This was inspired by the late comedian Andy Kaufman. When he was a teenager, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe saw Kaufman on Saturday Night Live
, and has cited him as a huge influence ever since. See a photo and learn more about Andy Kaufman in Song Images
Things mentioned in this song: Mott the Hoople, Life, Monopoly, Twister, Risk, checkers, chess, twenty-one, wrestler Fred Blassie, Elvis Presley, Moses, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin.
Kaufman was known for his Elvis-impersonations, which he once performed on Saturday Night Live. Stipe tries one of his own on the line, "Hey, baby are we losing touch?"
This was used as the title for a 1999 movie about Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey. R.E.M. did the soundtrack, which included this.
Andy Kaufman was never married. He met his long time girlfriend Lynn at a restaurant while shooting a short independent film. The movie told a different story of how they met. (thanks, Jessy - Pittsfield, MA)
The lyric "Mr. Fred Blassie and the breakfast mess" refers to Kaufman's movie My Breakfast With Blassie. This was the movie that Kaufman was filming when he met his girlfriend. (thanks, Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA)
On an edition of the British TV show Top Of The Pops 2, Michael Stipe claimed that when writing this song, it was a tribute to Kurt Cobain's lyrics and writing, and that the repeated "yeah yeah yeah yeah" at the end of most lines is actually his attempt at putting more "yeahs" in a song than Cobain did. Stipe claimed Cobain was the master at making them fit, and he wanted to out-do him. (thanks, Liam - London, England)
R.E.M. performed this with Eddie Vedder when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
After R.E.M. called it quits in 2011, Michael Stipe said that this would be the song he would most miss performing, particularly "watching the effect of that opening bass line on a sea of people at the end of a show," he told Rolling Stone. "That is an easy song to sing. It's hard to sing a bad note in it," he added.