Pal Mel

There was a long, well-researched article on Friday in the Huffington Post that was sort of the opposite-Obama. The point of it wasn't that there are people who won't believe a birth certificate about where someone was born, but rather that there are people who won't believe a death certificate that says someone died. In this case, the someone is Andy Kaufman.

But this here isn't to convince the unconvincable of anything. I leave that to themselves. This is to address one minor thing in the article, where it talks about "Kaufman's longtime partner-in-crime," as the article puts it, Bob Zmuda. Every time you read an article about Andy Kaufman, it tends to quote Bob Zmuda. There are books that reference Bob Zmuda, as Andy Kaufman's partner. And all of that is true.

What isn't true is the impression all these articles and books give that Bob Zmuda was Andy Kaufman's sole writing partner. What they all leave out is Mel Sherer.

Mel Sherer is a friend (and a wonderful, generous guy, beyond the ordinary levels of generosity) who has a long career writing comedy, from sitcoms to variety to stand-up. He's been a collaborator with Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live for years. Look him up on IMDB. Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Married with Children and a lot more. And the very first credit you'll see there is -- Andy's Funhouse.


There is a lot of other writing that Mel has done, but he's just not taken credit for it. Because of his long, admired career in comedy, a lot of people in the field have come to Mel for last-minute help or tweaks. You know that famous scene in Roxanne, Steve Martin's updating of Cyrano de Bergerac, when Martin's character, 'C.D. Bales,' humiliates an adversary in a bar by coming up with a couple dozen great, nose insults? Well...they needed a couple dozen great, nose insults. And finally, at the last minute, ready to shoot but not pleased with what they had, they came to Mel for help. Some of that scene is Mel. Uncredited. Mel has done a great deal of uncredited work because...that's Mel. He regularly has given away story ideas. "Here's a good one. You can have it."

And through all that, Mel was partners with Andy Kaufman. (And Bob Zmuda.) Not just writing, but occasionally performing. You may know there have been times when Kaufman appeared at the same time on stage as his obnoxious alter-ego Tony Clifton, and people couldn't figure out that was possible. Usually that was Bob Zmuda made up as Clifton -- and so the word has spread that it was always Zmuda. But it wasn't. Occasionally it was Mel.

Bob Zmuda had a lot to do with Andy Kaufman's career. But so did Mel Sherer. It's worth noting that on the Andy Kaufman website (which appears to be fan-based), there is a review of Bob Zmuda's biography on Kaufman that praises the biography in part, but criticizes it a good deal for its self-aggrandizement, and at one point states --

"Why did Mr. Zmuda conveniently forget the following individuals?

Mel Sherer
Merrill Markoe
Little Wendy"

To be clear, it's not that Mel didn't get the full credit he deserves in the book. He didn't get mentioned. It's bizarre and inexplicable. Mel tends to shrug things like this off all the time. He has a Buddha-like outlook on life. Or maybe he's just so used to it that he gave up being bothered long ago. I like the Buddha theory.

But at least he was discussed in Bill Zehme's biography of Kaufman, Lost in the Funhouse. And there have been things like the E! True Hollywood Story on Andy Kaufman where Mel Sherer was properly included.


By the way, just so you know, I embed these images so that it's clear this is not just a friend speaking up for another friend, but can't support it.

It can be supported. There's so much more. Mel Sherer and Andy Kaufman were writing partners for a very long time. Not Kaufman's only partner, but significant, and integral to his career. And for too long, he's put up with being much-too overlooked, and not saying a word about it. I just like the guy so much that every once in a while I like to point all this out, even if Mel is content being Buddha.

And this will not be the last time I point it out. I like saying it too much.

To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about other matters from politics, entertainment, technology, humor, sports, and a few things in between, visit Elisberg Industries.