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Film: Man on the Moon
Hello, my name is Andy, and this is my trope page.

If you're looking for a similarly named trope in which the moon is depicted as having a face, look here.

Man on the Moon (1999) is a Biopic of Andy Kaufman, directed by Miloš Forman, written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and Titled After the Song by REM. With regards to its writers, the film completes a sort of spiritual trilogy — namely, biopics of eccentrics, or "anti-great men." Its predecessors are Ed Wood and The People Vs Larry Flynt, the latter of which was also directed by Forman.

The bulk of the film chronicles Andy's rise to stardom via the comedy club circuit and Taxi in The Seventies, and the fall he suffers in The Eighties as his eccentric acts become harder for those who care about him — much less audiences — to understand, much less embrace. Acknowledging its use of Artistic License upfront (and building a Credits Gag upon it), the film pivots upon Jim Carrey's performance as Andy and his many alter-egos.

Hello, my name is Andy and these are my tropes:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Jim Carrey is a lot more conventionally attractive than the Real Life Andy Kaufman, even with a few warts.
    • Paul Giamatti as well. No offense to Zmuda but he's not an attractive man in the least.
  • Anachronism Stew: A Ms. Pac-Man machine in the late 1970s. (The published early draft of the script specified Space Invaders, which would have been more accurate.)
  • As Himself: Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Budd Friedman, David Letterman, Lorne Michaels, Richard Belzer, Randall Carver, Jeff Conaway, Marilu Henner, Judd Hirsch, Christopher Lloyd, Carol Kane, and J. Alan Thomas all play late 1970s/early 1980s versions of themselves.
    • Notably subverted in that one regular character who didn't appear in the Taxi scenes was Louie DePalma, played by Danny DeVito; this is due to Celebrity Paradox (see below).
    • Also missing is Tony Danza who refused to appear due to a long standing dislike for Kaufman.
  • Artistic License: The biggest use of it is moving his legendary Carnegie Hall show to shortly before his death in 1984 — in Real Life it was in 1979, at the peak of his mainstream success.
    • Also, using Jim Ross as the announcer in Memphis, when he was working for "Cowboy" Bill Watts's Mid-South Wrestling in Louisiana/Oklahoma at the time, because Ross and Jerry Lawler were the main announce team for WWE at the time the movie was produced. Similarly, using a "Global Wrestling Federation" banner. The Lawler-Kaufman match was held by the Continental Wrestling Federation in Memphis, TN in 1982. The Global Wrestling Federation was a Dallas, TX promotion that existed from 1991-1994.
    • When the Saturday Night Live call-in segment aired to vote Kaufman to stay or leave, the film showed it presented by Lorne Michaels. In reality, Lorne had left SNL years earlier, and the segment was hosted by Gary Kroeger.
    • The Tony Clifton incident happenend during the first year before Christopher Lloyd became a regular.
    • Andy and Lynn did not meet in the wrestling ring.
    • The film shows his Fridays stunt as a real reaction by Kaufman who didn't want to do drug-related humor, even telling the audience that the sketch was not staged. According to multiple sources from the show, it actually was (though who all was in on it is up for debate), plus the scene as shown differs significantly from what the sketch, available on [YouTube], actually looked like.
  • Biopic
  • Celebrity Paradox: Danny DeVito was fascinated by Andy's relationship with his agent George Shapiro and wanted to play that role from the beginning — not realizing that this would come up where Taxi was concerned. Once the dilemma was recognized, the solution was not to include Louie De Palma (and thus, DeVito) in the recreations of the show. To help make up for this and Tony Danza's choice not to participate, Christopher Lloyd and Carol Kane appear in these scenes despite not joining the series as regulars until after the Tony Clifton incident that the Taxi-related stretch of the film ends on.
    • Jim Ross plays Lance Russell during the Memphis wrestling scenes. While never showing up in the film, Ross at that time had already begun his career as an announcer, working in the Mid-South promotion in Lousiana/Oklahoma.
  • Character as Himself: Tony Clifton. (Also, Howdy Doody.)
  • Composite Character: Lynne Marguiles (played by Courtney Love) was Andy's late-in-life girlfriend — they met in 1983 — and becomes a composite of his many girlfriends over the years here, meeting Andy at the turn of The Eighties when she volunteers to wrestle him.
  • Credits Gag: A rare opening credits one, with Andy coming out and acknowledging that the film is terrible and because it took so much artistic liberties with his life story, he just decided to cut "all the baloney" (read: the whole movie) and starts to roll the end credits. After fooling around with the credits, he then states that it was just to shoo out anyone who wouldn't understand him and then starts the movie proper. As mentioned above, Howdy Doody and Tony Clifton are also listed As Himself.
  • Crying Wolf: Andy faces the consequences of this in the final act.
  • Foreshadowing: At one point, Andy argues that he is expected to shock the audience and is short on ideas, briefly mentioning faking his own death as one.
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: Andy is adamant about not becoming a sitcom actor who simply parrots expected lines. At the end of the Taxi montage, this trope is applied to the many times he says "Tank you veddy much'' on the show as Latka.
  • Gallows Humor: Andy starts to laugh during his "psychic surgery" to cure his cancer, realizing they're frauds - the same kind of performer he'd always been. It's the last time we see him alive.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Justified. Twice, Andy has trouble talking due to having a cough. It's not acknowledged by anyone in-story and is easily missed...but it foreshadows his lung cancer. What justifies this? The real Andy only learned he had cancer after his loved ones convinced him to see a doctor about his worsening cough.
  • Insistent Terminology: Andy hates being called a "comedian", since his act does not consist of telling jokes to get laughs. He prefers "song and dance man" or "entertainer" and tries to avoid being pigeonholed as a comedian, which leads to his reluctance to do Taxi.
  • Jerk Ass: Andy's Tony Clifton act, which basically consists of him pretending to be a terrible lounge singer who spends most of his stage time hurling abuse at the audience.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Andy; the problem is that for many of his ideas to work, he has to hide that heart securely...
    Lynn: So you just... pretend to be an asshole?
    Andy: (shrugs) It's what I'm good at.
    Lynn: Yeah... you are... really good at it.
  • Match Cut / Time Skip: 8-year-old Andy performs his Call-and-Response Song "The Cow Goes Moo" with his little sister doing the responses. On "And the lion goes —" "Roar!", her voice is replaced with that of a bored, middle-aged comedy club patron — cue the match cut revealing him, the setting, and from there the reveal that Andy, now in his mid-twenties, is performing the song for adults.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The opening Credits Gag with the adult Andy ends as he presents some home movies of his family in The Fifties that segue into the movie proper. Little Andy's showbiz ambitions and Cloud Cuckoolander nature are established as he performs for an unseen audience in his bedroom (he thinks there are cameras in the walls and thus people watching him), and his father tells him he'll have to perform for actual people from now on...
  • Money, Dear Boy: In-universe. Andy takes the Taxi gig at the behest of Shapiro in order to gain money and recognition to launch future projects; Andy hates sitcoms in general, is wary of being labeled as a "comedian'', makes no secret about his disdain of working on the show, works many special demands into his contract, and generally tries to act in a manner that will get him out of his deal.
  • Oscar Bait: Not that it took. Besides failing at the box-office, the film wasn't nominated for any Oscars, which was actually something of a surprise at the time as Carrey had been expected to get a nomination, especially so soon after what was seen as a snub for The Truman Show.
    • Carrey took home a Best Actor Golden Globe for both Truman and Man on the Moon in consecutive years and got snubbed both times. Ouch.
  • Psychic Surgery: Andy travels to the Philippines to have his inoperable lung cancer treated by a man claiming this ability. He starts laughing hysterically when the "surgery" starts, apparently realizing it's just a trick. It doesn't work, clearly, as the next scene is of his funeral. Sadly Truth in Television-many people in the '70s and '80s, often, like Kaufman, with terminal diseases, were defrauded by such con men in the Philippines.
  • The Trickster: Andy.
  • Troll: Andy's entire comedy career is essentially a series of ridiculously elaborate practical jokes towards his audience, and the audience is sometimes merely studio execs who have to deal with his and/or Tony Clifton's shenanigans.
  • Wham Shot: In the epilogue, the final shot of the film tracks through the audience cheering Tony Clifton's comeback performance one year after Andy's death. Bob Zmuda is among them. So who's playing Tony?
    • Probable answer: Kaufman's brother, who in real life occasionally played Clifton a few times both while Kaufman was still alive and after his death.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Andy tricks Lynne into coming to Memphis with him by saying that he will use one of his wrestling matches as his public proposal of marriage to her, but in fact he needs her to set up his "feud" with Jerry Lawler (who interrupts the show to reveal their relationship and that she's a plant, and challenging him to wrestle his protege instead). Afterward, she calls him out on using her as a prop and — for the first time in the story — Andy apologizes for tricking someone. A Missing Trailer Scene has Andy's father calling him out over tricking his family with regards to his fate in the Lawler/Kaufman match that supposedly left him in a neckbrace; again, Andy apologizes, but also warns his family that nothing he does in public is real. His unwillingness to stop his tricky ways leads to the Crying Wolf problem above.


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alternative title(s): Man On The Moon
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