Magazine article Newsweek

Is Donald Trump Really Just Andy Kaufman in Disguise? an Investigation; Trump Is Rarely Likened to Previous Presidents, but Is Often Accused of Being a Long-Dead Performance Artist

Magazine article Newsweek

Is Donald Trump Really Just Andy Kaufman in Disguise? an Investigation; Trump Is Rarely Likened to Previous Presidents, but Is Often Accused of Being a Long-Dead Performance Artist

Article excerpt

Byline: Zach Schonfeld

Updated | This is a weird theory, but bear with me: Donald J. Trump is Andy Kaufman wearing a disguise.

Forget the logistical obstacles. Ignore the temporal and practical impossibilities: that Andy Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984, that Trump has a life story far predating Kaufman's career, that the two men bear little physical resemblance, that Trump's wives and children haven't let slip a word about the ruse. Just consider that the GOP presidential nominee is a character invented and, with characteristically unflinching dedication, performed by the performance artist Andy Kaufman. It's simple. Einhorn is Finkle. Finkle is Einhorn. Trump is Kaufman.

The theory is nuts. So is the fact that it has exploded into a de facto refrain during the 15 months the orange-haired mogul has spent as a presidential candidate. It is a conspiracy theory. It is a rationalization. It is a defense mechanism. Trump says something appalling? "Ha-ha! Andy Kaufman sure is getting us good," you reassure yourself. Trump's about to appear onstage at the Republican National Convention? "Andy will finally take the Trump mask off now," you mumble to your cat. Trump wins the election and moves into the White House? You squirm. "How far is this gag gonna go?"

Though the idea predates the present election--comedian John Mulaney tweeted that Trump is Kaufman in 2012 but doesn't remember what sparked it--it has achieved remarkable prominence in 2016. There are memes and Photoshopped images depicting the late Kaufman grinning as he holds up a mask of Trump's face. (He seems to be saying, "Gotcha!") There is a satirical news story, published on the website Stubhill News, imagining Trump announcing that he was "actually Andy Kaufman the whole time." And during the summer, as the Republican National Convention unleashed a new season of Trump Theorization Syndrome, Don Cheadle changed his Twitter avatar to an illustration of Kaufman stepping out of a full Trump bodysuit.

Oh wow.. @DonCheadle's avi is Andy Kaufman stepping out of the Trump suit. Genius. Entirely possible. @GregGoodfried pic.twitter.com/P00bJSlhAL

The Kaufman theory hinges on the notion that Trump's bid for the presidency is so outlandish--the gaffes, the boasts about penis size, the policy reversals and white nationalist overtures--that it must surely be performance art. More specifically, the work of Andy Kaufman, an idiosyncratic figure who yanked performance art in bizarre, unprecedented directions, whether he was impersonating an incompetent comedian known as Foreign Man or pretending to revive an elderly lady who feigned a heart attack on his stage.

The theory is weirdly cemented in election rhetoric. Even weirder, different iterations of the joke often seem to have sprung up independently of one another. Every single day, somebody somewhere tweets that Trump is Kaufman.

I can't wait for this "Trump" character to remove his mask, revealing Andy Kaufman.

Maybe the October surprise will be that Donald Trump actually died years ago and this has been Andy Kaufman all along.

Am I the only one starting to think we might eventually discover Trump is just some elaborate Andy Kaufman character?

Still waiting for Andy Kaufman to pull off Trump mask & say: "What's real? What's not? I test how other people deal with reality in my act".

--and that we'll learn the truth on Election Day:

November 9th, 2016. The day we find out Andy Kaufman is alive and behind the Trump campaign.

--or maybe on Halloween:

On Oct. 31 Andy Kaufman will prove he's alive by pulling off his Donald Trump mask. Only reasonable explanation.

Adherents of the Trump-Kaufman Hypothesis vary in their seriousness (and looniness). Erik Vance, a 40-year-old science writer based in Mexico City, was among the first to champion the Kaufman connection. He articulated the theory in detail months before Trump declared his candidacy. …

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