Why Did Andy Kaufman Wrestle 400 Women?
1983: Caitlin Clarke inflicts pain on Andy Kaufman while Debbie Harry looks on. The three were involved in a wrestling-themed play called 'Teaneck Tansi.' (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Comedian Andy Kaufman did some wacky stuff in his day -- and the "wrestler" persona Andy Kaufman adopted was perhaps the wackiest of all. And that's because it was real -- it wasn't a "joke" per se, it had no punchline. He waded into the world of wrestling as a type of performance but not, necessarily, a funny one.
Kaufman said that he liked the carnival aspect of wrestling, and felt mainstream entertainment -- like comedy -- had lost the anything-goes, unpredictable element that made wrestling so appealing. But Andy Kaufman had a problem, as a wrestler: He wasn't big, or strong, or athletic at all.
He landed on the idea of wrestling women. Against women, he could be dominant. He could talk trash like the big wrestlers did. And the boos and hate from the crowd was even more intense because of the gender taboo. When he announced the plan to a national audience one night in 1979 on Saturday Night Live (although he had already been wrestling women before then), he was met with the expected animosity. This seems to be just the encouragement he wanted.
It was a spectacle, for sure -- it was hard to watch, but you couldn't look away.
Andy Kaufman Was A Comedic Genius
Kaufman, who died in 1984, was known for his eccentric brand of comedy. Actually, he didn’t like to be referred to as a comedian, but rather described himself as a “song and dance man”. Although he enjoyed making people laugh, traditional comedy was not exactly his cup of tea. He never promised to make his audiences laugh… just to entertain them.
Kaufman Created The 'Taxi' Character Latka Gravas
Nothing was off limits to Kaufman. He was deliberately brash, crude and politically incorrect. He poked fun at everyone from women to foreigners. He playfully depicted all walks of life from hillbillies to the upper crust. One character he made up, "Foreign Man," was a gateway and an inspiration for the character, Latka Gravas, on the late 1970s sitcom, Taxi. Kaufman was nominated for two Golden Globe awards for his portrayal of Latka.
Much like a junkie, the more Kaufman accomplished… the more he felt the need to reach the next level. It was as if the words, “shock”, “risk” and “challenge” had become synonymous with the entertainer’s name. Next on the agenda was to target women, specifically. At the time, women were looking for gender equality and Kaufman was all too happy to call their bluff. He publicly taunted and demeaned women in an effort to get them to take the bait.
Kaufman's Wrestling Adventures Were Deliberately Unfunny
In the late 1970s, Andy Kaufman issued a challenge to any woman who wanted to try her luck in a wrestling match with him. Not a full-blown wrestling match, but a mere 3 minutes. He declared that he would bow to any woman that could beat him. To egg on the female population, he poked fun at women’s liberation and issued a statement that women were “meant to be in the kitchen… washing the potatoes, scrubbing the carrots, raising the babies”.
That challenge was more than enough for women express their outrage and come forward to accept his invitation. The challenge promised that any woman who could pin Kaufman would walk away with $500.00... cold, hard cash. Women were coming out of the woodwork to take him on! It was somewhat of a carnival mentality. Just like a train wreck, it was unpleasant and disgusting, but people couldn’t look away. It was quite the spectacle, physical comedy without the comedy -- unlike anything people had ever heard of.
Kaufman Called Himself The 'World Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion'
Let’s not forget that celebrity wrestling in the 1970s was a sensational and sleazy business. All the more reason for Kaufman to get on board. He loved the shock value of the act. Kaufman was also not the most athletic specimen, so he knew better than to challenge men to a wrestling match. He actually didn’t discount the fact that the “right” woman just might get the best of him, but that never really happened.
Women fell hook, line and sinker for the theatrical ruse. The trash talk and chauvinistic mentality that Andy Kaufman exuded was just too much to ignore. Women unknowingly fell prey to the taunting and stepped up to put the “jerk” in his place.
Wrestling Women Was A Good Way To Meet Women
Andy Kaufman, reportedly, was not a male chauvinist in his personal life. He was actually quite reserved. Over the course of his career, Kaufman wrestled over 400 women. Ironically, he often found himself becoming “involved” with some of the women that took him on in the ring. He was ultimately able to accommodate both his professional and personal goals, all in one fell swoop.
To This Day, People Are Not Sure What To Make Of Kaufman's Wrestling Career
Like many public figures, Kaufman’s personal ethics were judged by the behavior of his professional character. Unfortunately, sometimes people have a problem separating reality from fiction. Kaufman died of cancer at the young age of 35 in 1984, leaving behind a body of comedy -- well, performance, at least -- that ranged from hilarious to challenging. His antics as a wrestler of women were certainly the latter.
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