- Published on Saturday, June 30 2012
- Written by Kate Ferguson
"The Tony Clifton Review" recently opened up a residency at Sunset’s World Famous Comedy Store, and what an experience it is.
Without giving too much away (this is a PG-13 site, after all), it’s safe to say that I walked out in a mild state of shock, and not just because of the cringe-worthy jokes, stripping down Cliftonette dancers, fake vomit, and XXX-rated clips mixed in with press conference footage of a certain lady lawyer and her former porn star/mistress client...
I was also in shock because of the expertly-run mini-Tony marionette in the middle of the room, the performer who was pouring Jack Daniels shots from the bottle into audience member’s mouths (and then kissing them), a mysteriously sweet and innocent back-up singer, and a wonderful band, The Cliftones, that somehow remained straight-faced and juxtaposed throughout Tony’s gurgled profanities and sometimes drunkenly repeated jokes.
What was also mildly shocking was that, amongst the debauchery, political commentary, and pedophile jokes, there was a prevalent life message on the importance of enjoying yourself and not taking things too seriously. Huh.
(I also learned and can pass on the lesson not to surprise a date with such a show as witnessed in the front row by the girl who was hiding in her boyfriend's jacket and had to embarrassedly storm out a few minutes in.)
Now who, you may be asking, is this Tony Clifton? Technically, there are a few answers. There was an actual lounge singer by the name that was turned into a fictitious character by the comedian Andy Kaufman in the 1970’s. (For the record Andy did not consider himself a "comedian"... more like a professional prankster.) The raunchy and intentionally untalented lounge singer was sometimes played by Kaufman as a break from his character on the sitcom "Taxi", but he was also played by a slew of others, which lead people to believe for a period of time that he was an actual person. Clifton’s character even accused Kaufman of using his fame at one point, and it’s still unclear who was playing the character on certain talk show appearances, etc.
(In the 1999 film about Kaufman's life, Man On the Moon, it's made clear that Kaufman was indeed the man behind Clifton a majority of the time, occasionally switching off with his friend Bob Zmuda... until the very last scene when we see Clifton performing at a club, after Kaufman has died, and with Zmuda standing by and watching amusedly. Hmmm... Maybe it was actually Jim Carrey that Kate saw performing Thursday night? - Ed.)
It’s fascinating to considerer that this huge presence of a performer parading through the room keeps his sunglasses and air of mystery on at all times. Also fascinating that the proceeds of the raffle tickets available that could grant you access to your very own hooker were all for charity. And then there’s the fact that Kaufman had discussed faking his own death and died at the same place for the same reason that Clifton’s character had in a screenplay he had written five years prior.
If you still have questions at this point, you’re not alone; my mind is still reeling. I might, in fact, have to return to the show. Grab your tickets and show times on The Comedy Store website. If you think you can handle it.
- Kate Ferguson, YH Staff
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