Bray Wyatt, Andy Kaufman, and why Firefly Fun house should go live

WWE, Bray Wyatt via
WWE, Bray Wyatt via /

The key to adopting Firefly Fun House into a live segment may be for Bray Wyatt to continue to embrace the stylings of Andy Kaufman.

On Friday Night SmackDown, WWE is going to have a rare opportunity to take one of it’s most popular characters to the next level. Bray Wyatt is currently scheduled to join The Miz on “Miz TV” in what could be his first live angle as his Firefly Fun House host character.

For awhile now, Firefly Fun House has thrived as a pre-recorded segment. Honestly, there’s no reason why it couldn’t continue that way indefinitely either, and still do its job of letting us inside the madhouse world of Bray Wyatt.

Nevertheless, going live might benefit Wyatt even more. I know that’s something that’s been met with trepidation from fans when it’s been discussed before, but bear with me for a bit.

Once you get around the fact that this doesn’t necessarily have to start as some in-ring adaption of Firefly Fun House that involves all the puppets and piped-in crowd noises, it might become a little bit easier to envision.

All Wyatt has to do is follow the framework for working gimmicks like this that Andy Kaufman developed during his career, and Firefly Fun House will be one of the best live segments in recent WWE history.

Yes, I’m referring to that Andy Kaufman. The same Andy Kaufman that famously feuded with Jerry Lawler. The same Andy Kaufman that some people insist did not die from cancer, because that’s just how great of a hoaxer he really was. That Andy Kaufman.

To understand how Kaufman’s career as comedian and performance artist can apply to Bray Wyatt, you first have to understand how that career got started.

Kaufman broke into the big time riding an act called “Foreign Man”, which would later be basically adapted into his character Latka Gravas on the popular TV show “Taxi”.

The bit was simple, but shockingly effective. Kaufman would walk onto stage in character as a shy, nervous, and unquestionably terrible comedian. Audiences would watch Kaufman run through some bad jokes, oftentimes in a stutter-stop cadence that may make a viewer not in on the ruse a tad sympathetic towards the character.

Quickly then, Kaufman would jump into celebrity impersonations as the character. After running through a couple of ostensibly horrible mimics of stars like Carroll O’Connor and Ed McMahon, Kaufman would proceed to declare he was going to do his best impersonation.

That’s when the switch flipped, and the brilliance of Kaufman really shines through.

Kaufman would swiftly stylize himself as Elvis Presley, and proceed to run through the best freaking impersonation of the “King of Rock N’ Roll” you’ve likely ever seen. He would do songs, dance, pose, the whole nine yards and more.

Then, just as abruptly as the transition into brilliant impressionist started, Kaufman would revert back to the original character to meekly close the set.

That dichotomy between Kaufman the man, the character, and sometimes even that character’s character, is what helped make him famous as both a comedian and performance artist. It’s a framework that can be seen in everything from his intergender champion gimmick, to his lounge singer act as the offensive Tony Clifton.

Why am I giving you this little history lesson in comedy you might be asking? Well, it’s not to convert anyone into a fan of Kaufman’s. It’s impossible, at times, to judge where each part of Kaufman’s act ended and reality began. Whether or not you enjoy that, or believe him to be as offensive and mean-spirited as some of his characters, is not for me to judge.

In fact, I don’t know if I would call myself a fan of Andy Kaufman. I just know the importance of his career, and can recognize what it was that propelled him to superstardom.

The element that led to Kaufman’s meteoric rise is what Bray Wyatt can tap into. Actually, he’s already tapping into it now, you just might not realize it because he’s doing such a good job of it.

Bray Wyatt, the wrestler, is someone who we’ve been familiar with for some time. The swamp cult, the House of Horrors, Sister Abigail, it’s all a part of the Wyatt that we know.

Bray Wyatt, the Firefly Fun House host, is more mysterious than that. We don’t quite know where this gimmick comes from, and we don’t quite know where it’s going necessarily. All we know is that it seems to incorporate elements from Wyatt’s more well-known career, and amplify them to the level of absurdity in the form of puppets and kids show segments.

That leads us to “The Fiend”. The vicious side of Wyatt that takes out fellow superstars in brutal fashion who the Firefly Fun House host is seemingly always struggling to subdue.

Somewhere in Wyatt’s gimmick, there’s a convergence of all of these characters. After all, we know this is the same Bray Wyatt of old at the end of the day, yet for some reason it can be hard to see that.

Take Seth Rollins burning down the Firefly Fun House for example.

Any sane viewer would say that Bray Wyatt had it coming. He’s tormented Seth Rollins for weeks on end. He’s a horror movie come to life, and a never-ending one at that.

Why then, did some feel like Seth Rollins came across as so cruel?

That’s because Bray Wyatt is already well on his way to embracing the methodology of Andy Kaufman.

By begging Rollins to stop with an incredibly hurt look on his face, he made viewers realize that this wasn’t “The Fiend” that Seth Rollins was hurting, or the Bray Wyatt who led Erick Rowan and Luke Harper around from the comfort of a rocking chair.

No, this was the innocent children’s show host who has done nothing wrong. This character, this persona of Wyatt’s, was totally innocent in a way, and that’s what caused the lines to blur.

It’s a classic page taken from those aforementioned Andy Kaufman bits. Audiences can’t tell when they’re suppose to respond to one character ending, and a different character beginning. It’s disorienting, and even a tad bit disturbing in effect, so it makes perfect sense for Bray Wyatt to adopt.

That one moment isn’t the beginning and end of where Wyatt has borrowed, knowingly or not, from that act though.

Just look at the devil Vince McMahon puppet or Huskus the Pig. They’re both deep references that only those in the know would truly be able to appreciate. They’re characters that not only blur the lines of kayfabe, but blur that of reality as well.

I mean, who could forget Wyatt feeding that devil puppet money? It’s brilliant, and a tad shocking to see something that appears to be that cutting of a commentary to appear on WWE TV.

It’s also the same sort of thing that drove Andy Kaufman’s characters. Kaufman’s misogyny towards women as a wrestler wasn’t reality, but it seemed totally unplanned in action. It’s what led to many people hating Kaufman, yet it effectively introduced a concept that many, including myself, are arguing for till this day.

That blurring of reality and gimmick is what Wyatt is tapping into, and what he can continue to utilize if he ever actually takes Firefly Fun House live.

Imagine how amazing the “Miz TV” segment could be if Wyatt emerges as the Fun House host to talk with The Miz, only to eventually start to tease “The Fiend’s” emergence. Then, just like when Kaufman turned into Elvis, the switch inside of Wyatt flips. The lights go dark and Wyatt reemerges in his horrifying mask to lay out Miz in the middle of the ring. Then, the lights go dark once again, and Wyatt reappears to wave goodbye to fans in his red sweater.

Now that would be a segment that got people talking. Forget about any damage that Hell in a Cell might have done to Wyatt, a healthy diet of segments like that would make his character virtually bullet-proof when it comes to the missteps of WWE creative. It would be that captivating to watch.

There’s no reason to question whether or not such an angle could occur either. Bray Wyatt has already laid out the framework for it masterfully. We just haven’t seen it before our eyes to really receive that shock factor like audiences used to get with Andy Kaufman’s act back in the late 1970s.

If, after all of this, you’re still doubting whether or not Bray Wyatt should take the Firefly Fun House live though, let me leave you with this.

One of Andy Kaufman’s TV specials was called “Andy’s Funhouse”. It featured Kaufman oscillating between his regular characters, and almost some kind of children’s show host. Between the wrestling, stand-up, and miscellaneous odd-ball elements of the show, it also featured Kaufman talking to puppets. It became of the iconic Kaufman bits, and was adapted into different segments later.

Sound familiar?

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Regardless of whether or not that show served as an inspiration for Bray Wyatt today, it just goes to show that the key to Wyatt’s character may just be to embrace the off-the-wall stylings of Andy Kaufman.