Even after watching Man on the Moon and really understanding the complexities of Andy Kaufman’s humor, it’s still difficult to put it into words. There are so many levels to it. Almost as though his purpose would change depending on the circumstance or who he was around.
The comedian made his life one long prank show. He trolled the entire world–including those closest to him. To the point where you’re never sure if he was ever genuine or not. It’s hilarious, but you can understand the frustration of those around him. Though he didn’t really care. He loved when the audience turned on him.
It’s like he reveled in people thinking he was dumb and unfunny. Those who really understood him and figured out what was going on would be his real fans, and the others would be the ones being tricked. He was good with that.
To an outsider, it appeared that Kaufman just cared about entertaining himself and making himself laugh. But in reality, he wanted to be appreciated. Not by the masses, but by enough people. Certain types of people.
It’s so easy to get lost in the spectacle that is Andy Kaufman that we forget to analyze the movie itself. Which might in fact be a compliment of how immersive it is. And Jim Carrey does such a great job as our subject that it feels like you’re watching Kaufman himself retell his own story. A sensation even more heightened by the casting of the actual actors and people playing themselves 20+ years later.
The movie spends very little time on Kaufman’s childhood, but it feels like enough. We get the perfect amount of background, but that’s not really what we came to see. We gather all of our information for studying Kaufman from his adult life.
Man on the Moon doesn’t hold onto or fixate on one specific detail, as it doesn’t allow itself to be trapped in a specific time period of his life. It doesn’t dwell on its time constraints as biopics tend to do. Things just happen when they happen.
Back in the 1970s and ’80s, there was this distance between celebrity and civilian that we may never experience again in this society. Kaufman was, and is still, a mystery. His life was one big prank show and we never saw behind the scenes. This is the closest we will get. But even his close friends who helped tell this story couldn’t ever fully see behind the curtain.
Andy relished in tricking everyone, and despite how fake his life appears to be, his story feels so real. Because this is the closest we will ever be to the man.