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Weekly Alibi Bob Zmuda's "Andy Kaufman Revealed! Best Friend Tells All!"

By Mladen Baudrand

NOVEMBER 1, 1999: 

Andy Kaufman Revealed! Best Friend Tells All by Bob Zmuda (Little, Brown and Company), hardcover, $24

How did Bob Zmuda ever become one of television's busiest writers? He must have conned his way into the job of co-executive producer of the soon-to-be-released movie about Andy Kaufman, Man on the Moon. Bob Zmuda is a hack who barely understands simple sentence structure. Moreover, he is not funny.

Just kidding! You've been had by a Kaufmanesque prank.

Zmuda is, in fact, a humorous and entertaining storyteller who has spent years dedicating himself to developing his award-winning writing and producing skills. For years Zmuda was Andy Kaufman's writer, best friend and confidant. Together Zmuda and Kaufman developed a surreal style of comedy that befuddled audiences, friends and entertainment industry insiders. In Andy Kaufman Revealed! Best Friend Tells All, Zmuda candidly documents Kaufman's private life and career, including his mysterious and untimely death in 1984 at age 35. So notorious had Kaufman become for pulling off unbelievable comedic pranks that even those closest to him wondered if he had staged his own death. Zmuda reports that childhood friend Joe Troiani stood over Kaufman's dead body at the funeral and said, "Hey Andy, I'm here and we're all alone, so c'mon, man, you can tell me ... this is a big fucking joke, isn't it?"

Perhaps it was a joke. According to Zmuda, Kaufman was a man of many contradictions. He describes Kaufman as having been a shy and reclusive man who practiced Transcendental Meditation religiously, did not drink or smoke, but who also had an insatiable appetite for women, many of whom were prostitutes. Kaufman was the sweet and gentle Latka on "Taxi," but he was also obnoxious lounge lizard Tony Clifton. In spite of Zmuda's book, Andy Kaufman remains a mystery. A consummate trickster, he practiced a kind of experimental comedy that questioned the boundaries of reality. Similarly, Bob Zmuda claims to "tell all" in his book, but perhaps Andy Kaufman's co-conspirator still has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve. Have fun with this story, and take it with a grain of salt.


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