The brother of cult comedian Andy Kaufman has claimed the star faked his own death and is still alive.
Renowned for playing Latka Gravas in the 1970s sitcom Taxi, Kaufman officially died from renal failure in 1984 after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33.
But at the Andy Kaufman Awards, named in his honour to celebrate young comedy talent, his brother Michael revealed that he had received a letter from Andy in 1999 confirming he was alive.
Michael then introduced a woman who claimed to be the eccentric actor’s 24-year-old daughter to the stage.
Kaufman’s ‘daughter’ described him as a “great” father who “just makes us food and takes care of the house”.
She said: “He just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad, that’s why he wanted to leave the showbiz.”
Before the woman took to the stage, Michael described how he had found an essay years ago in which his brother revealed plans to fake his death. A note was included with the essay, stating that the comedian would turn up on Christmas Eve in 1999 at his favourite restaurant.
When Michael visited the restaurant on the designated day, Andy failed to appear, but a waitress handed over a letter saying he had gone into hiding to live a normal, private life with his wife and daughter.
Comedian Killy Dwyer, who was at the award ceremony, wrote on Facebook that “the entire room was freaked out” by the revelations, suggesting that while it “might all be a hoax”, the news was “chilling, upsetting and absolutely intriguing”.
Kaufman was no stranger to elaborate performance acts, having impersonated Elvis Presley, created a verbally-abusive, rank-smelling alter-ego called Tony Clifton, and organised wrestling matches with women.
Perhaps his best known stunt was hiring 24 buses to take a 2,800 strong audience at Carnegie Hall out for milk and cookies after one of his shows.
As a result, rumours that his death was just another hoax have been circulating for years among his fanbase.
A video from the awards posted on TMZ shows Michael asking the audience not to follow the young woman when she left. “I won’t give you her name. I don’t even know [her] name. Let her have her privacy,” he said.
Kaufman’s ‘daughter’, who would have been born five years after Kaufman's 'official' death, suggested her comedian father will present himself to the public soon.
“I don’t know how much longer he can keep everything away,” she said to the audience. “He was really thinking about coming. I think something in him needs to come out.”
A copy of what is said to be Kaufman's death certificate can be viewed online, stating the comedian died on 16 May, 1984.