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Bob Zmuda (born December 12, 1949) is an American writer, comedian, producer and director best known for his friendship with cult personality Andy Kaufman.
Bob Zmuda occasionally portrayed Kaufman's Tony Clifton character on stage and for television appearances. In a 2006 interview, Zmuda told the Opie and Anthony Show that it was he as Tony Clifton with David Letterman, and that Letterman did not find out until years after.
In 1986, Zmuda founded the American version of Comic Relief, an annual event that raises money to help the homeless in the United States. The event was televised on HBO, and was hosted by comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.
In 1999, Zmuda wrote a book about Kaufman's life, titled Andy Kaufman Revealed!, which purported to unveil many tricks and hoaxes that the two pulled off in front of audiences and television cameras in the 1980s. One critic praised the book as "the ultimate insider's look at Kaufman's life," while some of Kaufman's fans and members of Kaufman's family criticized it for inaccuracies about Kaufman.
Later that year, Miloš Forman directed Man on the Moon, the story of Kaufman's life. Zmuda created the "Tony Clifton" makeup for the film, and made a brief appearance portraying comedian Jack Burns, one of the producers, who gets into a brawl on stage during one of Kaufman's appearances on the 1980–82 ABC Fridays. Zmuda was also Man on the Moon's co-executive producer. On camera, the character of Bob Zmuda was played by Paul Giamatti. Stanley Kaufman, Andy's father, criticized Zmuda's influence on the film shortly after its release, writing in the form of Andy speaking from beyond the grave.
Sam Simon, executive producer on Taxi, revealed in a 2013 interview with Marc Maron for the WTF Podcast that the portrayal of Andy on the show was "a complete fiction" largely created by Bob Zmuda, who he maintained has a "vested interest" in creating stories about Kaufman. In the interview Simon stated that Kaufman was "completely professional" and that he "told you Tony Clifton was he", but conceded that Kaufman would have "loved" Zmuda's version of events.
In 2014 Zmuda co-authored another book with new anecdotes about Kaufman's desire to fake his death entitled Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, which states that Kaufman's death was indeed a prank. Zmuda says that Kaufman is still alive and that Kaufman would soon be revealing himself as his upper limit on the prank was thirty years. Zmuda now states that Kaufman offered to leave him money since Zmuda's career was largely dependent on Kaufman performing but he turned it down because he believed it would implicate him in a crime. The terms of the book deal were not disclosed.
On November 7, 2014, Bob Zmuda appeared as a guest on Greg Fitzsimmons' podcast, Fitzdog Radio. During the interview, Zmuda explained that he invested $50,000 into the book (Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally), and eventually stormed off the podcast after Fitzsimmons doubted Zmuda's intentions regarding Kaufman's staged death.
On November 16, 2014, news circulated the internet that Bob Zmuda died. The obituary reads as follows: "CHICAGO November 16-- Fox News Chicago has reported that Bob Zmuda, the founder of Comic Relief, suffered a fatal heart attack Friday night at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Mound House, NV. Zmuda, a Chicago native, was born December 12th, 1949. He later gravitated to New York and Los Angeles where he traveled in comedy circles and forged a career as a writer, comedian, producer and director. Zmuda may have been best known for his friendship and work with Andy Kaufman. The pair produced a famed April 1979 performance at New York's Carnegie Hall. Zmuda recently authored a second book about his experiences with Kaufman entitled Andy Kaufman The Truth Finally. He is survived by his sister, Carol Peterson. Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Tarcissus Church, 6020 W. Ardmore Ave, Chicago."
The same day, Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, tweeted "For those asking #BobZmuda management asked @BunnyRanch @DennisHof, who's traveling in Scottsdale, not to comment".
On November 18, 2014, @jeffreygurian on Twitter posted a link to interrobang.com showing a picture of him and Zmuda alive and well, accompanied by a story revealing that FUgly the KlowN had started the rumor on Twitter.
The same day, @UPI on Twitter tweeted confirmation of the hoax: "Fake @UPI article used to proclaim death of Andy Kaufman collaborator Bob Zmuda" with a link to the article on upi.com.
FUgly the KlowN himself revealed he created the hoax on November 16, with two pieces of "evidence." First he tweeted from @FUglyTheKlowN: "Sun-Times says #BobZmuda popped a clot & went to the big Bunny Ranch in the sky. RIP. Condolences to @TheTonyClifton," with a picture of the obituary. He then tweeted: "Is #BobZmuda still alive? He's no @TheTonyClifton but even I wouldn't wish his ass dead. Maybe I've been had. #MTV". Underneath was a photoshopped MTV News report with the caption "Comic Relief's Bob Zmuda Dead at 64."
On November 20, 2014, Fugly the KlowN claimed Zmuda paid him to start the rumor.