Man On The Moon

Man On The Moon


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Andy Kaufman was not funny. That's the joke. He can't be the first TV comic to be remembered for being obnoxious, but is probably the least understood.

Jim Carrey works hard to make you love him. He fails. Andy is not nice. He thinks insulting women, beating them up in Memphis wrestling rings, inventing an alter ego who sings like a drain on the Vegas lounge circuit, while insulting his audience, is somehow wacky and original.

Copy picture

He doesn't mind rejection. He encourages it. His best gag is being punched in the face live on Late Night With David Letterman - staged, of course. His second best is dying of cancer at 35 and imagining the mourners wondering whether it's for real, or not.

The film is produced by Danny DeVito, who worked with Andy on Taxi. Carrey is a self-confessed admirer of his nihilist humour. At one point, he is called "the king of negative energy", as if positive energy is predictable and boring.

Kaufman's story is remarkable in that he emerged from the pits of barroom stand-up with anything resembling a career. If agent George Shapiro (wonderfully played by DeVito) hadn't caught his Elvis impersonation one evening, he might never have been heard of again. "You're insane," George says. "But you also might be brilliant." It's the you're-so-bad-you're-good argument.

Milos Forman's inimitable style (Amadeus, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest) is nowhere to be seen. There are moments when you feel that this is either a memorial tribute for the family, or a postumous practical joke, as Carrey acts his socks off and the need to honour the cult-of-Andy appears paramount.

To be fair, it must be admitted that Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling et al cite Kaufman as a major influence. REM's Man On The Moon, a tribute ballad, reached No 1.

"I don't do jokes," Carrey-as-Kaufman says. "I don't even know what's funny." No truer words...

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
Share this with others on...
Man On The Moon packshot
Biopic of Andy Kaufman.
Amazon link

Director: Milos Forman

Writer: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski

Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Courtney Love, Gerry Becker, Greyson Erik Pendry, Brittany Colonna, Leslie Lyles, Bobby Boriello, George Shapiro, Budd Friedman, Tom Dreesen, Thomas Armbruster

Year: 1999

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database: