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Andy Kaufman did a skit on the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975. Kaufman was virtually unknown at the time. This was before his Taxi fame and his other infamous shenanigans.

Some feel that this skit and Kaufman himself was some sort of genius comedy.

The genius of Andy Kaufman is what happens at 30 seconds into the performance. Andy knows the crux of his bit—pretending to sing “Here I come to save the day!”

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There was also a book published titled "Is this man a genius"

There are obviously some who think that Andy Kaufman's comedy (which includes this skit) was genius. It is known in popular culture as one of Andy Kaufman's most well known skits.

I am a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and I love the comedy on that show. I am having a hard time understanding the genius and comedy of this skit. I understand that Andy Kaufman had an obscure way of doing what he considered comedy and he was not fully appreciated until after his death, but that skit still received laughs and appreciation from the audience as it was happening.

Is there some sort of Mighty Mouse reference that you need to be aware of to fully appreciate this skit? Is there some sort of inside joke that is happening during this skit that only certain people can understand?

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    The fact that a thing is on genius.com doesn't mean it's been "hailed as 'genius'". genius.com is just a collaborative music information site. – user2357112 Jan 20 '18 at 0:48
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    @user2357112 Added more sources. If you just Google this skit or Andy Kaufman, the word "genius" shows up everywhere. Since the genius.com site or whatever is obviously an issue, I removed it. – steelersquirrel Jan 20 '18 at 2:14
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    So you have a decent question. But here is what it comes down to: You don’t have to fully understand every piece of art/performance out there. Period. I used to think—for example—to like fine art I needed to like this specific artist and that artist. But as I have grown and met more people, I realized something: Not everyone agrees on what is “good” art and most of what people like is idiosyncratic to them and not much else. So don’t feel “dumb.” Just shrug. Maybe one day you’ll get it. Maybe one day you won’t. Art is about expression of ideas and some people don’t get that. – JakeGould Jan 20 '18 at 2:23
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    @JakeGould You make a good point. I guess that I just wanted to appreciate him more than I had in the past. I remember seeing this Mighty Mouse thing when I was a kid and I was just scratching my head over it. I just watched Man on the Moon to get a better understanding of his comedy and I do get some of it, but I still didn't get this skit. The answer and the comments have helped me to understand it more, though :) I also developed a new found respect for Jim Carrey because of his performance in that film, so...a win-win! – steelersquirrel Jan 20 '18 at 7:22
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No...I don't think so.

As you said, Kaufman's humor was entirely different from most other peoples.

Here the "joke" is in the fact that Kaufman's "role" is highly specific.

The only act he does is when the words...

Here I come to save the day!

...are heard.

The rest is in his anticpation of the line coming, his preparation for his performance and his gusto during his one job.

The rest is pure performance in the vacuum.

He could have done this to pretty much any song....and that's why it's genius.

Here's something that covers it...which I found after I wrote the above..

Andy takes the stage at Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8H and starts the audio recording of the song. Watch how he waits a beat. Then, listen carefully—the first laughs start at about 10 seconds in, and on first viewing, or even second viewing, it feels like Andy hasn’t done anything to earn the laughs—yet. No performer goes on stage and does nothing, but that’s exactly what Andy does. Just watch. He stands there. The song plays. He waits. The audience waits.

But really, Andy was doing something. He was a master of subtle facial expressions: Notice how he switches from blinking his eyes rapidly to holding long periods of focused eye contact. Notice how he looks confused, which confuses the audience, which is exactly what Andy wants. Look at Andy twitching; his fingers curl and stretch, back and forth, by his side. He’s uncomfortable, nervous, like it was his first time on stage. This helps Andy’s performance, because at 15 seconds in, when he pretends to sing the first “Here I come to save the day!” the surge of laughter breaks the pent-up tension he built up in the room.

The genius of Andy Kaufman is what happens at 30 seconds into the performance. Andy knows the crux of his bit—pretending to sing “Here I come to save the day!”—is now given away. Andy was a master of comedic timing. He knows he needs to rebuild the tension of the performance to deliver more laughs. So to do this, watch how Andy briefly lifts his head and opens his mouth to make it seem like he’s about to sing again, but then puts his head down in shame after he realizes, and the audience realizes, that it’s the wrong part of the song. It’s perfectly timed, obviously rehearsed. During a single performance, Andy invoked from the audience not just laughter during his singing, but also confusion, frustration, and wonder at everything that happened in between.

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    I'm surprised that article didn't mention my favorite gag in the skit - He also takes a sip of water, as if his throat is parched from singing! – BruceWayne Jan 19 '18 at 21:59
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    I guess what it boils down to is that Andy Kaufman just liked messing with people ;) – steelersquirrel Jan 19 '18 at 23:18
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    @steelersquirrel Yes! He’s messing with the medium. And if you don’t get this joke—yet still want to explore how Andy Kaufman—messed with media and the medium of TV, go watch “I’m from Hollywood!” It’s not a film for everyone, but once you get it… It’s pretty amazing. – JakeGould Jan 20 '18 at 2:24
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    He could have done the same thing by holding a triangle and playing an orchestral piece. Or a clarinet. Modern times, people like Rowan Atkinson have done similar pieces. – Will Crawford Jan 20 '18 at 10:20
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    There's a subtle point that no one else has mentioned: If you listen carefully to the music, you soon realize that "Here I come to save the day!" is the only line sung by Mighty Mouse himself. The rest is sung by the chorus. Therefore, Andy is specifically trying to play the role of Mighty Mouse, and part of the humor (for me) is that Mighty Mouse has such a small role in the song, which leaves a lot of time for all of the other fiddling around. Obviously, if someone really wanted to mime a heroic singer, they'd pick a different song to begin with! – Dave Tweed Jan 21 '18 at 5:51
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You don't need to know anything about MM, but... cultural context always helps in humor. In this case, it's that that MM was an American 1950s hero cartoon, and thus had a suitably heroic song.

He chose this song to work his magic, because it's dramatic. He could have chosen other songs, but an angsty folk song by a failed poet wouldn't have the proper contrast against his bumbling.

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