Avid Andy Kaufman fans know how closely connected to Andy’s career that Bob Zmuda was, and for that reason, a new book by Zmuda on Kaufman is likely to grab their attention. But those same fans, knowing Kaufman and Zmuda as well as they probably do, will also know better than to expect “the truth, finally” from this book.
Andy Kaufman was more performance artist than comedian, a man who enjoyed nothing more than getting some kind of genuine emotional response from his audience – be that response negative or positive. Bob Zmuda was Andy’s partner in crime for years, and the two of them concocted some great schemes together. There is little doubt that Zmuda helped make Kaufman into a star/celebrity, but there is also little doubt that, without Andy Kaufman, relatively few people would know who Bob Zmuda is.
So what is “the truth, finally” that Zmuda has decided to reveal in Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally? It’s simply this: Zmuda wants the rest of us to believe that he actually still thinks that Andy Kaufman faked his own death thirty years ago, and that he will soon be making his first public appearance since that “death.” That’s it; that’s all there is to it. Zmuda, for obvious reasons, wants to sell books about Andy Kaufman – and he does not want this to be the last of those books, so he’s leaving the door wide open to a Truth sequel. Very Kaufman-like, that.
There are, however, some interesting aspects to Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally that potential readers will want to consider. Fans of “Man on the Moon, the remarkable Andy Kaufman biopic, for instance, will be intrigued by all the details into the making of that film that Zmuda and Margulies share in the book. Too, Jim Carrey fans are certain to be fascinated by Carrey’s total immersion into the Andy Kaufman persona that he took on during the entire making of that movie. (That more “truth” about Jim Carrey is revealed in the book than about Andy Kaufman may be what Zmuda intended all along.)
It should also be noted that the role of Lynne Margulies in Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally is a limited one. Her contributions amount to short pieces in which she briefly reflects on her memories about something that Zmuda introduces and then covers in detail. This is very much Bob Zmuda’s book, and it shows. One gets the impression that Zmuda enjoys being disliked (much as Kaufman did), and that he almost goes out of his way here to show all the worst aspects of his own character in order to get an emotional reaction from his readers.
Worth reading? Well, how big an Andy Kaufman fan are you?
Here’s one of my favorite Andy Kaufman bits in which, in the person of Foreign Man, he does several impersonations, including Elvis Presley. Fans will want to note that this was Andy’s very first appearance on the Johnny Carson Show.
I miss Andy Kaufman…a lot.