I’m just really starting to pay attention to this Joaquin Phoenix debacle, so I’m coming in with the perspective of not really following the saga from the beginning.
What I have gathered so far is that he’s decided to become a rapper. Got that. I heard about it on TMZ a while ago, before all of the recent hullabaloo. I thought it an odd choice at the time, but if that’s what makes him happy, then best of luck to him.
What I’m starting to think now is that he’s pulling a very Andy Kaufman-esque stunt. Kaufman, who appeared on several TV shows in the ’70s and ’80s, was known for his antics, including a stint in professional wrestling and the abrasiveness of his somewhat alter ego, Tony Clifton. I’m seeing major parallels here. Especially since Casey Affleck has been following Phoenix around with a video camera recording all of his stunts.
From his awkward appearance on the Late Show to his most recent outing that included a brawl at his performance in Miami, Phoenix is building up amazing word of mouth. He is inciting conversation, and people are genuinely interested in what he’s doing. I think this is the best celebrity PR scheme since Kaufman entered the wrestling world.
Whether you are angry, enthralled or mystified, Phoenix is developing his name and his brand. People who never paid him any attention know who he is. After Phoenix’s erratic appearance on the Late Show, Ben Stiller graced the stage at the Academy Awards dressed as Phoenix, and did a hilarious impersonation that makes me laugh thinking about it now, wandering aimlessly around the stage and chewing gum loudly.
Phoenix is on the news, in the papers, all over the entertainment blogs; his popularity is growing and if he is doing this as an elaborate stunt, there is a very good chance that it is working in his favor.