Another fine example of Jim Carrey flexing his acting muscles is his portrayal of the late Andy Kaufman in 1999's 'Man on the Moon'. It turns out that Jim Carrey was doing a deep dive with this role, perhaps taking his method acting a touch too far. For further information, check out 'Jim & Andy' on Netflix. It's all about his work on this project, and it's some interesting stuff to say the least.
Getting back to the film at hand, however, here we have a biopic on the comedic career of Andy Kaufman. The film covers a brief glimpse into his childhood up to his stand-up, but most of it takes place in the days he starred on 'Taxi' ('78-'83), and the days leading up to his passing of a rare type of lung cancer.
I never knew much about Andy Kaufman before this movie, as he passed when I was just about a year old. My parents watched 'Taxi' when it was on in syndication, but I didn't really pay attention (my mistake). But this film showed me what his sense of humour was like. Instead of being the guy who would come out and tell a joke or two, he would go for genuine audience reactions and eat it up - even if that reaction was to "boo" or get angry or upset.
Along the way, he creates and portrays a character known as Tony Clifton, who would be a trashy personality that would endure a good number of years in secret. If Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton needed to be in the same place at the same time, Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti), a writer and friend to Andy, would take on the role. Together, those two would really tear it up when it came to getting some sort of a reaction from audiences that wasn't a laugh. It's the idea that messing with people is funny, as long as no one really gets hurt.
Kaufman was managed by George Shapiro (Danny DeVito - who is an interesting casting choice when you see the two side by side), and Shapiro's going along with so much of his material helped him to become a huge success before the days of 'Seinfeld'. He was also good friends with Andy, and one of a very select few to know Tony Clifton was just a character Andy played. He was also executive producer on this film, so you have to imagine things are pretty accurate here.
Kaufman's brand of humour isn't particularly up my alley. I might compare him to someone like Sacha Baron Cohen, coming up with things like 'Borat' and 'Bruno'. That "mess-with-people" comedy was never something I really got into. I've watched and enjoyed the 'Jackass' movies, but they're mostly just messing with each other to make us laugh. When things offend people or get too intense (even sometimes kinda scary) it's not really for me. But if it's your cup of tea, clearly you're not alone. Kaufman kinda paved the way for that kind of thing, so you have him to either thank or blame.
For me, this is another one I manage to meet in the middle, but I know others who would and do love it. It goes to show that a lot of good laughs for people come from the reaction of other people in a situation where they don't know how to react. In a sense, Kaufman perfected this, and I'll give him credit for being able to pull it off. On top of that, Carrey does an awesome job here, but I have to say what may be more fascinating than the actual film is the documentary, 'Jim & Andy'. Again, it's on Netflix so I recommend going over, checking it out, and then watching this with new eyes.