One of the most moments and talked about moments in television history happened in 1982 on the David Letterman show featuring first time guest and pro wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler and performance artists and television star Andy Kaufman. For those who don’t know much about Andy, there’s a reason I call him a performance artist and not a comedian. While he would make the rounds in comedy clubs and starred in the popular sitcom Taxi, Andy wouldn’t tell many jokes. His act consisted of trying anything he can to get a reaction from an audience, both good or bad.
Andy grew up a big wrestling fan and emulated wrestling legend The Nature Boy Buddy Roberts. He loved the idea of being a bad guy wrestler, but didn’t want to wrestle men….so he wrestled women. He would go on late night shows or Saturday Night Live and mock women telling them “to get back into the kitchen.” He would then challenge any women in the audience (for real) to a wrestling match. He received a lot of hate mail for this act.
To continue this act, Andy went to Memphis which was had a large wrestling territory. After weeks of challenging women, he found himself against a man for the first time…the King of Memphis Jerry Lawler. For weeks they built their feud on-air with Andy sending in tapes from Hollywood about how he will mop the floor with Lawler. In those days wrestling wasn’t known as sports entertainment, so many people believed that Andy was way in over his head.
For over 20 years, people didn’t know the truth about the Lawler vs. Kaufman match, whether it was legit or staged. During the match Lawler gave Andy the piledriver (an illegal move at the time) and Andy (for real) spent 3 days in a hospital and over 6 months wearing a neck-brace. The two would meet again this time on the David Letterman Show. David’s job was to get some answers about the match and patch things up between the two. The real story goes that the producers and Dave thought that Lawler and Kaufman were going to apologize to one another, then sing a song. What happened was drastically different…