I am currently sitting half-naked in bed at a swanky hotel in Midtown Manhattan, eating a tub of greek yogurt and using a hotel towel as a bib (because I am ’bout that life.) I am here at the request of a yogurt company to shoot a web-only commercial for one of their new products. Free flight, free hotel room, and free yogurt for 7 days. I really thought this trip couldn’t get any better. Then I ran into Bob Zmuda – the writer and best friend of late(?) Andy Kaufman.
As I was walking towards the front desk in the hotel lobby to get more yogurt towels and to inquire if there was a hot tub (’bout dat life), I saw a grizzled old man with a white beard and long white hair speaking to the two gorgeous front desk clerks, occupying their full attention. He was holding a book to their faces, pointing to the sleeve and saying “See? That’s me right there!” Both clerks seemed charmed but skeptical of the man’s purported celebrity. And before I could rudely interject by saying “Y’all got a hot tub ’round here?”, the man set down the book revealing the cover which read Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies. I stood there for a few seconds, staring at the man and wondering if this was indeed the author. I think one of the two clerks asked me a question, but I can’t be sure since I was busy using all my brain power to figure out of this was Zmuda or not. Eventually, I hear the second clerk say “so the room is under the name… ‘Robert?'” That’s when I shout “Holy crap, you’re Bob Zmuda!” He shakes my hand and then gives the two stunning clerks a look – sort of a non-verbal “told ya so.”
I introduce myself and immediately ask for a picture with him. I tell him that I am a stand-up comedian and he begins talking about the fun he’s had at “Mitzi’s place” (The Comedy Store) in Los Angeles. We talk about stand-up for a bit and he asks me if I am a fan of Andy Kaufman. That’s when I start gushing.
For decades, I have been obsessed with the legendary comic/martyr Andy Kaufman and his prophet Bob Zmuda. I’ve even read Zmuda’s first book Andy Kaufman Revealed!, and mentioned that his episode of WTF with Marc Maron was my favorite by far. He seemed genuinely grateful to have run into such a huge fan in the lobby of a hotel. The clerks watched our exchange in silence (although, upon reflection, it probably looked like he paid me to run into him and pour my heart out.) I start asking him about the new book and he opens it up to a page, points and says “read the third paragraph.” He stands back and waits for me to read. This is what that paragraph says:
“As you will see, we hold nothing back. Lynne reveals for the first time that Andy was bisexual and possibly died of AIDS. I know for a fact that he faked his death and will be returning.”
As I read this my jaw falls open and I look up at Zmuda and say “for real?” with the sincerity and innocence of a child at Sunday school. He begins to laugh. I’m still not sure if he was laughing at my earnestness or my gullibility. I ask him again “For real, though. You know this for a fact?”
“Oh yeah.” he says to me, still grinning.
“But, how is that… possible?” I ask without a hint of incredulousness.
“Buy the book,” he says.
I stand there in a daze, trying to process what I’ve just heard. My thoughts are racing. “Andy Kaufman is alive? Is he serious or just trying to sell his book? It can’t be true… But what if it is? No, it can’t be real. But what is real? Am I even real?” And while I’m standing there, silently staring at Zmuda and questioning my own existence, Zmuda begins laughing and slaps me on the back and says “Just kidding. I’m not really Bob Zmuda.” He opens the book again and points to the sleeve. “See, that’s Bob Zmuda.” He points to a picture of a man who looks exactly like him. I look at the picture, look back at Zmuda or whoever-the-f*ck, and the only English I can produce from my mouth is a muffled “huh?” He laughs again, pats me on the back again and says “Just kidding. I am Bob Zmuda.” I let out a forced giggle and continue staring at him blankly.
He then turns to the clerks and asks “which way is 39th Street?” They give him directions and he walks off, leaving me a confused and disoriented wreck. I snap out of the daze for just long enough to get more towels, but forget to ask about the hot tub. Now I’m back in my hotel room. What the f*ck just happened? I need more yogurt.