Step Aside, Andy Kaufman: Obama’s Performance Art

Written by Teri O'Brien on May 22, 2014

Famous comedians are often known for their catchphrases. If you hear “I get no respect,” no doubt you think of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, who typically used that line as an intro to a string of laugh lines that left his audience in stitches. When you heard that phrase, you knew what was coming, and you looked forward to it.

Other public figures have catchphrases, too, which also give the listener a heads up about what’s coming, except we don’t always look forward to what we’re about to hear. It’s comedy, but of the unintentional variety, and considering the gravity of matters being trivialized, it’s hard to see the humor. I refer to Barack Obama’s ridiculous “I had no idea! I am outraged! I am going to get to the bottom of this situation!” playbook, most recently deployed to try to stop the public relations’ bleeding resulting from the horrific disclosures about deliberate malfeasance at facilities run by the Veterans’ Administration.

Obama’s buffoonish spokes-puppet Jay Carney told us that his boss first heard about the ill vets who died desperately waiting for calls from the VA telling them that they could finally see doctors, calls that never came, from press reports on CNN, except that then we found out that the Bush transition team told the incoming Obama administration about the distressing wait times problem at VA facilities back in 2008. Recall that it was exactly one year ago, in May, 2013, that another Obama mouthpiece, Dan “The law is irrelevant” Pfeiffer, and Obama himself told us that he first learned of the IRS targeting of conservative groups from news reports.

Good comedy gets a lot of its punch from its unpredictability, and this ass-covering blather is relentlessly predictable. Whether it is the IRS targeting of his political opponents, the ludicrous Obamacare rollout and its related “Lie of the Year,” the Benghazi debacle and subsequent coverup, or this latest disaster, to hear him and his surrogates tell it, the Big Guy was out of the loop. Did he ditch that “The Buck Stops Here” sign along with that bust of Churchill? If not, he should do that and replace it with one of those “Some people make things happen. Some people watch what happened. And,some people say ‘what just happened?” Hilarious when you see it on a co-worker’s cubicle wall. Disgusting and despicable when it belongs in the office of a narcissistic, thin-skinned empty suit/con artist trying to save himself from criticism after sick and wounded vets die waiting for medical care on his watch.

Of course, perhaps there is another explanation. Perhaps this Howard Beale “I’m mad as hell” routine is just a small part of a larger gag. Perhaps the whole Obama administration is a piece of performance art, something that could have been conceived by another legendary late comedian, Andy Kaufmann, who was famous for his elaborate put ons. He lip synced to the “Mighty Mouse” theme, channeled Elvis, and created a variety of characters, including the smarmy lounge singer Tony Clifton. From Wikipedia:

Another well-known Kaufman character is Tony Clifton, an audience-abusing lounge singer who began opening for Kaufman at comedy clubs and eventually even performed concerts on his own around the country. Sometimes it was Kaufman performing as Clifton, sometimes it was his brother Michael or his friend Bob Zmuda. For a brief time, it was unclear to some that Clifton was not a real person. News programs interviewed Clifton as Kaufman’s opening act, with the mood turning ugly whenever Kaufman’s name came up. Kaufman, Clifton insisted, was attempting to ruin Clifton’s “good name” in order to make money and become famous.

As a requirement for Kaufman’s accepting the offer to star on Taxi, he insisted that Clifton be hired for a guest role on the show as if he were a real person, not a character. After throwing a tantrum on the set, Clifton was fired and escorted from the studio lot by security guards. Much to Kaufman’s delight, this incident was reported in the local newspapers. Paramount Television and producers James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels later released a statement that said that although Clifton was “no longer welcome on the set”, his friend Kaufman would continue in his role as Latka [the character Kaufmann played on the hit TV show

“Taxi”], which he did until the show ended its run in 1983.

Then there was his Carnegie Hall performance:

At the beginning of an April 1979 performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, Kaufman invited his “grandmother” to watch the show from a chair he had placed at the side of the stage. At the end of the show, she stood up, took her mask off and revealed to the audience that she was actually comedian Robin Williams in disguise. Kaufman also had an elderly woman (named Eleanor Cody Gould) appear to have a heart attack and die on stage, at which point he reappeared on stage wearing a Native American headdress and performed a dance over her body, seeming to revive her.
The performance is most famous for Kaufman’s ending the show by actually taking the entire audience, in 24 buses, out for milk and cookies. He invited anyone interested to meet him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show continued. This kind of performance art was a hallmark of Kaufman’s career.

Bizarre stuff indeed, but no more bizarre than what we see coming out of Obama’s White House.

It was just these over-the-top antics, and the fact that he was only 35 years old, that led some people to believe that Kaufmann had faked his death, which occurred 30 years ago on May 16, 1984. Sadly, Andy did die, but not for lack of quality medical care, unlike the veterans who appear to have been caught up in Barack’s wacky performance art.

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Teri O'Brien is America's Original Conservative Warrior Princess, and host of The Teri O'Brien Show, which debuted on Chicago's radio home for Rush Limbaugh, and now airs in the cutting edge world of online media, She is a yoga-practicing, 2nd Amendment-loving, bench pressing Mac girl geek, attorney, provocateur, author, and dangerous thinker. Teri is also the author of the new ebook, The ABC's of Barack Obama: Understanding God's Gift to America. Learn more at