30 Day Film Challenge – Day 5

Posted: June 14, 2021 in Uncategorized

I have reached Day 5, so I made it through the first weekend. That’s a good start.

This “challenge” is kind of weird, because some of the prompts make you think, and some of them are just “Name That Movie,” and it’s not like there’s a time limit or anything, and you can always Google it if you need a memory jog, because no one is watching (I mean, it’s better if you use your actual brain, but…)

Today’s prompt, however, actually gave me pause: A film where a character has a job you want. There’s a not of choices here. First of all, it doesn’t have to be the main character, but any character. And it could be any job, right. Could I technically say Star Wars because I always wanted to be a Jedi? Or Captain of the Enterprise?

That’s all silly, of course. but to limit it to Earth-bound jobs that you get paid for that I actually would want to work, that narrows it down. The funny thing is a lot of screenwriters and Hollywood types have never worked real jobs, so they don’t always know what they’re talking about when it comes to careers, so they sometimes just make stuff up, or just have them working in an office, so I don’t know what to make of that. And you can cut out any cop or lawyer or doctor movies, because I have no desire to be any of those. I did want to be a screenwriter myself in my younger days, so I could have picked Adaptation, which is an awesome movie that I really need to watch again, or Chasing Amy, where Ben Affleck and Jason Lee were comic book writers. But no, I decided to reach beyond reality and think about the real dream job: stand-up comedian. But not just any comedian. No, the comedian who didn’t even think of himself as a comedian.

Man on the Moon

I picked this movie, among all the movies about stand-up comedians, for a few reasons. One is, I actually like it, which I know a lot of people do not. I also was a huge fan of Andy Kauffman, but not really when he was alive, since he died when I was still pretty young (And he did die. Those sightings of Tony Clifton after he was dead were just crap.) I also picked it because the story behind the movie is very interesting, possibly more so than the movie itself.

The background there is that Jim Carrey wanted to play Andy Kauffman, so he did. But he didn’t just act like him when the cameras were rolling, he basically pretended to be Andy Kauffman during the entire production. But he played the Andy that that Andy portrayed to others, which was itself kind of a performance. For example, during his widely popular run as the lovable Latke on Taxi (which Andy apparently hated doing but knew it afforded him the luxury to do other things he wanted to do), Andy decided he wanted to play bad-guy wrestler, knowing the performance art that was involved there. One of his stage gimmicks was to wrestle women from the crowd, calling himself the Inter-Gender Champion. The women were usually plants, but it certainly got people talking. He then offered his services around to a few of the territories at the time., eventually ending up in the Memphis-based territory co-owned by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who was also the top star there. The storyline was set up beautifully. Andy was in the ring with a popular female star of the company, and after his match he was kicking her while she was down, and Lawler came to her aid. Andy acted furious, saying that he didn’t wrestle men. He then would send tapes to the studio that were broadcasted on Memphis wrestling of himself degrading the Tennesseans who watched the show, telling them what soap and toilet paper were for. It was comic gold. Eventually this lead to a match with Lawler, who gave him a pile driver and supposedly injured his neck. Not long after that Andy used his Hollywood contacts to get on David Lettermen, where he and Lawler we supposed to bury that hatchet. Instead, Andy berated him some more, and Lawler hauled off and slapped him so hard that he was knocked off his chair. Andy then went on an obscenity-laced tirade, and threw Letterman’s coffee at Lawler. It is still, to this day, one of the greatest wrestling angles of all time.

The thing is, that’s all it was, because Kauffman and Lawler were actually good friends, and had cooked the whole storyline up. Lawler maintained that it was real for years after, and I guess Jim Carrey believed him, because on-set Carrey would apparently antagonize Lawler (who was brought in to play himself) similar to how Andy did when he was playing bad-guy wrestler, not realizing that Andy was actually a nice guy in real life. It got so bad, apparently, that Jerry Lawler had to get rough with Jim Carrey when Carrey was making remarks about Lawler’s wife one day on-set. If any of this sounds interesting to you, check out  Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond  on Netflix.

I have no idea if any of that behind-the-scenes drama had anything to do with the movie not doing well, but it didn’t. It’s still an interesting look at an interesting man. A guy who always wanted to play a part, so much that people thought he was crazy, which is really funny to me. For years, Steven Colbert played the wacky, arrogant host of The Colbert Report, which was a character he created and became immensely popular, and he rarely broke character on the show. That’s not who he really is, but no one called him crazy for it. But I guess back in Andy Kauffman’s era, he did seem like a crazy person, when in reality he just wanted to keep them guessing. Of course, there were also rumors that he started wearing his wrestling tights under his clothes, so who knows?

Really, though, back to why I picked this movie in the challenge; Yes, it would be really cool to play a comedian on the level or Andy Kauffman as a dream job. Of course, it probably wouldn’t happen today, anyway, and I’m obviously not that funny. But I do love to watch interviews with and shows about comedians, because that process intrigues me so much. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is a favorite of mine, as is Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. In fact, that’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I highly recommend listening to the audio book read by Martin himself.

Granted, some comedians’ stories end in tragedy, like Robin Williams, and some end in, well, a different kind of tragedy, like Louis C.K. It’s enough to believe those theories about comedians who are actually really disturbed and use the stage performances to work through their inner demons. But really, some of them are just funny people who don’t want to get real jobs. Hopefully that’s the kind I would have been, had I gone down that road.

Man on the Moon does have some flaws, as they really have to run through his life and career at ludicrous speed, but overall it’s fun and, who knows, maybe Andy would have appreciated Carrey’s take on his life. All I know is I’m glad it exists, and it still makes me wonder about the life that could have been. As far as the life that is, don’t forget to check out the podcast here, the comic here, and the t-shirts and stuff here. And come back tomorrow for more fun and excitement.

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