Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kauffman on the set of Man On The Moon caused controversy. But was the method acting justified?
I’m currently reading through the archives of kottke.org and stumbled on this article from March 2002 commending Jim Carrey’s performance in Man On The Moon. And then I remembered the documentary about his behaviour on the set of the film.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the film before, Man On The Moon is a biopic about the late American comedian Andy Kaufman, with Carrey starring as Kaufman. It looks at his life from childhood to his infamous personas including Latka Gravas and Tony Clifton.
The film got mixed reviews at the time and made a loss at the box office but Carrey managed to win a Golden Globe for his performance.
Was Carrey’s method acting unnecessary?
In 2017, Chris Smith directed a documentary about the film called Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (known simply as Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond).
It showed Jim Carrey’s performance as Andy Kauffman on-set, including his commitment to method acting even when they weren’t filming. And that was the basis for Nitpix’s critique of Carrey’s behaviour in Jim Carrey Is An Asshole Method Actor.
Method acting is where an actor immerses themselves in a role, taking on that persona as if it were really them. The technique first came into prominence during the 1930s. Famous method actors include Daniel Day-Lewis, Marlon Brando, and Robert De Niro.
The critique makes some good points about Carrey’s decision to stay in character(s) beyond reasonable levels of decency. But I feel like the meta jokes and tangents reduced its credibility (although that might have been the point).
The questionable portrayal of Andy by Jim
The pivotal point made in the critique was the fact that Carrey overacted. The essence of Andy Kauffman’s comedy was his awkward, anti-joke delivery. In comparison clips, you see Andy’s real-life performances against Jim’s and you see a clear difference.
As one YouTube commenter said, “Jim doesn’t even play Andy Kaufman like Andy. He plays Andy like Jim Carrey.”
Stream it below and judge for yourself.