The Time that Andy Kaufman Took Carnegie Hall Out for Cookies and Milk


Everybody say milk. Okay, now everybody say cookies. Okay, very good!

It was the night of his long awaited Carnegie Hall Special and twenty shining school buses stood idling outside the theater. Andy Kaufman had finished what he considered to be his life’s greatest accomplishment in front of thousands.  At precisely 8:03, Tony Clifton, the alter ego, opened the show with a graciously short appearance to antagonize the crowd. A cute, but cringeworthy group of singers called “The Love Family” (quite popular in South America) performed only to be booed off the stage by an unprecedented cry for more  Clifton.

Kaufman then emerged as himself to settle his grandmother (who looked an awful like Robin Williams) into her comfy perch on the stage and promised the audience that if they were very good, very very good, they would have milk and cookies at the end of the show. No one believed him.

The show continued with an onslaught of Andy. Lured straight from Times Square for a hundred dollars and a bottle of port, a cheerful Grant “Bliss” Bowman sang a rousing “Happy New Year”. A former dancer, now brittle with age, was urged by Kaufman to reprise her role from “I’ve Got Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle” mounted on a stick horse until dizzy. She then fell comatose on the stage floor for far too long to be funny. Not to worry because Andy had a special Native American hat just for the occasion and brought her back to life to thunderous applause and a few walkouts.

Elvis made an appearance, he had rubbed, ahem, wrestled, a few women, a choir sang “Carolina in the Morning” along with Tony Clifton and his, no really, friend, Andy Kaufman, and then came Santa Clause and Kaufman in a terry bathrobe to end the show.

“Thank you.This is the first half of my act. And for the second half…you’ve all been very good-you really have-and I’d like to take you all out for milk and cookies now!”

Of course the audience hadn’t believed him at first but there they were, being shuffled onto school buses and taken to the School of Printing for Famous Amos cookies and Cream-O-Land half pints of milk. There were jugglers, mimes, street mystics, rock bands, clowns, and, of course, some more wrestling. Over 20,000 dollars spent to take an audience for cookies. The night was a dizzying culmination of Andy’s childish fascinations and all-too-adult preoccupations. The scene at School of Printing’s lunchroom, now crammed with toddler sized tables and besieged by one of the grooviest audiences Carnegie Hall has ever seen, was lightning in a bottle.

The night came to an end but shutting the show down proved difficult. Costs were mounting and Bob Zmuda, producer, and Andy were beginning to worry how to shut the party down. With tongue firmly in cheek, Andy announced that the 3rd half of his act would begin tomorrow afternoon at the Staten Island Ferry.

300  people showed up wide eyed and full of smiles. Andy rewarded the faithful with ice cream cones, a reading of “MacArthur Park,” a singalong with “Mighty Mouse,” and promised everyone that in 1982 he would take an audience around the world.

Dubious, but a nice thought.



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