Saturday Night Live Transcripts
Season 3: Episode 13
… Art Garfunkel
British Man … Andy Kaufman
… Lorne Michaels
[British Man — wearing a yellow shirt, black tie andtails — paces behind host Art Garfunkel who addressesthe camera.]
Art Garfunkel: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. AndyKaufman.
[Garfunkel gestures to Kaufman, leads the applause anddeparts. Kaufman, in character as British Man,acknowledges the applause, then bends over a portablephonograph and drops the needle on a record of noisymarching band music. After it plays for a few seconds,he lifts the needle and drops it at the beginningagain. It plays for a few more seconds as British Manbriefly moves his fists in rhythm with the beat beforehe lifts the needle again, shuts off the phonographand steps forward to greet the audience.]
British Man: [with cultured British accent,briskly] All right, thank you very much. It’swonderful to be here and look out and see everyone’ssmiling faces. Everyone is feeling good? [cheers andapplause] Thank you very much. Thank you very much.Well, well, you know, um, now that we’ve gotten moreintimate with each other and feel more comfortable,I’d like to proceed with what I’m about to do. Theytold me that since there was only about twenty ortwenty-five minutes left in the show tonight thatsince I’ve been on several times before, they – theytrust me. The producers and the people who run theshow – they said they trust me very much and that theywould let me do anything I want. And I could have therest of the time, if – if it takes that long.
So, uh, I was wondering what – what to do. What couldI do in this – to fill up this twenty, twenty-fiveminutes? And– Could I sing a song, do a dance? Then Ithought, well, you know, before, I’ve been on theshow, I’ve done characters, you know, like the littleforeign man, foreign immigrant who goes [high-pitched,heavily accented voice of Foreign Man] “Thenk you verymuch. I’m very happy to be here.” [British accentagain] You know? And then I’ve done this Americancharacter, goes [American accent] “Hi, I’m Andy andhello, [waves] how are you? [sings] Oh, the cow goesmoo!” [British accent again] You know. And, uh… Ithought instead of doing that, why don’t I just comeout and be straight with you and just be myself? So,so that’s what–
So, anyway, then I thought, well, what should I do?What should I do? I was at a loss for what to do tofill up the time. So I saw this book. It was lying–Just a little while ago, I saw it lying around and itreminded me of when I was in school and thisliterature teacher gave me this book, told me to readit, said it was the greatest American novel everwritten. And, uh, I take issue with that. I don’tbelieve that it is. But I’d– What I’d like to do is,tonight, is I’d like to read it to you. And thenperhaps we could– you could point out some subtletiesI might have missed, in case, you know, if-if we havetime to follow for discussion.
[picks up the book and looks at it] So, anyway, it’scalled – it’s called The, uh, Great Gatsby — it’s byF. Scott Fitzgerald. And, uh, here it is. [opens book,begins to read aloud in a starchy near-monotone,making no eye contact with the audience] Chapter one.[clears his throat] “In my younger and more vulnerableyears, my father gave me some advice that I’ve beenturning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feellike criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just rememberthat all the people in this world haven’t had theadvantages that you’ve had.’ He didn’t say any morebut we’ve always been unusually communicative in areserved way [coughing, restlessness, and nervouslaughter from the audience which increases as thereading proceeds] and I understood that he meant agreat deal more than that. In consequence I’m inclinedto reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened upmany curious natures to me and also made me the victimof not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quickto detect and attach itself to this quality when itappears in a normal person, and so it came about thatin college I was unjustly accused of being apolitician, because I was privy to the secret griefsof wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences wereunsought, frequently I have feigned sleep,preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized bysome unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation wasquivering on the horizon for the intimate revelationsof young men or at least the terms in which theyexpress them are usually plagiaristic and marred byobvious suppressions.
[by now, the audience is booing loudly, heckling,etc.] Reserving judgments is a matter of infinitehope. I am still a little afraid of missing somethingif I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested[suddenly makes eye contact with the audience andsmiles as he says, snobbishly:] and I snobbishlyrepeat, [the audience cracks up at this but hecontinues without missing a beat] a sense of thefundamental decencies is parceled out unequally atbirth. [licks his index finger and uses it to turn topage two] And, after boasting this way of mytolerance, I come to the admission that it has alimit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or thewet marshes, but after a certain point I don’t carewhat it’s founded on. When I came back from the Eastlast autumn I felt that — [audience heckles and growsunruly again] I felt that I wanted the world to be …in uniform and at a sort of moral attention for–“
[audience has grown very surly – British Man stopsreading, annoyed] All right, now, look! Let’s – let’skeep it down, please, because, you know, we have along way to go. [holds up the book and flips the pages- audience laughs – heckler in the balcony yellssomething – British Man looks up at him – calmly] Now,look, we’re pressed for time, if you don’t mind, allright?
[resumes reading] “When I came back from the East lastautumn [audience groans, whistles, murmursimpatiently] I felt that I wanted the world to be inuniform and at a sort of moral attention forever. Iwanted no more riotous excursions with privilegedglimpses into the human heart. [grandly, pointing afinger in the air] Only Gatsby, the man who gives hisname to this book, Gatsby, who represented– who–[loses his place, finds it again] Only Gatsby wasexempt from my reaction. Gats–” [audience boos loudly- British Man breaks off reading, holds up a hand inprotest]
All right, now, look. All right, now, look. Now, waita minute. All right, now, wait a minute, now, hold on!If I hear any more– I want it quiet! If I hear onemore sound, I’m going to close this book and forgetabout the whole thing! [thunderous cheers and applause- British Man looks surprised at their reaction, thendecides that it’s a show of support] All right, thankyou very much. Thank you. All right. Thank you. [opensbook again – heckler shouts something] All right,that’s it — you’ve made your bed, now lie in it! I’mgoing! That’s it! Good night! I’m closing it –forgetting about the whole thing!
[applause as British Man walks past the phonograph asif to exit – suddenly, he stops, turns, and comesback] I – No, I’m only fooling! I wouldn’t do that toyou! [opens the book, audience shrieks with laughter]I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t do that to you! No, no.[resumes reading, grandly, pointing a finger in theair] “Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to thisbook, was exempt from my reaction. Gatsby, whorepresented everything for which I have an unaffectedscorn. If personality is an unbroken series ofsuccessful gestures, then there was something gorgeousabout him, some–”
[audience grows unruly again – British Man breaks offreading] You know, you know, let me tell yousomething. I think what we need– I think what– Ithink what we need nowadays is – is more discipline.You know, when I was – when I was your age, I used tohave to walk about seven miles to school. Spare therod and spoil the child is what I say. Good huffaround a woodshed would – would do some of you verygood. All right? [opens book, finds his place] Now, ifyou don’t mind, I’m going to continue reading.[audience groans – he reads] “If personality is an -is an–” [audience gets upset] I won’t then![applause] All right, what do you want me to do?[scattered applause, heckling] All right, good, good.[resumes reading] “Only Gatsby, the man– Ifpersonality is an unbroken series of successfulgestures, then there was something gorgeous about him,some height–”
[producer Lorne Michaels enters, whispers in BritishMan’s ear and quickly exits – British Man is outraged]What? What? All right, that is it! I have beenasked to leave, ladies and gentlemen. [cheers andapplause] I have been asked – I have been asked toleave. I have been asked to leave — and I resent it!I was told I could take all the time I want and nowthey ask me to leave. Well, all right, I was going toread you the book and then I was going to play you themusic record. But that’s it! You don’t want it, thenfine — I won’t even do that! No! You don’t want therecord either, do you? [various audience members tryto talk to him] Fine. All right. How many people – Howmany people want the record? How many people want therecord? [cheers and applause] All right. You really–?Do you REALLY want the record? [louder cheers andapplause] Do you really want the record? Or would yourather that I leave? All right. I’ll do the record.But – but – but, first, first the book. [audiencereacts negatively to this] All right, all right, allright. You want the record? [audience reactspositively to this] You want the record? All right,then we’ll have the record. Then, we’ll have– No, allright. Enough is enough. All right.
[British Man goes to the phonograph, drops the needleon the record, then returns to face the audience,moving his fists rhythmically and expectantly as aloud hiss and a prolonged series of skips issue fromthe machine – suddenly, instead of the marching bandmusic heard earlier, we hear:]
British Man’s Voice: [starchy near-monotonefrom the phonograph] “Only Gatsby, the man who giveshis name to this book, was exempt from my reaction.Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have anunaffected scorn. …”
[Laughter and applause. British Man gloats. Pull backand fade away.]