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Andy Kaufman Pilot that Inspired Pee Wee’s Playhouse

“You almost sat in some cottage cheese, oh pardon me, that's your ass.” - Tony Clifton

Tony Clifton was an atrocious but hilarious parody of a bloated Hollywood blowhard created by performance artist Andy Kaufman. It was one of his most elaborate hoaxes, refusing to admit that he was Tony Clifton under all those prosthetics and makeup. Supposedly, Andy Kaufman discovered Clifton performing in a seedy Las Vegas lounge in 1969.

“I am not a comic, I have never told a joke,” Kaufman once said. “The comedian's promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him. My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can. They say, 'Oh wow, Andy Kaufman, he's a really funny guy.' But I'm not trying to be funny. I just want to play with their heads."

As part of this ruse, Tony Clifton was not only portrayed by Kaufman but, when the need arose, also by longtime Kaufman collaborator Bob Zmuda.

Clifton’s appearance on Taxi was a debacle that surely must have pleased Andy Kaufman greatly. Cast as Louie’s brother, after the first day of rehearsal Tony was fired, in front of the press and ABC executives, then escorted off the set for boorish behavior that infuriated co-stars Judd Hirsch and Jeff Conaway. When Andy (as himself) returned to the set for the following episode, he acted as if nothing had happened.

In 1980, Andy filmed a pilot for ABC, the network that aired his hit show Taxi, for ‘Uncle Andy's Funhouse,’ a parody of TV kid shows. (The alternate title for this pilot was "Buckshot.”)

While ABC passed on the series, this pilot film became the inspiration for an iconic show some 3 years later. Kaufman even gave Paul ‘Pee Wee’ Reubens permission to base his Saturday morning kiddie show, ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse,’ on the Uncle Andy concept.

Note that this is the first filmed appearance of "Little Tony" and "Knuckles”, designed for Andy by the Legendary Norman Tempia (‘Team America’).

Andy Kaufman died in 1983. Still, Tony Clifton turned up on The Opie & Anthony Show in 2009 promoting his gig at Santos Party House in New York City among other public sightings.

"How about a bathroom I may of shit my pants!" - Tony Clifton, what a classy guy!

Not to be confused with 'Andy's Funhouse.' This infamous 90 minute broadcast is shown here uncut with TV commercials intact. Guests include the original Howdy Doody and Cindy Williams. Originally taped in 1977 but not aired until 1979.

 

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WIKI: Tony Clifton still makes occasional appearances, most notably in the days leading up to May 16, 2004, the twentieth anniversary of Kaufman's death. It was announced on May 16, 2008 that Comic Relief, in recognition of the 24th anniversary of Andy Kaufman's departure, would present "The Return of Tony Clifton", with his Katrina Kiss My Ass Orchestra.

The national tour kicked off June 27, 2008 at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia, and benefited Gulf Coast musicians, dancers, and singers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Clifton fronted the Katrina Orchestra along with the Cliftonettes.

Later dates included August 15 at Chicago's Chopin Theatre.[2] In 2011, Tony and his orchestra were featured headliners as part of the annual Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on May 21.[3] Later that month he began hosting the Tony Clifton Revue at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. He was interviewed on the 284th (May 31, 2012) episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast as promotion.

 

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