Tony Clifton is shrouded in mystery and rightfully so, as the late great comedian Andy Kaufman wanted it that way.
According to Kaufman himself, he hitchhiked to Las Vegas in 1969 to see Elvis Presley. After the show, Andy stumbled into a seedy lounge in the bad side of town and saw an act that would change his life forever: Tony Clifton!
It wasn't long until Kaufman became popular (due to the TV series "Taxi") and demanded that Clifton appear on the show. The producers agreed, until Tony showed up drunk with two hookers. He was fired and had to be bodily thrown off the Paramount lot.
Kaufman became obsessed with Clifton, instructing his manager to "find Tony work.” Surprisingly, Clifton was able to appear on a number of mainstream TV shows in the late 70's and early 80's, performing duets with everyone from Dinah Shore to Miss Piggy.
He even appeared on the David Letterman Show and Letterman thought it was Andy Kaufman in disguise. Meanwhile, Kaufman was watching the show back home in L.A. and was rolling on the floor with laughter, knowing he pulled one over on the King of Late Nite.
After Kaufman's untimely end in 1984, there were those who believed that Andy had faked his death and was, in fact, now performing as Clifton.
The Milos Forman film, "MAN ON THE MOON", that starred Jim Carrey further fueled these rumors. Fans were further stunned when Tony made a rare appearance alongside Michael Stipe and R.E.M.at the Hollywood Bowl.
After a brief appearance on "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" in 2004, followed by a sold out performance at L.A.'s House of Blues, Tony had been in communicado. Then in 2008, everything changed when he was arrested in New Orleans for disorderly conduct.
The nationally recognized charitable organization, Comic Relief, came to his rescue, persuading the judge to give him "community service" instead of jail time. Thus "Tony Clifton and his Katrina Kiss-My-Ass Orchestra" was born (this is a continuation of Comic Relief’s commitment to support artists affected by Hurricane Katrina). The Orchestra went on tour and continues to take the country and critics by storm.
In the Spring of 2010, they and Tony mounted an historic four-day run at L.A.'s famed Comedy Store. In October, the Fall tour launches in cities across the U.S. including Boston, Seattle, Portland, Atlantic City and San Francisco.
Though rumors still persist that Andy Kaufman himself will show up, Clifton is quick to reply: "Andy's DEAD!!! lf you want to see Kaufman, get yourself a flashlight and a shovel."