded in producing a whole lot of adverse publicity, as was Kaufman’s intention. So the concept the notoriously controlling Ebersol would take to SNL to trash Kaufman was at the very least believable — which is how he and Kaufman needed it. The subsequent week, SNL introduced an unprecedented call-in vote by which viewers might dial certainly one of two 900 numbers to find out whether or not Andy Kaufman would ever be invited again to Saturday Evening Reside.
The vote was performed straight by the solid — as a result of nearly all of them have been, just like the viewers, at nighttime. Kaufman, in accordance with Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s account of the early days of SNL, Saturday Evening, spent the week main as much as the vote worrying that the vote — cooked up because it had been between he and Ebersol — would go in opposition to him. And that’s simply what occurred, with 195,544 callers voting (at 50 cents per name) to ban Kaufman from SNL endlessly. Kaufman by no means would seem on Saturday Evening Reside once more, earlier than the comic died from a uncommon lung most cancers simply over a yr later on the age of 35.
Or fairly, Kaufman by no means appeared reside on Saturday Evening Reside once more. It was on the Jan. 22, 1983, episode of the present, hosted by Lily Tomlin, that SNL viewers have been handled to what seemed to be one other gratuitous low cost shot on the now-exiled comic. With solid member Brad Corridor appearing because the anchor for Ebersol’s “Weekend Replace” information phase (briefly retitled “Saturday Evening Information”), Kaufman was given another kick whereas he was down. Corridor, precisely reporting that Kaufman had been shopping for advert house on TV stations across the nation, defined that the “semiretired comic” was desperately begging America for one more likelihood to come back again to Saturday Evening Reside.
Watch When Andy Kaufman Was Voted Off ‘SNL’
Corridor then aired Kaufman’s precise advert, which the anchor defined had run solely within the extra reasonably priced markets of Macon, Ga., Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Neb. In it, Kaufman stands uncomfortably posed in entrance of a backdrop of blue-screened pine timber and explains that he’s utilizing his personal cash to buy airtime at particular person stations in an try and get Ebersol and SNL to rescind his ban. Kaufman performs it completely straight, thanking Saturday Evening Reside for “all the nice years” and thanking the “169,000 folks” who voted to maintain him on the present (the entire was 169,186), explaining that it made him really feel good that so many individuals appreciated his work.
“That’s fairly unhappy,” Corridor famous sadly because the advert ends, incomes a chuckle from the confused viewers, earlier than occurring to notice that not solely is Kaufman nonetheless banned, “however he now owes the NBC community $80,000 and a few change.” Andy Kaufman’s comedy was a one-of-a-kind mix of showmanship and provocation, and this ultimate bit on the present that helped elevate his profession (Kaufman was on the very first SNL episode in 1975) was an ideal encapsulation of Kaufman’s inimitable model. Kaufman did prepare dinner up the entire thought with Ebersol, despite the fact that he relished his recurring highlight on the present.
Simply as his supposed feud with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler was revealed as a hoax lengthy after Kaufman’s loss of life, nearly everybody at Saturday Evening Reside was saved clueless as to the true stakes behind the vote. On a podcast look, solid member Gary Kroeger famous that he regrets being the one to introduce the 900 numbers on that fateful night time, explaining that he imagined all of it to be a joke.
Kroeger was half proper: Whereas Kaufman was behind the stunt, he was nonetheless dedicated to abiding by the consequence. His subsequent, low-rent public pleas for a keep of SNL execution have been one other piece of Kaufman’s efficiency artwork however have been additionally little doubt meant to deliver him again into the present’s orbit. That SNL aired his pleas solely to mock him one ultimate time was simply the icing on the cake, a meta-textual gag that left these watching baffled and uneasily amused. It could not have been how Andy Kaufman needed his tenure on Saturday Evening Reside to finish, nevertheless it’s powerful to think about he wasn’t happy to exit on such a wierd and chaotic be aware.