Andy Kaufman’s brother, Michael Kaufman, at the Walk of Fame Ceremony for Andy Kaufman. (Screen shot from the Variety Andy Kaufman Walk of Fame Ceremony Live Stream | YouTube)

Andy Kaufman Honored With Star On The Walk Of Fame

In late August, famous comedian and actor Andy Kaufman was honored posthumously with a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

Andy is known for his performance art comedy, which blurs the lines between reality and fiction. He was born in Great Neck on Jan. 17, 1949, and passed from lung cancer in May of 1984 at 35.

Though most people consider Andy a comedian, he considered himself a “song and dance man.” He made a name for himself in comedy clubs across the country with his unique entertainment. Andy’s comedy was groundbreaking, as people often never knew what was real or fake when he appeared on shows like Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman. Andy played Latka in Taxi, which starred famous actors Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Judd Hirsch and Marilu Henner. Andy’s iconic life and career were memorialized in the 1999 movie Man On The Moon with Jim Carrey playing Andy Kaufman.

Andy’s roots in Great Neck led him to come back to town and visit the Playhouse Theater and the Squire Movie Theater.

One of Andy’s most extraordinary acts, which still confuses fans today, is his wrestling career, where he wrestled women and had a public feud with Jerry Lawler, a star of the Memphis wrestling territory. Andy was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for his brief but memorable wrestling career.

From the left: Tyler Kaufman, Carol Kaufman-Kerman, Michael Kaufman, Marilu Henner, Kevin Nealon and Kristen Schaal at the Andy Kaufman Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony. (Screen shots from the Variety Andy Kaufman Walk of Fame Ceremony Live Stream | YouTube)

Now, Andy is being honored with a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In collaboration with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Variety live-streamed the event for fans across the country to witness Andy’s star being unveiled. Steve Nissen, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, introduced guest speakers at Andy’s induction.

Comedian, actress, writer and voice artist Kristen Schaal spoke first. Schaal is most famously known for her voice work as Louise on the animated show Bob’s Burgers.

“I never met Andy Kaufman, but I’m a huge fan. With always pushing the boundaries of comedy and finding ways to entertain us that have never been done before,” said Schaal, “[Andy] gave people the freedom to be themselves.”

Schaal shared that, aside from her admiration for Andy as a pioneer for alternative comedians, she is close with Andy’s family.

“I was especially held up by the Kaufman family. Andy’s dad, Stanley, held a contest for comedians who shared Andy’s experimental spirit, and I won. I got to meet Andy’s family, and we became lifelong friends,” said Schaal. “Although I never got to meet Andy in the flesh, I have met his spirit through his loving family and all the fantastic work he has left behind.”

Actor and comedian Kevin Nealon spoke at the event to recount the times he saw Andy’s improv acts. Nealon is known for appearing on Saturday Night Live and acting in films such as Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer.

“I considered [Andy] a comedic genius. He was incredibly inventive. He was brave. His comedy was daring. Other people might call it annoying and mentally ill, but no,” Nealon joked.

Although Nealon never was friends with Andy, claiming he was intimidated by Andy’s multiple personalities, he admired that he was a risk taker.

The next speaker was good friends with Andy, often present for the odd bits he put on for a crowd. Actress Marilu Henner, who worked with Andy on Taxi, spoke about their time as co-workers and the friendship that followed.

“Andy was a provocateur. He irritated people. You never knew what was going to come flying out of his mouth. But he was always so damn interesting, and I adored him,” said Henner.

Before Andy and Henner worked together, she saw him do improv in New York. She recalled how Andy read from The Great Gatsby. When he got to the second chapter, people pelted dinner rolls and straws at him. Andy then broke down and cried, and the room went quiet. Then he turned around, flipped his hair, and went into the most brilliant Elvis impression.

“He was always doing something kind of crazy, but Andy was also the sweet boy next door, the Great Neck guy,” said Henner. “ He was so sweet, and then he was crazy. It was the yin and yang that made him just such a superstar.”

The last speaker was Andy’s younger brother, Michael Kaufman. Michael took on the persona of his older brother for the first part of his speech to thank Andy’s friends, family and co-workers for their support throughout Andy’s life and after.

Michael shared funny stories about growing up with Kaufman as a brother. One story that precisely captures Andy is about one of the Kaufman family’s annual visits to Coney Island.

“One night, Andy notices the gentleman who is operating the high striker strong man game all alone. He had no business. Andy walked over there, in his Tony Clifton character, saying how easy it must be to strike the mallet and have the puck shoot straight up,” explained Michael. “So he tried three times. After each attempt, he got more feeble than the next. But in between each attempt he had banter, making excuses and saying how, on the next one, he’ll get it right. And it got worse and worse. He got louder and louder. But by the time he left, a circle of people wanted to play the game. Andy had made the night for that operator. Mission accomplished.”

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce declared Aug. 24 Andy Kaufman Day in Hollywood and unveiled the classic pink stone Hollywood Star to honor Andy’s iconic and ingenious career.

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