When Andy Kaufman Lost It on Live Television

On Friday, February 20, 1981, Andy Kaufman sat down in a fake restaurant, delivered scripted lines, paused, and then shook himself out of character. “I feel really stupid,” he said.

The other actors—including future Seinfeld co-star Michael Richards—looked confused; the audience hollered. On live television, Kaufman went on to say he felt the sketch (about a pair of stoned couples dining out) was lame and ineffectual. Richards went off-camera to fetch cue cards and tossed them in Kaufman’s lap. Kaufman retorted by tossing water. Someone threw butter. Stagehands pried the performers off one another. The next day, newspapers around the country were asking if Andy Kaufman had lost it.

The show was Fridays, ABC’s attempt to capture the anything-goes feel of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Debuting on April 11, 1980 to meager ratings, it treaded water with conservative network orders of six or 13 episodes at a time. According to executive producer John Moffitt, Kaufman’s appearance and the ensuing controversy probably bought it an entire additional season.

Kaufman knew the series was ailing, which is why he figured Moffitt would be receptive to his particular brand of comedy. In his stand-up, the performer was more of an antagonist of his audience than an ally: Many crowds had streamed into comedy clubs only to endure Kaufman napping in a sleeping bag or reading earnestly from The Great Gatsby, threatening to start all over again if they interrupted. (Once, Kaufman gave a nightclub a choice: the book or a record. They chose the record. It was the sound of Kaufman reading.)

Kaufman’s avant-garde humor was not for everyone. After multiple appearances on Saturday Night Live, NBC executive Dick Ebersol grew tired of his instigating behavior, declared him “not funny” and effectively banned him from the show. Fridays, however, was happy to welcome an established SNL personality and act as an enabler for whatever Kaufman wanted to do.

After convincing Moffitt to allow him and partner Bob Zmuda to play out a sword-swallowing scene in the intro that would go “awry”—Zmuda coughed up bloody spittle before the show cut to a commercial—Kaufman informed him he wanted to break out of character during the show’s closing sketch. Cast members Richards, Melanie Chartoff, and Maryedith Burrell were all aware of his plans; the crew was not. (There is some disagreement whether ABC had approved of it: Richards says no, while Moffitt maintains they had to go through the station's standards and practices department.)

After the Fridays episode aired, ABC was deluged with letters and calls asking if it was a put-on. To Kaufman’s conceivable displeasure, a network spokesperson told the Associated Press that it had all been staged. A week later, a contrite and tearful Kaufman appeared on the show to “apologize” for his actions in what Zmuda would later describe as his patented glazed-over hostage look.

“This has been a very hard week for me,” Kaufman said. His regular role as Latka on Taxi had been jeopardized, he confessed, and the scuffle had “led to a separation from my wife.” (Kaufman was not married.) While a certain segment of the audience was aware Kaufman was effectively trolling them, another portion probably wondered if he had lost his mind. His parents, who had once taken him in for psychological counseling as a child, might have renewed their doubts.

Fridays lasted only one more year, being forced into a later time slot by the success of ABC’s Nightline; Kaufman continued to confuse people until his death from lung cancer at the age of 35 in 1984. He never quite copped to the skirmish being faked. Talking to People in 1981, he accused ABC of a cover up and denied it was prearranged. “I like the type of humor where nobody knows what’s going on,” he said. “I just want real reactions.”

Six months after the incident, Kaufman appeared on Fridays one last time to profess he was now a born-again Christian. Kaufman was Jewish.

George RR Martin Just Gave Us a Peek at Game of Thrones’s Ice Spiders

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

When you think of threats in Game of Thrones, the first thing that comes to mind might be Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons or maybe even the Night King. But does anyone remember the ice spiders in Westeros lore, which Old Nan told Bran about several years back?

In the series' first season, Old Nan told Bran bedtime stories about The Long Night, a time in the Age of Heroes when darkness fell upon the known world for a whole century. During this time, famine and horrifying dangers appeared, including the White Walkers and, yes, a scary species of ice spiders.

So it seems fitting that the 2020 Game of Thrones calendar George RR Martin recently shared on Twitter shows off these ice spiders on the front cover, as the upcoming prequel series is rumored to be called The Long Night (and it was Martin himself who let that tiny detail slip).

It's an interesting illustration, and could be an early glimpse about a terrifying new creature we might soon get to see in Westeros—if not in the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones, then possibly in the prequel.

Game of Thrones Season 8 is scheduled to premiere in April 2019.

New Avengers: Endgame Theory Argues None of the Superheroes Died in Infinity War

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

In most movies, it's the characters' journeys that really matter—not necessarily how they end. However, when it comes to Avengers: Infinity War, what fans undoubtedly remember is Thanos's snap, which closed the movie and presumably killed off half of the universe, leaving the whole of Marvel's fan base in utter shock.

But what if Thanos's snap, now officially known as "The Decimation," did not actually kill any our favorite superheroes? What if, instead, it sent them all to an alternate universe? That's what one interesting new theory proposes, Esquire reports. Here's what Redditor joethehamface wrote:

"We have all been making fun of Thanos by saying that death wasn't necessary with the near infinite power of the gauntlet. What if it simply split the reality in two, taking half of everyone into each version ... The two parallel realities could be joined by a sort of bridge in the quantum realm. Since Scott was in the quantum realm at the time of the split, he was unaffected by the snap and not bound to either reality—leaving him free to travel from one to the other over this bridge. Maybe this leaves him free to travel through to the parallel dimensions created by Thanos, splitting the time stream. He would be the only way for them to communicate with [each] other. Maybe he exists in both realities and gains knowledge from both due to some strange form of quantum entanglement."

What's the likelihood of this being the case? Well, pretty low. But Paul Rudd as Scott Lang appearing in the highly-anticipated Avengers: EndGame trailer after we all thought he was one of the many casualties does validate the theory a bit. Unfortunately, we'll just have to wait and see.

Avengers: EndGame will arrive in theaters on April 26, 2019.

[h/t: Esquire]

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