Andy Kaufman, who, depending on your comedic tastes, was either a comic genius or a crazy person, died in 1984.
But then again, maybe he didn’t.
Part of Kaufman’s “shtick,” if you could call it that, was an unnerving dedication to long-con pranks and elaborate ruses. And according to his brother, his latest and greatest stunt may be faking his own death.
Kaufman’s brother Michael spoke at the Andy Kaufman Awards on Monday, the Huffington Post reports, telling a long, winding story that essentially claimed Kaufman was alive and had been living for the past 29 years in total obscurity, raising his family. (He mentioned finding an essay from his brother that detailed how he planned to go about faking his own death.)
Then, a woman claiming to be Kaufman’s daughter reportedly took the stage, according to Gothamist.com. She claimed to have been motivated to get in touch with Michael after the death of Andy and Michael’s father earlier this year, and while onstage, basically told everyone her “father” was alive.
This is where the story seems to break down a little. Some people in the audience were heard identifying the woman as a theater student, which does kind of set off some warning bells. Even more problematic, she’s claiming to be 24 years old, which is somehow (and by “somehow,” we mean “mathematically”) at odds with Kaufman’s death date 29 years ago.
Kaufman does have an actual daughter, Maria Colonna, who lives in upstate New York. She occasionally does leave civilian life to comment or weigh in on stories about her dad, but thus far has not spoken about this latest one.
So far, opinion seems to be split. On one hand, Ed Cavanagh, showroom manager at the Gotham Comedy Club, told The Hollywood Reporter, “You could see by the look on [Michael’s] face that [the story] had an emotional impact on him.” Regarding the woman’s story, Cavanagh added, “I don’t know whether somebody is perpetrating something on [Michael] or not. I’m truly 50-50 on this one.”
Al Parinello, a longtime friend of the comedian, saw Kaufman’s body at his funeral (and there also happens to be a death certificate). But, on a hypothetical third and somewhat crazy hand, he also told THR that “Andy was an aficionado of meditation,” claiming that “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.”
The story’s not without its holes, but if anyone could pull off what’s being described, it’s Kaufman. What do you think?
Update: The Smoking Gun has outed the girl claiming to be Kaufman’s daughter as Alexandra Tatarsky, 24, a New York City actress. Her actual father, Andrew, is a 58-year-old psychologist specializing in substance abuse treatment.
Tatarsky apparently met Michael Kaufman earlier this year while working at a Manhattan gallery displaying a collection of Kaufman “ephemera and artifacts.”
On Thursday evening Kaufman appeared on The Lead with Jake Tapper and denied that he’d hired Tartasky to play his niece and said he’s never seen her until Monday night. Instead, he believes he’s the victim of a hoax designed to trick him into believing that his brother is still alive.
“I believe I am part of the hoax,” he said. “I don’t believe that [the woman claiming to be Andy’s daughter] is acting on her own, though.”
Asked if he’s angry about it, the comedian’s younger brother said, “I have mixed emotions now. I never allowed myself to get too excited. I was always slightly skeptical. So I’m not coming down that far.”