Profile: Comedian Andy Kaufman

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been thinking about what’s funny. One result has been having a lot of fun writing satire and absurd fiction, and along the way I’ve appreciated a handful of comics above others. Kaufman is one, and it’s his birthday today, so I thought I’d take a look at his chart.

January 17 1949, 6:03 PM, Jamaica NY (rated A)

The South Node in Scorpio is about experience in many lives with power – who gets to have it, why and when. People with this South Node are accustomed to dealing with the psychological motivations of others, often on one side or the other of power struggles of one kind or another. But it is the South Node ruler that tells the story of his style of humor and particular facility for hitting people’s buttons, often those who were not laughing.

I’m taking the ruler as Mars, the traditional ruler. Mars is in Aquarius/6th house, so his role in various lives is someone doing something different (Aquarius) and is a perfectionist or technician about it (6th house). It’s conjunct Mercury in Aquarius/7th, so he’s comfortable bringing his different thing to other people. He came in wired with the emotional memories of past lives as someone communicating in shocking ways and conveying information out of the norm, and he’s used to having an audience. Again, whether they were laughing or not is another matter.

But it’s the opposition to a retrograde Pluto in Leo in the 1st house that tells the main part of the story. Doing and communicating his different thing, he’s confronted by powerful people, perhaps those in leadership positions (1st house) – who are not laughing. First looking at his chart, I got the image of a court jester who brings in politics to his humor, which is taken less than well by those he’s mocking.

Whether that situation is part of his karmic past or not doesn’t matter. The image is what’s important. And it’s exactly what he did in the life where we know him as Andy Kaufman. He pushed the buttons of the context he found himself in, messing with people’s minds and in the process revealing their hidden assumptions. In this case, their assumptions about the forms of entertainment and humor, what’s considered entertaining versus what really entertains.

To understand what’s funny, you have to understand what people think is normal and acceptable, even if they’re not aware of those things. Kaufman could do this, and in his stand up work pushed as many buttons as he could locate. Fr a while he put a cute face on it (the Foreign Man/Latka characters, for example), knowing that he could get away with a lot more that way.

Until it came to Tony Clifton, his audience-abusing, lounge singer alter ego. And the wrestling – he proclaimed himself the “Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World,” challenging any woman to beat him. He also engaged in a series of matches with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler. However much was staged in that, being a part of the abuse and violence were all part of his pushing people’s buttons. In my mind, Kaufman was a performance artist with a lot of serious things to say who sometimes made us think he was a comedian because it served his purposes.

Pushing the buttons of people who weren’t laughing is reading that Pluto as opposing the South Node ruler Mars. But Pluto also represents his soul’s deepest intentions and desires. In Leo in the 1st house, his soul intends to learn to become empowered through bold, independent action, and in fiery ways. In Leo it’s all about personal expression, and the retrograde says that he needs to learn to be empowered in his own ways – others’ ideas of power and empowerment won’t work for him anymore. Given the rest of the karmic story sketched out above, he probably had his fill of run-ins with powerful people, creating a need to figure out how to become empowered in new ways that had nothing to do with how he was abused or challenged, his own ways.

His work definitely offered him this. For years he used Transcendental Meditation to build his confidence in order to be able to pursue gigs in clubs, and he is said to have done yoga and meditated for three hours each day. He would have to choose his own ways of building confidence, and being dedicated to them over time, if he wanted to do this 1st house Pluto in healthy ways after the karmic memories of being opposed by Plutonian sources – no one wants to become the kind of person that hurt him or her.

The last button he pushed was surrounding his death. He’d told a number of people over the years that he’d like to fake his own death and then make a comeback. He died at age 35 from lung cancer, and some held on to the idea that he might not have died, that it was all a stunt. If he hadn’t died, I’m sure he would have faked his own death at some point – that Pluto in Leo on the Ascendant opposing Mars-Mercury in Aquarius on the Descendant would be seriously thrilled to push people’s buttons about a Plutonian topic like death, leaving them unsure whether to laugh or cry. He would have thrived on the mix of the two, and the effect of genuinely human confusion that would arise in his audience.

Tom Jacobs is an astrologer, medium and channel in Tucson, AZ. In addition to private sessions, he tutors people in karmic astrology and also mentors/coaches people in intuitive skills development. Read more at