Andy Kaufman posthumously receives Walk of Fame star
A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled Thursday posthumously honoring Andy Kaufman for a career best remembered for his portrayal of mechanic Latka Gravas on “Taxi” and a variety of outlandish moments.
“Andy was a provocateur,” Marilu Henner, Kaufman’s castmate on the comedy that aired on ABC from 1978-82 and on NBC in the 1982-83 season, said at the late-morning ceremony. “He irritated people. You never knew what was going to come flying out of his mouth or what idea he had. But he was always so damn interesting.”
Kaufman’s brother Michael accepted the star.
Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kevin Nealon and actress Kristen Schaal also spoke at the late-morning ceremony at 1555 Vine St., between Selma Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.
Schaal was selected to be one of the speakers because she was the 2005 recipient of The Andy Kaufman Award, created by his family to preserve his legacy. It honors “promising cutting-edge artists with fresh and unconventional material, for those willing to take risks with an audience, and for those who do not define themselves by the typical conventions of comedy,” according to its website.
The star is the 2,761st since the completion of the Walk of Fame in 1961 with the initial 1,558 stars.
Born Jan. 17, 1949, in New York City and raised in Great Neck, Long Island, Kaufman began his career in 1971 performing at various small comedy clubs on the East Coast after graduating from the now-defunct Grahm Junior College in Boston.
Kaufman’s act included the character Foreign Man, who spoke in a meek, high-pitched, heavily accented voice and claimed to be from “Caspiar,” a fictional island in the Caspian Sea, and who would play a recording of the theme from the “Mighty Mouse” cartoon show while standing perfectly still, and lip-sync only the line “Here I come to save the day” with great enthusiasm.
Foreign Man would often tell jokes incorrectly and do weak imitations of famous people then burst into an Elvis Presley imitation.
Kaufman performed the “Mighty Mouse” bit on the premiere of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975.
Foreign Man inspired Kaufman’s character on “Taxi,” an immigrant from a country that was never identified.
“Our scripts were written in English and then he made up a language,” Henner said. “He made up a country I wanted to visit.”
Kaufman also incorporated wrestling into his act, offering any woman in the audience $500-$1,000 if they could pin him. He later proclaimed himself “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World.” Kaufman also engaged in a fake feud with wrestling star Jerry Lawler, including an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Kaufman’s foray into wrestling led to his induction in the WWE Hall of Fame this year.
Another of Kaufman’s characters was Tony Clifton, a foul-mouthed and domineering lounge singer.
Kaufman died of lung cancer on May 16, 1984, at age 35.