Sorry, comedy fans, it looks like Andy Kaufman is still dead.
Andy’s brother Michael Kaufman told CNN that he now believes he was the victim of a hoax involving a letter from his brother and a young woman claiming to be Andy’s daughter. On Monday, Kaufman invited the young woman onstage at the closing night of the Andy Kaufman Award contest in New York City. In a video from the event, the woman claims that her father was still alive and just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad and out of the spotlight. Audience members were shocked by the announcement and immediately began questioning the authenticity of the claims.
“I’m still trying to process it all,” Michael told CNN on Thursday. “There were articles that came out today that have forwarded the action, but regardless, I’m questioning things as much as you and everybody else is. … I believe that I am part of the hoax. I don’t believe that she’s acting on her own though. That’s all I know.”
Many now believe that the young woman is actually New York-based actress Alexandra Tartasky and that this was all just one elaborate scheme. The Smoking Gun reported that Tartasky met Michael last year and that he had hired her to be a part of the hoax, a claim Michael denied to CNN.
Andy Kaufman died in 1984 from lung cancer. But even before his death, some close to the comedian already questioned how he would deal with his afterlife. Longtime friend Dennis Raimondi told CNN that he remembered a conversation in 1980 with Kaufman about the comedian faking his own death one day. “It’s certainly something he gave a lot of thought to,” Raimondi said Thursday. “One of his concerns at the time was the reaction of his parents. He cared about them.”
It was after Andy and Michael’s father Stanley’s death this past summer that Michael claims the young woman first approached him. However, it has been years of mystery for Michael. He claims that while looking through old writings on Andy’s, he read a line claiming that he would reappear one day, specifically at a restaurant on Christmas Eve 1999. When Michael went to the restaurant, he was given a letter from a parking attendant allegedly from his brother. He read the letter, almost 15 years after receiving it, on Monday night.
“It was too much pressure to be Andy Kaufman. I just wanted to be Andy,” Michael Kaufman read. “I think that’s why I got sick. I had to change completely and quickly. I’m extremely very happily married with the most wonderful wife in the whole wide world and with the two greatest kids: a 10-year-old daughter and a son who is 8.”
That would make his daughter 24 today, born in 1989, five years after Kaufman’s death. Seemingly impossible, Michael still had reasons to believe her. “She told me a lot of secrets that Andy and I had together, like our secret handshake, the way Andy made fun of me for being too nice of a guy.”
The Los Anegeles coroner’s office re-released Kaufman’s death certificate stating simply, “Andy Kaufman is dead,” in a statement. George Shapiro was Kaufman’s manager and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on the day he died. “Andy’s very much alive in our hearts, but I don’t think his body is around,” Shapiro told CNN. “He died. I was in the hospital.”
Kaufman did have a daughter in his known life, giving her up for adoption when he was only 17. For Michael, the whole thing always seemed a little too good to be true. “I’m still processing it. As Andy’s brother, you learn over the years, you know, to go with the flow, kind of. So I have mixed emotions. I never allowed myself to get too excited, but I was always slightly skeptical.”
Check out the video obtained by TMZ from Monday night: