My previous run-ins with Tony Clifton have been well documented, but I can’t help but be excited by the news that the venerable lounge lizard has once again emerged from (what I assume is) a haze of hookers and booze for a four-night stand at the famous Comedy Store in Hollywood.
The shows, May 16th, 19th, 20th, and 21st promise to inject new life into the Clifton legend for decades to come, especially with the swirling and probably unsubstantiated Twitter rumors that point to the return of the long-dead Andy Kaufman on the same nights. Then, there’s the Comedy Store’s official line, which is that they “can’t confirm or deny” that Jim Carrey may appear as Clifton at one of those shows.
Pretty exciting stuff for a heavy drinking, cigarette flicking, audience dividing singer/comedian who started as an Andy Kaufman character, was passed onto Kaufman’s associate Bob Zmuda, and then seemed to emerge as a living, breathing, ranting figure all his own.
Here’s what I know: no one who loves comedy or train wrecks or awesomeness should miss these shows. I’ll be there, attempting to cover it as it unfolds. Clifton called me from New Orleans last week to talk about the shows. Well, the shows and midgets and finger fucking and Danny DeVito.
In total Clifton fashion, the interview starts off with him asking me the first question. He asks “Where are you now?”
I live in beautiful Culver City.
Oh, you’re in Culver City? You’re close to MGM, there.
Yeah, it’s Sony now.
Well, that’s where, you know that hotel [The Culver Hotel], where all of those fucking midgets stayed when they made the Wizard of Oz.
Is that true?
Yeah, it’s true. They put them up close to the studio. And, you know, those are lowlife bastards, let me tell you something. Those fucking midgets. Those are grown men, they look like little kids. Like they’re cute or something. The studio made a mistake. They gave Judy Garland the presidential suite at that hotel. She was still a young woman, and they were putting fucking booze down her, they were finger fucking Judy Garland, running through the halls saying, “Smell my finger. I finger fucked Judy Garland.” This is a true story. And, those fucking midgets are like Danny DeVito. Did you know DeVito is a legal midget in eight states?
I did not.
He is. In eight states. He’s a fucking legal midget. I worked with him, as you know, in Man on the Moon; I just about stole the picture from him and Jim Carrey. DeVito produced that fucking thing, and he’s a lowlife little fucking midget. I don’t care, they say you should call them “little people.” I call nobody little people! I’ll call them shrimp! I’ll call them everything I want. I ain’t calling them no fucking “little people.” They’re little bastards is what they are. DeVito is a bastard, too. And, if DeVito tries to get into my show, I’m going to do a midget toss and toss him out of there. He’s full of shit.
Do you think any show business types are going to come to your shows?
I don’t give a shit. What the fuck do I care? I’m an international super sensation. The town has never seen anything like me. There ain’t nobody bigger than me! No one! Maybe…who would be bigger than me…maybe Clooney. It’s Clooney, me, and Tom Cruise. That’s about it.
You’re doing four shows in six days at the Comedy Store. Does that get exhausting?
Not for me, my friend. When we were on tour, we were doing shows every night for a fucking month. We’re old school show biz. The show must go on. We don’t cut corners. I give them a show and a half. That’s why I got the kind of reviews I get. Hey, how do you know a Polack designed the lower extremities of a woman?
Because who else would put the shit hole right next to the snack bar.
I’ve been told that you and some of the Cliftonettes [his back-up dancers] are going nightclubbing next week in Hollywood.
I think so. We’re going out Friday night. It’s a big night. We’re going to go to all of the places that night. Got a big limo. We’re going to be drinking like a motherfucker. I’m going to have all of those fucking Cliftonettes in the back of that fucking limo, and I’ll be sucking their titties left and right. Get some of that titty milk from them.
So, the shows are the 16th, the 19th, the 20th, and the 21st?
Yeah. We’re going to blow the fucking socks off of Hollywood. Not only that, but I’m going to reveal a lot of the bullshit that’s coming out on the town that people are afraid to talk about. Like DeVito being a legal midget. All of this shit.
Now, the band – the Katrina Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra – is sponsored by Comic Relief, the charity started by Bob Zmuda to help the homeless. How did your association with Comic Relief begin?
I don’t know crap about charities. All I know is that I was busted in New Orleans on a morals charge. And the judge was going to through the book at me. But the Comic Relief people stepped forward and convinced the judge to give me community service instead. So I have 80 hours of community service for Comic Relief. After that,… I’m out of there.
May 16th is an important date, is it not?
Well, you saw the movie Man on the Moon? That movie ends with my appearance at the Comedy Store on May 16th. And, that will be exactly 25 fucking years to the day. So, it’s kind of historic that I’m coming back on that date at the Comedy Store. I’m still around. See, Kaufman’s dead. I’m still kicking, aren’t I? He did everything that….listen, Rob. He never drank, he never smoked, vegetarian bullshit, yoga three hours a day. And, he died at 35. And, he is dead. I don’t believe any of that “faked his death” bullshit.
Why do you think there are these rumors that he faked his death?
People are goofy. Then, I know for a fact – you read the books and whatever – that he had talked to a number of fucking people about faking his death. I understand this was about six months before he fucking croaked. That’s why nobody would fucking believe him when he was dying of the cancer there.
Wasn’t there a script for a Tony Clifton movie at some point?
Yeah, the Tony Clifton Story. That’s sitting over at Universal. It’s in turnaround now. We’re going to do that one of these days.
That’s great news.
Did you ever read that script?
I could never get a copy of it. I read a lot about it.
It stars me.
Don’t you die at the end of it?
Well, listen, there’s a couple of different scripts. They did a couple of fucking endings, so I don’t know what’s what. But, listen, if Universal paid me the right amount of money, I’d die for them onscreen. How’s that? Okay? But, that better be some kind of fucking sequel or some bullshit, where you think I die, then I come back. I ain’t going to do that fucking movie unless they put that clause in there. I already talked to Jim Carrey. Jim’s going to be playing Andy Kaufman again in the Tony Clifton Story.
How are you going to fit your whole show into a comedy club?
Well, it’s going to be challenging. But, it’s the Main Room of the Comedy Store. We’re going to do it. Nobody will see a show like this in the Comedy Store. It’s a twelve-piece band. Four piece horn section. Eight fucking dancing girls. Costume changes. It’s a big thing. Now, we’ve got video stuff we’re going to be showing. So, we’ve got two big screens coming in.
Sounds like you’ll be putting on a spectacular.
I do whatever I do. Listen, any fucking song out of my mouth is a winner. I’ve got a two hundred-piece song list. I don’t care. We don’t figure it out. I hit the stage, and we go. Those people are just fucking lucky they see me there. I don’t care if I drop my pants and take a shit on stage. You’ve seen the show. My mere presence is enough for the price of admission. Where are you going to see somebody like me? Where?! Nowhere! Don’t you piss me off.