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Andy Kaufman

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Mighty Mouse is on the way

Kaufman performs his Mighty Mouse routine on Saturday Night Live

Andrew Geoffrey "Andy" Kaufman (January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an American entertainer who made several appearances during the early years of Saturday Night Live.

Kaufman was an eccentric entertainer. He referred to himself as a "song-and-dance man" rather than a comedian. While he often got mixed reviews for his performances, during Lorne Michaels' first tenure as executive producer of SNL, Andy was invited to perform often. One of his early acts was Foreign Man, a man from a fictional island in the Caspian Sea who spoke in a very thick accent and attempted bad imitations such as Archie Bunker, Ed McMahon etc. usually ending with a flawless Elvis impersonation. He sometimes lip-synched to different records, and often brought members of the audience up to participate. His most infamous and controversial act, performed several times on Saturday Night Live, was his "Women's Wrestling Champion" bit, in which he would call on female volunteers from the audience to wrestle him.

He always won, though many times, if not all, the matches were staged. He proclaimed himself "Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World," and once offered $1,000 to any woman who could pin him down.

Other acts he would do would sing long songs, particularly the childrens' song "A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall", actually counting down every verse and causing the audience to lose patience. When Kaufman got to a low number, such as "8 bottles of beer", he would abruptly stop, causing others to remark to simply finish the song.

His popularity on SNL led him to being cast as mechanic Latka Gravas on the sitcom, "Taxi".  When "Taxi" co-star Danny DeVito hosted on May 15, 1982, Andy and several other cast members made an appearance in the opening monologue. 

In 1983, then-executive producer Dick Ebersol decided to ask the audience whether they wanted Kaufman to ever return to the show. Two 900 numbers were issued, one to keep Andy and one to "dump" Andy. Cast members during the episode would stand on stage between sketches and recite the numbers, some of them also trying to convince the audience to keep Andy. Eddie Murphy threatened the audience, half-jokingly, and Mary Gross read the "dump Andy" number comically fast to confuse callers. When the goodbyes came and the results were read, the viewers had voted to kick Kaufman off the show. The cast members made a point to show their disappointment, even mentioning it in later episodes, usually while insulting Ebersol's abilities as executive producer. The week following the vote, Kaufman purchased airtime on several local networks to plead with viewers to have him back on the show. The clips were shown on the next SNL, but Kaufman was never invited back. 

Kaufman died in 1984. Details surrounding his death have been shrouded in mystery, particularly because Bob Zmuda, a friend, claimed he started a partnership with a living Kaufman. Adding to the speculation was that 1984 was the same year Kaufman traveled to the Philippines to seek cancer treatment. He had had psychic surgery, a non-tool, non-drug surgical procedure which the medical community has routinely denounced as fraud and stage magicians have called a sleight-of-hand trick. Kaufman returned to the United States claiming that the psychic surgery cured him; within a week afterwards he was dead. An autopsy revealed that Kaufman was killed by kidney failure which had been part of a chain reaction, as aggressive lung cancer had spread to his brain, which in turn damaged his central nervous system. His few friends said his dismissal of conventional medicine and desire to pursue holistic treatments had been a factor in giving the cancer an opportunity to fester. While some still believe Andy Kaufman faked his own death, most, including his family and SNL co-stars, do not accept that. According to US government records, Andrew Kaufman is officially deceased.

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