Lazy Guide to Net Culture: Night of the Blogging Dead

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If you want to appear like you’re at the cutting edge of net culture but can’t be bothered to spend hours online, then never fear. Scotsman.com’s pathetic team of geeks, freaks and gimps will do the hard work for you. While you sip wine, read a book or engage in normal social interaction, they will burn out their retinas staring at badly designed web pages and dodge creeps in chatrooms to prepare for you: Scotsman.com’s lazy guide to net culture.

Here is the news: blogs are dead.

For a while the e-chattering classes couldn't get enough of these online journals. But now they've jumped the shark.

While there are still many vibrant blogs out there they are eclipsed by the turgid, the rubbish and the abandoned. The proof that the whole game's a bogey is that novelty blogs are taking over.

For instance, one of the most talked about blogs has been Belle De Jour - supposedly the anonymous "diary of a London call girl". There's been much tedious media speculation about its authorship. The general feeling is that the blog is too perfect and too close to cliched male fantasy to have been written by a real prostitute. The fact that the blog is hosted on blogspot (a site that provides blogging services) makes it very hard to verify the blogger's identity through WhoIs searches and the like. Indeed, the mystery of who writes the thing is more interesting than the blog's content.

However, the sturt and strife that surrounds Belle De Jour's identity is as nothing compared to a blog that purports to have been written by a man who died in 1984.

Blogs are dead and the dead are blogging.

But the deceased in question is no ordinary reanimated corpse. The blog claims to be penned by a comedy great, Andy Kaufman.

Were it not for REM, who immortalised him in the song Man on the Moon, and a Jim Carrey film of his life by the same name, he would be most famous for the role of Latka in the 80s sitcom Taxi, something which would have him spinning in his grave (assuming he's still in it) as he despised sitcoms.

Forget that clown in a dress Aaron Barschak, Kaufman was the original comedy terrorist. He lived to defeat the expectations of audiences, which is the very essence of comedy.

Once when asked by an audience to "do Latka" he flatly refused, choosing instead to read them F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Aloud. All of it.

Another famous trick was to sing 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. All of it. Read the lyrics here Apparently someone once shouted "encore" after one rendition, so he began to sing "1,000 bottles of beer on the wall".

Sometimes people would turn up at a venue expecting to see Kaufman and were treated to one of his other personae, especially a foul-mouthed lounge singer - complete with bad wig and false moustache -called Tony Clifton. Sometimes these characters were played by someone else entirely, with Kaufman sitting in the audience.

His antics made him very controversial. He alienated many "right-on" people when he started wrestling women as part of his act, declaring himself "Inter-gender Wrestling Champion of the World". A professional wrestler, Jerry Lawler, was so outraged by this that he challenged Kaufman to a bout - and broke the comedian's neck. They then had an on-air brawl on David Letterman's show.

It was all a joke. Lawler and Kaufman were friends and staged the whole thing.

Sadly, Kaufman died of lung cancer on 16 May, 1984.

Apparently.

He once told friends that he would love to fake his own death and suddenly reappear 20 years later.

Cue the emergence on 17 May, 2004, of the Andy Kaufman Returns blog at AndyKaufmanReturns.blogspot.com.

The first post reads:

Sorry about faking my death. I always knew my biggest supporters would play along until it was the right time for me to return. Yesterday, being the 20th anniversary, was a long enough time to go away. No one has ever gone away that long before. I've been documenting my adventures for the last twenty years in journals and will be posting some of the best stories from here. Mostly though, I've just been practicing transcendental meditation throughout various parts of the world while working odd jobs and keeping a low profile ... It's good to be back. Yours truly, Andy.

So is it him?

It's very hard to tell. Like Belle de Jour, it's a blogspot journal. A press release accompanied the launch of the blog, but it was circulated by PRWeb, which provides a free distribution service for anyone wanting to announce anything. They do not verify the content of the releases.

Also the Andy Kaufman Returns blog has backed down on some of the claims in the release: Ernst and Young did not carry out any DNA testing; "Andy" has not been interviewed by ABC.

The debate rages on online. For a taste of the arguments and the passion, check out the comments on this Drudge Retort (not Drudge Report) story. "Andy" even contributes to the debate.

One user has added this trenchant observation to the blog itself: "Suck it, you fake. Andy would have owned you if he had the chance."

There's another Kaufman blog (AndyKaufman.blogspot.com), claiming the other one is false and that he will make a surprise appearance on the Letterman show.

A more realistic approach is taken by the I'm Still Dead blog, which looks exactly like the other two:

Hey, everybody. I really appreciate all the attention and stuff, but I'm going to level with you--I'm as dead as I ever was. So thanks for remembering me and everything, but I really am gone. So if you have other stuff that needs to be done, you may want to go ahead and get back to it.

Snopes.com, the urban legends reference pages, has done a very good job of debunking the Andy Kaufman Returns blog. It's a pretty authoritative source and declares the "Andy Kaufman is back" claim to be false.

It quotes a 1999 interview with Kaufman's writing partner, Bob Zmuda: "Andy Kaufman is dead. He’s not in some truck stop with Elvis"

Snopes.com's investigator adds his own thoughts:

Most important, if the Andy Kaufman I remember — the brilliant, unpredictable, erratic, and unique comic genius — had finally emerged from hiding twenty years after faking his own death, I have no doubts that he'd find a much more imaginative way of revealing his return than a free press release and a rather ordinary blog.

But wouldn't that be utterly Kaufmanesque? One would expect a great prankster to emerge with fanfare and flourish. Doesn't it make sense that he would defeat our expectations one more time?

No, I know it wouldn't. It's too good to be true.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I hope he has come back. And I hope that Bill Hicks, John Belushi and Lenny Bruce were holed up with him.