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Jerry Lawler tells the genius truth about Andy Kaufman at Baltimore Comic Con

Jerry Lawler tells the genius truth about Andy Kaufman at Baltimore Comic Con

Jerry The King Lawler filmfad.com

Film Fad got an exclusive interview with Jerry “The King” Lawler discussing the transition of wrestlers to feature films and the hidden genius of the late Andy Kaufman.

I’ve been a fan of wrestling since I started wrestling myself at an early age. While some of my favorite wrestlers included the usual fan favorites like The Rock, Steve Austin, and Mick Foley, there was a constant throughout my time watching the sport.

 


 

Jerry “The King” Lawler is a wrestling legend himself but for me he was an engaging voice that continually piqued my interest in the sport. We had the chance to speak with him at the Baltimore Comic Con this year and in addition to being the most entertaining interview we did, he also kindly opened up about his career and collaboration with the late Andy Kaufman. We discovered that his relationship with Andy Kaufman was one of great respect and that their collaboration introduced a type of comedic improv that was way ahead of its time.

Listen below or read the transcription that follows.

Film Fad:

[Professional] wrestling has definitely developed into a more rounded entertainment industry, being a legend yourself what do you think of so many of these wrestlers now transitioning to film?

Jerry Lawler:

I was one of the first guys doing movies back in the day. I’ve done three different movies, one with Michael J. Fox called Life with Mikey, I’ve done one with Jim Carrey and Danny Devito called “Man on the Moon,” and then the blockbuster that a lot of people don’t realize that I did was that I played Sheriff Jackson Cole in the huge, smash hit “Girls Gone Dead.”

Film Fad:

Hahahaha!

Jerry Lawler:

What are you laughing at? Why are you…

Girls Gone Dead

Girls Gone Dead – Jerry Lawler’s latest film

Film Fad:

Nothing, just sounds awesome!

Jerry Lawler:

Yeah right, ha! It’s pretty awesome, it’s showing on Showtime right now matter of fact. So if you get a chance to check it out you’ll get a good laugh out of it. But anyway, you know it’s cool, it’s just like a next step. Of course I don’t know if there’s ever going to be anybody that’s going to equal what The Rock did in the movies. But you know it started with Hulk Hogan with that part in the “Rocky” movies. And then it’s just a natural transition. We’ve got so many talented guys in the wrestling business that would be excellent in movies and now with WWE having their own film department, it just makes the pathway easier to get to, to get into that field.

Film Fad:

Sure, so where did you get your start? What appealed more to you the sport aspect or the entertainment aspect when you got your start in wrestling?

Jerry Lawler:

I’d say probably the entertainment aspect in the fact that just going to the matches as a fan, I always looked at it in a different light than if I went to a baseball game or if I went to a football game. When I went to wrestling it was, to me at least, more about entertainment and more about being entertained than it was watching the competition. If you go to a baseball or football game or something like that you know you’re worried about who’s going to win. You know when I went as a fan to watch wrestling, I didn’t even care who was going to win, I was just caught up in the characters, the personalities, and all that sort of stuff.

Jerry The King Lawler

Jerry “The King” Lawler

Film Fad:

You had some time with Andy Kaufman as well. Would you say that kind of started as a real feud? I know there’s been speculation on the internet on whether it was real or whether it was fake. I think you did comment at one point that it was an act between you both.

Jerry Lawler:

Well there was never any real animosity between Andy [Kaufman] and I. He was a huge wrestling fan, had great respect for me and the business. Andy [Kaufman] and I were the exact same age and in almost 2 years that we worked together, never referred to me ever as anything other than “Mr. Lawler.” I would get on to him, I’d say, “Look, Mr. Lawler’s my father, don’t call me that Andy.” “Okay I won’t Mr. Lawler.” And that’s just the way he was. I think the wrestling probably influenced Andy’s career and his personality. When he was a youngster he watched wrestling like I did and he was a fan of the bad guys. He watched the guys like Nature Boy Buddy Rogers and he told me he was fascinated by the fact that somebody could go on television and intentionally try to make people dislike them. Most people would want people to like them. He said he would see these bad guy wrestlers trying to make people hate them but they were still popular and so Andy [Kaufman] incorporated that into his act. He hated being called a comedian, he said “I’ve never told a joke in my life,” he said, “I’m a performance artist,” and he liked just doing things that would get a reaction from a crowd and he actually enjoyed getting a negative reaction more so than a positive. And that’s why he started wrestling women, just to play the bad guy role and then it evolved into he and I having a match. Our whole thing just came about in the fact that Andy [Kaufman] was kind of dropped into my lap as a great gift in the fact that he wanted to be involved with wrestling and he came down to Memphis and we put him in there with the women wrestlers and everything. And then after a couple of weeks it was so popular and drew such big crowds, I just selfishly was thinking, “I gotta figure out a way to get a rub off this big Hollywood star that we’ve got here in Memphis, Tennessee.” So I proposed to him having a match with a man and he first said, “Oh no, I can’t do that, I’m not physically able.” So I came up with the idea of matches that we could have and then it evolved into going on the Letterman Show. And a lot of this stuff that people thought was all planned, in reality, Andy was just such a genius. It wasn’t, it was just almost like improv. Everything on the Letterman Show, half the stuff we did at wrestling, it just happened. We’re working together, but by the same token we didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, I’m gonna stand up and slap you on The Letterman Show.”

Jerry Lawler Andy Kaufman

The slap heard round the world!

Film Fad:

Well both of you collaborated and created one of the most iconic moments in TV history.

Jerry Lawler:

Yeah, they just had the thing in Rolling Stone magazine last month. That’s what it was called, “The Six Most Iconic Interviews in the History of Late Night with David Letterman,” and Andy and I were in the top six of all time. So yeah it was pretty memorable. Without a doubt Andy was the greatest thing to ever happen to my career.

Film Fad:

Well we thank you so much for your time.

I would again like to thank Jerry Lawler for the interview. Out of everyone at the convention he was one of the most jovial and respectful people that we met and one of the most enjoyable interviews I had ever done. In addition to being called “The King” because of his legendary wrestling career, I think he also earns that title from being a person of true class. I look forward to speaking with him again and will surely seek him out at other conventions to follow.

About The Author

Ryan

Ryan has been fascinated with film and pop culture since childhood. Throughout college he "played it safe" taking the more lucrative route of being a computer programmer while squeezing in film related courses where he could...but even during his post college career, he could never escape his true passion. After following one of his favorite blogs for a long time, he approached the site's Editor about writing and they reluctantly gave him a shot. He later became their Senior Writer which led to a variety of other projects, radio show appearances, features, and high profile celebrity interviews. Despite his success with blogging, he still wanted more so in order to expand his creative addiction, he merged his IT skills and blogging know-how to create FilmFad.com which has continued to grow into a creative Mecca of pop-culture fun and integrity.   [email protected]    Film Fad

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That was a hard slap , if that was not planned I wonder if it caught Andy by surprise?

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[…] Lawler revealed that the whole incident was indeed a set-up. He said of his friend Kaufman that he hated being […]

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