TV Party Tonight! Season Two: Andy Kaufman vs Jerry Lawler - by Colin Gawel

Welcome to season two of TV Party Tonight! Just to get you up to speed, TV Party Tonight is us folks at Pencilstorm sharing the Youtube rabbit holes we are diving into to kill time during the boring Ohio winter. John Lennon didn't live in the Midwest, but if he did, he might have written a song called, "Whatever Gets You Through the Night". or whatever. Also, I'm writing this in real time. Grammar may be dicey. Just imagine we are in a bar together and i'm jamming my phone in your face screaming "Watch This!"

Anyway, I'm going to kick off season two with clips of Andy Kaufman and his feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler. I recently read the book Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme. The thing I enjoyed most about this book was....

"WAIT!! Did you see Man on the Moon? Did you see Jim & Andy? Or the documentary I'm From Hollywood?  Did you read the Bob Zumuda Book? Did you? DID YOU?? huh? HUH? HUHHHH?"

The answer is no. I just read the one book. And then starting surfing Youtube for wrestling clips. And typing this. 

I'm sure I will catch up on all that stuff eventually, but Andy Kaufman is sort of like Muhammad Ali in that no actor can do the real person justice. Andy had been wrestling women at his standup shows and on Saturday NIght Live. People HATED this bit. It pretty much ruined his career. Still, being a performance artist and pro-wrestling fan, Andy had the idea to take this act directly to the people. He proposed the idea to WWE CEO Vince McMahon but he passed. Just too much heat having Latka from Taxi do the heel turn against women. 

However, in Memphis, a budding young promoter and wrestler himself, Jerry Lawler,  jumped at the chance of having a huge celebrity become part of his local wrestling program. The two agreed to start a video feud with Andy promising to  eventually show up in Memphis .... Below are the highlights of that feud. I'm so excited for you to watch this. 

This shove prompts a Hollywood lawsuit. 

So this leads to the infamous Andy Kaufman / Jerry Lawler appearance on the David Letterman show. I watched this live as a kid while on vacation with my family in Ocean City Maryland. It blew my mind wide open. I had no idea what was happening. It made me a Letterman fan for life. A couple of thoughts before watching this..

- Lawler was every bit the performance artist as Andy. 

-The two were supposed to make up on air. Just before going on, Andy told Lawler, "you have to hit me". Jerry responded, "I'm just this hick from Memphis, these cops will arrest me." Just before break, Lawler went for it. Nobody on Letterman knew it was coming. There was a 22 minute commercial break while security sorted out the melee.

- Letterman handled it all beautifully. 


Even though it was over on the national scene, the feud kept going on local Memphis TV. Andy was not doing this for the money. He loved it. The crowd hated him!!

Can it get better? Yes, Kaufman goes face and humbly asks for Lawler's help.

Big mistake Lawler!! Kaufman and intellectual equal Jimmy Hart pull ultimate heel turn.

And then, cementing his greatness, upon learning of Andy Kaufman's death, Jerry Lawler doesn't break character. He does it the right way. Andy would have been proud.

As time passed, Jerry has come clean about his and Andy Kaufman's relationship. Listen here

Colin Gawel writes for Pencilstorm and is going to Wrestlemania this year.