“Creating Reality,” by Andy Kaufman, a still-living art exhibit

Andy Kaufman’s final passport sits in a glass case, a snapshot of his optimism that remained even a couple of months before he died in 1984 at the age of 35.

If it were anyone else, it could be haunting.

But this is and was Andy Kaufman, where the definitions of reality, performance, humor and art all blended together into something that, when Kaufman had our collective attention in the 1970s and early 1980s, defied those definitions.

Twenty-nine years later, Jonathan Berger has assembled a special collection of Kaufman’s personal records, stories and artifacts from the Estate of Andy Kaufman, Kaufman’s girlfriend Lynne Marguiles, longtime friend and comedy partner Bob Zmuda, and the infamous and still-living comedy creation Tony Clifton. Even his collection blurs reality. Instead of the actual works and life of Andy Kaufman, visitors to the main room see only evidence that he worked and lived.


“Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman” is on display at Maccarone in New York City’s West Village, Tuesdays through Saturdays until Feb. 16, 2013.

andykaufman-bongoBerger’s Kaufman collection includes the original Tony Clifton jacket, record collections, TM (Transcendental Meditation) materials, hand-written drafts of his novel “The Huey Williams Story,” hate mail, scripts such as his dialogue with Howdy Doody from his ABC primetime TV special, his intergender wrestling champion belt, costumes, his bongo, and even Dick Ebersol’s phone number written out underneath the tape he used to audition for Saturday Night Live in 1975. In an adjacent room, three couches in the dark surround TV sets playing rare and classic appearances by Kaufman.

One of the clips is an extended version of this appearance Kaufman made in 1976 on Dinah, with Dinah Shore, Marvin Hamlisch, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bob Hope standing around a piano as Kaufman (then as “Foreign Man”) performed his “Kiss Kiss Kiss” song to jaw-dropping reactions. Roll it.

Adding an extraordinarily unique look into this retrospective exhibit on Andy Kaufman: Living testimony from people who knew and loved him.

Each afternoon that the Maccarone exhibit on Kaufman is open, a different person sits, stands and interacts with visitors, sharing his or her experiences with Kaufman.

Michael Kaufman, Andy’s brother, introduced me last weekend at Maccarone to Prudence Farrow Bruns.

“Andy wouldn’t have been any of the things he was without her,” Michael said.

Prudence herself was much more modest.

Prudence, sister of Mia Farrow and the woman depicted in The Beatles song, “Dear Prudence” — she met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India at the same time that John, Paul, George and Ringo did — and became an even more active member of the TM (Transcendental Meditation) movement upon returning to Cambridge, Mass., where Andy Kaufman filled out an application to join the center while attending college in Boston.

When the Kaufman exhibit in NYC opened earlier this month, Tony Clifton was on hand to bring patrons along to a strip club for an enhanced experience.

Other people who either have been or will be attending “Creating Reality” this month include childhood friends, broadcasters, wrestlers and more. Among them: Bob Pagani, Gina Acre, Blll Boggs, Tony Clifton, Prudence Farrow Bruns, Joe Franklin, Dennis Hof, Carol Kane, Michael Kaufman, Carol Kaufman-Kerman, Johnny Legend, Lynne Margulies, Carolyn Marks Blackwood, Al Parinello, Laurie Simmons, Gregg Sutton, Joe Troiani, Little Wendy and Bob Zmuda.

A film series, “Andy Kaufman’s 99cent Tour,” will run from Feb. 12-24, 2013, in conjunction with this exhibition, at Participant Inc., 253 E. Houston St., NYC.

Furthermore, MOMA/PS1 will host a “Sunday Session” on Feb. 17, 2013, for Kaufman, with the New York premiere of the film, “Tony Clifton: Live on the Sunset Strip.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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2 thoughts on ““Creating Reality,” by Andy Kaufman, a still-living art exhibit

  1. So strange he would cancel his previous passport which was good until ’86 when he knew he wasn’t long for this world & was supposedly only leaving for a month at MOST. This one was good until ’94, anybody notice? Personally I’d prefer the one with a full head of hair but, more than that, I’d probably try to save my energy & not bother with the DMV or whatever bureaucracy if I was fighting cancer.

    This looked like a fun exhibit.

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