If Andy Kaufman were to show up on Letterman next week, no one familiar with his antics would really be shocked. After all, this was a man who reveled in outlandish gags and stunts, so much so that many fans doubted that the comedian really died of lung cancer in 1984 and held out hope that he was simply biding his time until he would rise from the proverbial dead to deliver the ultimate punchline to the ultimate prank.
The Andy Lives! movement got a boost on Monday at the closing night of the Andy Kaufman Award contest in New York. Kaufman’s brother, Michael, revealed that he’d been in touch with a young woman who claimed to be Andy’s daughter, and then invited her to join him on the stage. The young woman, who resembles Kaufman if you really want her to, told the hushed audience that her father was still alive and had even considered coming to the night’s event. “He just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad, because that’s why he wanted to leave the show-biz and whatever,” said the woman, explaining where he’s been for nearly three decades. “So he’s pretty much a great dad and raised us, and my mom has her own business and stuff like that. And then he helps her with that kind of thing, paperwork and stuff, so he can work from home and he doesn’t have to be hiding, you know, concealing himself.”
Here’s the video, courtesy of TMZ.
Al Parinello, executive director of the Kaufman Award and an old college friend of the comic, was in the room. “I was just shocked,” he says. “I was watching this thing unfold, thinking, ‘Okay, what do I do? What the heck do I do with this?’ I can tell you the audience was stunned. There was definitely the sounds of crying in the room. There were outbursts. Then there was complete silence, total silence, as this thing was unearthing itself.
“Honestly, all I can say is that, ‘Is this a hoax?’ We don’t know,” Parinello adds. “If it is a hoax, it has nothing to do with the Andy Kaufman Award.”
Still, let’s coat all this with several heaping layers of skepticism. Parinello, who is currently producing a documentary about Kaufman and had his cameras in the comedy club on the night in question, says he does not know the young woman claiming to be Andy’s daughter, a woman some outlets have noted resembles a New York theater artist named Alexandra Tatarsky.
Michael Kaufman did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment, but Parinello says, “In the conversations I’ve had with Michael since, I can tell you he is stunned, absolutely stunned, to the point of total confusion. I’m having a hard time getting a complete sentence out of him.”
[UPDATE: Michael Kaufman told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he doesn’t believe that Andy is alive and that he is the victim of a hoax.]
Tatarsky has also not responded to EW’s request for comment.
But is it really possible that Kaufman is still alive, that he faked dying of cancer and is now ready to end 29 years of seclusion to complete his greatest gag ever? Occam’s Razor would be highly dubious. Logic practically insists that Kaufman remains dead and that someone is merely having fun in the spirit of Andy. Parinello, however, is happy to fan the hopeful possibilities: “If anybody can pull this off, it’s Andy Kaufman,” he says. “You really have to look at all the evidence. Andy has gone on record with his friends by saying the ultimate goal is to fake his own death. He’s written about it. He’s talked about it. He’s studied transcendental meditation and one of the great practices is to slow down the heartbeat to a point where a pulse cannot be detected. It’s flimsy, I admit it, but when you knew Andy and you knew his inability to lead life like the rest of us and whose purpose on this earth was to fool people, you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Hey, if anyone can make this happen, this is the guy.’”
Is Andy really the guy? Do you think he’s still alive? Or is this just another hoax? Vote below.