Gilbert Selees once quipped: "Comedy is the last refuge of the nonconformist." That certainly was true for Andy Kaufman (1949-1989), a madcap trickster who liked to call himself "a song and dance man." In this biodrama, directed by Milos Forman, Jim Carrey plays this egocentric comedian, who tells his Hollywood agent George Shapiro (Danny DeVito): "I want to be the biggest star in the world."

After stints in comedy clubs, Andy Kaufman appears on "Saturday Night Live." Then he gets his biggest break by winning a role on "Taxi," a popular television series reaching 40 million people a week. Calling sitcoms "the lowest form of entertainment," he and fellow writer and friend Bob Zmada (Paul Giamatti) create Tony Clifton, a repulsive Las Vegas lounge performer whose specialty is insulting the audience. Not satisfied with this outrageous character, Kaufman goes on to a series of high publicity stunts where he wrestles with women. There he meets Lynne (Courtney Love), who becomes his girlfriend after a tussle in the ring.

Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who did the screenplays for Ed Wood and The People vs. Larry Flynt, successfully present Kaufman as "The King of Negative Energy." He loves hoaxes and put-ons. As a result, when the comedian tells his family and close friends that he is dying of lung cancer, they are not sure if he is serious. Later, near death, he flies to the Philippines to be treated by a famous healer, only to discover that this so-called miracle worker is nothing more than a showman like himself.

Kaufman bids farewell to the world with an event at Carnegie Hall and an elaborately staged funeral. To this day, he has a devoted following. The Koran says: "He deserves paradise who can make his companions laugh."