Is Andy Kaufman still alive? That’s the million-dollar question his fans have been asking ever since the legendary prankster died of lung cancer in 1984 at the age of 35. After all, Kaufman was noted for incorporating elaborate stunts and tricks into his performance art. Did he fake his own death and pull off his biggest prank of all? The infamous rumor is about to pick up steam.
As Defamer reports, Sean McCarthy of The Comic’s Comic attended the closing night of the ninth annual Andy Kaufman Awards at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City on Monday. During the event, Kaufman’s brother Michael took the stage and told a story about finding a written note from Andy detailing how he planned to fake his own death, and how he’d reappear on Christmas Eve in 1999 at his favorite restaurant.
When the date arrived, Michael went to the restaurant. Andy Kaufman never showed up, but Michael said he was handed an envelope that contained a letter supposedly written to him by Andy. The letter said that Andy had gone into hiding and that he’d met and fallen in love with a woman and had a daughter. According to Michael, the letter also said Andy didn’t want anybody to know the truth while their father Stanley was still alive.
Stanley died this past summer. According to Defamer, one month after his father died, a young woman called Michael claiming to be Andy’s daughter. The woman said that Andy was very much alive, and had been watching the Andy Kaufman Awards from afar. When Michael asked if that woman was in the audience, a woman made her way to the stage in front of a stunned audience.
Killy Dwyer, one of the finalists at this year’s Andy Kaufman Awards, posted her thoughts about the event on Facebook.
"Ok. Tonight was a mindf**k,” she said. “Anyone who was there will attest. Andy Kaufman's daughter came onstage and claimed he was alive. It was. It was...I can't tell you how it was, only that it was as real as any reality that i've seen. and yeah. I get that it is - could - might all be a hoax. That was the only and last thing I want to say. it was f*****g f****d up. She said he is alive and that the passing of his father this July made him want to reach out, via her, to Michael, Andy's brother. She said he is watching the award entries, semi and finalists with great interest always. He just wanted to disappear. To be a father. To be an observer. As much as this seems like bulls**t as I type it, it was as real as anything I've ever seen. There is video. It was chilling, upsetting and absolutely intriguing. I bawled my eyes out. The entire room was freaked out. It was, if nothing else, brilliant. and incredibly mindf*****g and AWESOME."
Ed Cavanagh, who manages Gotham Comedy Club, told the Hollywood Reporter that the revelation had an “emotional impact” on Michael Kaufman. "I don't know whether somebody is perpetrating something on [Michael] or not. I'm truly 50-50 on this one."
Al Parinello, a lifelong friend of Andy Kaufman who produces the awards, told the Hollywood Reporter: "I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank.”
"It was a closed casket," Parinello said of Kaufman’s funeral. "Only the family [and myself] actually saw the body."
How then, could Kaufman pull such a thing off? "Andy was an aficionado of meditation," he explains. "One of the things Andy was taught at the highest level was a process where one could slow down his breath to a point where you can literally fool anyone that you may be dead when in fact you are alive. So that's the one thing that Michael checked for."
When THR contacted Michael Kaufman, he said the woman claiming to be Andy Kaufman’s daughter was impossible to contact, for reasons he would reveal later.