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Andy Kaufman death hoax: the laugh's on us?

Categories: Celebrities, Television

Andy KaufmanRumours that comedic entertainer Andy Kaufman is still alive persist to this day, nearly 30 years after his death in 1984. (Getty Images)

Comic entertainer and absurdist performance artist Andy Kaufman was known for theatrical hoaxes and unusual stage routines, but who'd have thought that nearly 30 years after his death, he'd still be keeping us on our toes?

Earlier this week, at the Andy Kaufman Awards show (an annual celebration of promising young performers established in his memory), the perennial prankster's brother dropped a bomb: sharing that after Kaufman's passing, he had discovered an elaborate plan to fake his death — which included a note that the Taxi star would turn up at a particular spot, on Christmas Eve in 1999 (incidentally, 15 years after his official death).

Michael Kaufman continued by saying that when he arrived on-site on the date in question, he was handed a letter penned by his entertainer brother that purportedly explained a desire to go into hiding to live "a normal life," that he had started a family and urging him not to reveal the news until their father died.

After the death of Stanley Kaufman this summer, Michael Kaufman said he received a call from a young woman — aged 24 — who claimed to be his niece. Cue the lovely young woman who then joined him onstage, to the shock of Kaufman fans in the audience.

Despite the public details of the unconventional Kaufman's tragic death — kidney failure brought on by lung cancer — at the notable Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles and the presence of a death certificate, rumours that Kaufman is still alive persist (bubbling up at various times, including around the release of the 1999 Kaufman bio-pic Man on the Moon).

Conspiracy theorists have had a field day picking apart every inconsistent detail, from former colleagues who attest to his death hoax plans to problems with the death certificate on file.

The young woman who appeared alongside Michael Kaufman this week has been outed by popular site The Smoking Gun as a New York actress (whose father is incidentally a very-much-alive Manhattan psychologist).

Still, it feels like this latest wrinkle won't matter to diehard devotees. Wherever he is (or on whatever plane of existence), Andy Kaufman is likely having a good chuckle at it all.

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