Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ANDY KAUFMAN: Mighty Mouse (October 11, 1975)

Andy Kaufman performing his Mighty Mouse bit on the premier episode of Saturday Night Live (then called NBC's Saturday Night) on the night of Saturday October 11, 1975. I didn't see it that first night but I did see it when it was repeated during that first season. I was eight years old.

An absolutely perfect clown gag, just brilliant.

I have to place this one in a category with Buster Keaton's vase bit from Pest of the West, Ernie Kovacs' Nairobi Trio and Jim Henson's Mahna Mahna; a bit where the performer is locked into an inevitable action that the audience is fully aware of and totally expects. It's virtually the exact opposite of a traditional clown gag which is usually based on the element of surprise.

I could watch this a million times.

Side note: I watched Andy Kaufman punch Jack Burns live on ABC's Fridays while sleeping over at Eric Mischel's house.


Rose said...

I was privileged to see this when it first aired, (at fifteen) and I was struck by it. It was different.

...and courageous.

Standing...letting time be...enduring the audiences response, their possible cringing or disapproval...and then committing to that very brief moment. The moment when it seems you interact.

Although it all was interaction.

It was brilliant.

Every little nuance was brilliant. Still is.


I'd say that this is a comedy of anticipation.

We the audience anticipate and anticipate and anticipate, and in some ways expect him to screw it up somehow, and that he doesn't is even more brilliant. (and the surprise)

There's a very typical clown musical entree with the triangle player who waits all day to hit that one triumphant triangle, and it's his anticipation of it that makes it compelling. I saw Jeff Raz do something similar a number of years ago, and in more recent times the Maestrosities do something quite similar. And I'm sure there are countless other examples.

Kaufman pulls it off in his own very wonderful way.

Thanks for reminding me of this.

clownron said...

I saw this routine one night when Billy Baker and Zapata worked an open mic night in '72' at the Improv in NYC. Not only did Kaufman do his Mighty Mouse routine, we witnessed
JJ Walker and Freddie Prinz as well. By the end of that summer Freddie Prinz 'killed' on the Tonight Show and picked up "Chico and the Man".

clownron said...

It was stupid of me not to mention that Billy and Zapata were great that night at the Improv. Their physical comedy and verbal patter was very different and the audience ate it up.