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Believe it or not, comedian Andy Kaufman was banned from Saturday Night Live, but beloved for his portrayal of Latka Gravas on the sitcom Taxi.
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Born in New York City on January 17, 1949, Andy Kaufman began performing at age 8. His later stand-up routine was unorthodox, but it caught the attention of Hollywood, and he was soon appearing on TV, including on a new show called Saturday Night Live, Van Dyke and Company, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Mike Douglas Show, The Dating Game and the comedy show Fridays. In 1979, Kaufman made a now-famous appearance in a show at Carnegie Hall,
after which he arranged for the entire audience of 2,800 people to be bussed to a Manhattan café for milk and cookies. Around this time, he landed the role of Latka Gravas, an auto mechanic of indeterminate nationality, on the hit sitcom Taxi. Kaufman also appeared on the big screen, including in the films In God We Trust (1980) and Heartbeeps (1981), before his death in 1984.
Performance artist and comedian Andy Kaufman was born in New York City January 17, 1949. Raised in the affluent suburb of Great Neck, Long Island, New York, Kaufman early on began practicing his unorthodox brand of comedy, staging a make-believe television show in his bedroom and performing at children's birthday parties from the age of 8. He graduated from high school in 1967 and received a 4-F deferment from the military draft after failing the psychological portion of the test. Early on, Kaufman embraced the practice of transcendental meditation, which became an important fixture in his life and helped him gain the courage to perform. While studying at Boston's Grahm Junior College, where he majored in television and radio production, Kaufman wrote, produced, directed, and starred in his own program, Uncle Andy's Funhouse, on a campus TV station.
In 1971, Kaufman was 'discovered' by Budd Friedman, owner of the Improvisation Comedy Club, while doing a stand-up routine in a Long Island nightclub. He began performing at improv locations in both New York and Los Angeles, confronting his often confused audiences with a strange kind of performance art—he once read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby aloud until his entire audience walked out; another time, he appeared on stage with a sleeping bag and slept his way through the act. With an array of bizarre foreign accents, dead-on impersonations of Elvis Presley, and a strange obsession with professional wrestling, Kaufman won fans—and rabid critics—in large numbers. Through his stand-up, he met the comedic actors Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke; their manager, George Shapiro (later co-executive producer of the hit sitcom Seinfeld), agreed to represent Kaufman as well.
Kaufman made his national TV debut in 1974 on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour. In 1975, the NBC executive Dick Ebersol saw Kaufman's stand-up routine and invited him to audition for a new comedy program called Saturday Night Live. Kaufman made his first of 14 appearances on the show during its first-ever broadcast on October 11, 1975, when he lip-synched "The Theme from Mighty Mouse." The most notorious of the many characters Kaufman portrayed on SNL was the self-proclaimed undefeated Intergender World Wrestling Champion, an ultra-chauvinistic character who offered women $1000 if they could pin him in a wrestling match.
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