Tony Cliffton

May 31, 2024  By Jukebox 

4 Myths About Tony Clifton That Still Confound Fans

Tony Clifton, a character shrouded in mystery, continues to perplex fans decades after appearing on the entertainment scene.

At Jukebox Saturday Night, we’ll bring you the ultimate trip down rock and pop music’s memory lane. Today, we’ll celebrate the rich history of this showbiz character who has left an indelible mark on pop and entertainment culture. Let’s break down four persistent myths surrounding the enigmatic Tony Clifton.


Who is Tony Clifton?

Tony Clifton is a character who presents himself with all the flash of a Las Vegas star but without the genuine fame to back it up.

He’s a creation that resonates with the larger-than-life personality of an obnoxious lounge singer. He even claims to surpass Mariah Carey’s revered vocal prowess. He also jokes about selling more records than Elvis Presley and The Beatles combined!

Tony Clifton’s performances are a deliberate parade of the absurd and uncomfortable. Dressed in his signature tuxedo, he orchestrates evenings filled with awkward attempts at song, abandoning musical norms for a mix of improvised lyrics. His routine often includes unwarranted insults thrown at audience members, an act he pitches as comedy.

With that being said, there are four mysterious myths about Tony Clifton that still spark curiosity and debate among fans today:


Myth #1: Tony Clifton is Andy Kaufman (…wink, wink)

Perhaps the most popular myth about Tony Clifton is that he’s just the comedian Andy Kaufman in disguise.

The story is that Andy Kaufman, a master of avant-garde comedy and performance art, created Tony Clifton to challenge audience perceptions and push the boundaries of entertainment. Clifton’s character was distinct from Kaufman’s own persona, which added layers of complexity to the act.

He meticulously maintained the separation between his identity and Clifton’s, often appearing in public as one while denying or obscuring the existence of the other. Nevertheless, Kaufman never confirmed this during his lifetime. However, Clifton’s appearances were so convincingly independent that he was often booked for shows and interviews as if he were a real entity.


Myth #2: Clifton’s antics were unplanned

Contrary to the common belief that Tony Clifton’s appearances were spontaneous bursts of chaos, many of his performances were intricately planned and executed. 

This planning extended to orchestrating specific interactions with the audience and other performers, which were designed to maintain Clifton’s image as an unpredictable and contentious figure. Additionally, Kaufman was believed to often coordinate with show producers and venue staff to ensure that Clifton’s disruptive acts fit seamlessly into the larger event.


Myth #3: Tony Clifton threw eggs at Dinah Shore

There’s also a myth that during a 1979 appearance on Dinah Shore’s talk show, Tony threw eggs or poured yolks on the host.

However, careful examination of the available footage and records from the show reveals no evidence to support this claim. It appears this story has grown in the telling, transforming into an exaggerated tale that enhances Clifton’s notorious and unpredictable image.

Here at Jukebox Saturday Night, we continuously search and find never-before-seen music video clips from the 1950s to the 1980s. Who knows? We may discover footage that tells a different story about this myth!


Myth #4: Clifton died with Kaufman

The belief that Tony Clifton vanished after Andy Kaufman died in 1984 isn’t true. Surprisingly, Clifton has continued to make appearances well after Kaufman’s demise. These underscore that Clifton was more than just Kaufman’s alter ego; he was part of a broader artistic vision.

Reliving classics with Jukebox Saturday Night

Despite lacking any official music releases, Tony Clifton’s legacy in entertainment is cemented through his distinctively brash and confrontational style. His renditions of classics like I Will Survive and many of his eclectic performances that were captured on camera reveal a persona crafted for shock and entertainment, mirroring the performances we cherish on Jukebox Saturday Night.

Indeed, it’s fun to look back at the raw energy of performers like Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs and the unique contributions of Jon English in music, especially if there are videos capturing their dynamic performances.

At Jukebox Saturday Night, we bring to light the unseen video clips of the songs that shaped generations. We have an hour-long program that airs on Foxtel, Aurora Channel 173, from 7.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. weekly on Saturday nights. And if you miss it, the show also airs again on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. and Tuesday nights at 9.30 p.m.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does Tony Clifton still perform?

Yes, at least the character. In May 2022, Clifton was featured at Monsterpalooza in Pasadena. And in April 2024, it was revealed that comedian Tom Segura is considering portraying both Tony Clifton and Kaufman’s collaborator Bob Zmuda in the upcoming indie film ‘Dirty Rotten Bastard’.


Did Tony Clifton ever appear on Taxi?

Yes. Initially, when Andy Kaufman was cast in the Taxi Act, he negotiated for Clifton to be featured in an episode as the brother of Danny DeVito’s character, Louie. The producers initially agreed but changed their minds during rehearsal due to the disruptive nature of the Clifton character. Despite this, Clifton appeared on set, causing enough trouble that he was forcibly removed


Who else played Tony Clifton?

Bob Zmuda, a writer and producer, allegedly donned the Tony Clifton persona too. Moreover, in the 1999 biographical film Man on the Moon, which explores Kaufman’s life and career, actor Jim Carrey portrayed both Kaufman and Clifton.

Keeping the beat at Jukebox Saturday Night

Jukebox Saturday Night began as a passion project by a couple of mates with a deep love for music. Over the years, our little show has grown immensely, building a loyal fan base along the way. Founded by the legendary Ken Sparkes, who dedicated his time, money, and efforts to keep real Rock N Roll alive on our TV screens, we continue to honour his legacy.

Here, we’re all about authenticity, passion, and innovation. Our mission is to keep real Rock N Roll music alive and vibrant. From the classic sounds of the seventies jukebox to the timeless appeal of the Back in Black album, we celebrate it all. Join us in honouring the spirit of rock with every show we air, making Ken’s labour of love bigger and better than ever.

Discover more about your favourite artists on Jukebox Saturday Night.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and entertainment purposes only. While we strive for accuracy, music history is often based on available documentation and interpretation.

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