Editor’s Note: Michael Patrick Welch, renowned New Oreans writer, musician, teacher and friend of The Escondido Grapevine, conducted an interview with the provocateur known to Andy Kauffman and Bob Zmuda fans as Tony Clifton. While others have shunned this outstanding piece of informational journalism, we embrace it and re-print this as a public service.
“After a year of chasing Tony Clifton to get his thoughts on Trump stealing his ENTIRE ACT, I finally got the bastard to answer my questions, but then no one would publish the piece (some rejected it because they didn’t think we should be joking about the seriousness of Trump right now, and others just couldn’t stomach how disgusting Clifton speaks). So, I am hoping you will share it and make it popular so those editors will all feel stupid.
— Michael Patrick Welch
Back when this Donald Drumpf fiasco was still a little bit funny (I think we all agree it’s no longer funny in the slightest), many comedy fans accused Orange Julius Caesar of ripping off insult comedian and lounge singer, Tony Clifton. In order to win the election, Donald appropriated Clifton’s distinct brand of sexism, his cartoonish racism, the ill-fitting suits and magic realist hair, and the misplaced swag of the disgusting old white man who somehow believes women want to fuck them.
As Drumpf grew unfunny, I as a comedy fan grew almost offended by Drumpf’s blatant rip-off of Clifton — right down to the facial expressions, namely that dewy, pink pout, the bottom lip protruding like the world’s most punchable cocktail wiener.
In 2014, I spent a very fun weekend in New Orleans with Tony Clifton. I’ve still never met Bob Zmuda face-to-face. They are though, the same person. Tony Clifton shouts “nigger” whenever, and spends half of every year as a sex tourist in Thailand (when he’s not at home in Nevada in a house conveniently located near the famed Bunny Ranch brothel). The decidedly liberal Zmuda, on the other hand founded, and to this day spearheads, the famous Comic Relief organization that has raised millions for various important charities, mostly homelessness. “I don’t agree with people saying the N word onstage,” Zmuda once told me on the phone, in a voice so similar to Clifton’s. After spending just that one weekend with Clifton, I came away seeing the whole gag as less of an act, and more as Zmuda’s dark pathology.
But anyway, Drumpf. I’d first met Clifton when he rolled into New Orleans performing a big show, the money from which would go to benefit Hurricane Katrina survivors. Tony claimed he ended up on this charity tour as part of a plea bargain in a New Orleans rape case. Supposedly, he’d come back to his hotel one night wasted, and accidentally entered the wrong room, where he crawled in bed with a strange woman who “got the wrong idea,” freaked out, and pressed charges. “That broad was old as dirt,” Tony had told me in his own defense. “I do not under any circumstance fuck anything over half my age.”
Drumpf used this exact same logic to shoot down his own sexual assault allegations! “Take a look. You take a look. Look at her,” Drumpf had said in his defense. “Tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”
I grew so outraged at Drumpf’s appropriation that, ever since Tony Clifton’s doppelganger became the most powerful man in the world, I have attempted to reconnect with Clifton and get his thoughts. Tony though has been in Thailand fucking prostitutes these last several months, and so only recently got around to answering my questions regarding Drumpf’s blatant identity theft:
MPW: Have you ever met Donald Drumpf? How did that interaction play out?
Tony Clifton: I did. I was participating in a fundraiser and Marla Maples was on the organizing committee. One day, we met for lunch and she had me meet her at Drumpf Tower. She asked if I wanted to meet “The Donald” so I did. He gave me the old “once over,” surmised me as a threat and unwelcomely shook my hand. On the way out of building, Marla apologized for his behavior, six months later they divorced.
What did you think when you found out Drumpf was running for President?
Like everyone else, I thought he didn’t have a prayer. We were all proven wrong. It just goes to show you, that our entire lives (certainly our political sphere) can turn on a dime. The poet William Blake Yeats said, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, The Falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…” Tony Clifton is loosed upon the world… (I added that last part).
When he started his run, did people begin mentioning to you how much Drumpf seemed to be “stealing your shtick” (not just his political incorrectness, but his facial expressions even…)
Yes… I started to get calls from everyone who was familiar with my works, the similarities were unmistakable. It was as if he was channeling me. Of course they were picking up on the “political incorrectness” angle and Tony Clifton is all for that. The Jetting out of the lower lip is of course my signature facial expression…I lifted it from Mussolini.
Some people considered Drumpf’s campaign so absurd that they evoked the name Andy Kaufman — wishful thinking that this was all some absurdist routine. Did anyone speak to you about this? Is Drumpf in any way like Kaufman?
Yeah, I read a lot about Drumpf really being Andy Kaufman underneath it all. I never got the connection and was actually offended by it. If anything they’re polar opposites. ME — Yes! Kaufman — NO!!! Drumpf’s all me — Where Dark little Andy’s a wimp, a square. He’d never reach out and grab a Broad’s pussy without asking. Me and Donald would … and have… and will continue to do it.
On which of Drumpf’s platforms (immigration/healthcare/gutting the Federal gov/tax breaks for the rich) do you agree, or disagree?
I don’t give a shit about any of it one way or the other. I live half of my year in Southeast Asia. I’m more up on the politics in Thailand and the Philippines than here. Anyone who stays in this country (US) all year is a LOSER in my book.
Did you vote for Donald Drumpf? Why or why not?
I can’t vote, I’m a fictional character. What have you been drinking?
When Drumpf was accused of rape during his campaign, his “defense” was that he “could not have raped that woman because she was clearly too unattractive for him.” Does this defense sound familiar to you (New Orleans?)?
I believe him. With his bread, it’s Top of the Line Booty. Look at our First Lady! Now that’s a high-end Hooker if I ever saw one and I mean that as a compliment. He didn’t touch that old ugly Broad. That is Hillary’s type instead.
Since you and Drumpf share a similar body type, do you have any fashion tips for Drumpf — he dresses so poorly, with the ill-fitting suits?
I’ve found that the filthy rich don’t care how they look, they don’t have to impress anyone so why dress up? Dressing up is for poor people or performers such as myself who mean it more as a costume. When I’m home, I’m in my underwear, skid marks and all.
Have you any other advice for Donald Drumpf either as a politician or as someone who insults people professionally?
Keep hurling the insults, the media eats it up, they all love to hear it. It keeps it Real!!! It’s that shit that got him elected. People were sick and tired of the elegant Obama-speak. Teleprompters are for scoundrels or for those who cannot remember their own bullshit.
Journalist/musician/author of New Orleans: the Underground Guide, The Donkey Show, and this new collection Famous People I Have Met: http://t.co/XNY1JjVe9U