Andy Kaufman’s brother says he is victim of hoax

Updated 11:32 AM EST, Fri November 15, 2013

Story highlights

Andy Kaufman's brother tells CNN's Jake Tapper he is victim of a hoax

Latest story started Monday when woman appeared at club claiming to be comedian's daughter

Conspiracy theories have always speculated Kaufman faked his death

Wrestling legend Jerry Lawler wants rematch if rumors are true

CNN —  

It seemed too good to be true. Andy Kaufman still alive.

The Internet erupted with the buzz after Kaufman’s brother read a letter purportedly from Andy at a comedy club on Monday night and introduced a 24-year-old woman as his brother’s daughter.

But almost as quickly as reports surfaced Thursday, the news seemed to fizzle, with Michael Kaufman telling CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that he believes he’s the victim of a hoax.

“Now that it’s Thursday, not Monday anymore, I believe I am part of a hoax,” Kaufman said in a bizarre, rambling interview where he spoke in a monotone not unlike his brother.

“I don’t believe she’s acting on her own, though,” Kaufman said of the woman he introduced Monday night. “But, you know, that’s all I know.”

Tapper pressed him: “Just to reiterate, you now don’t think that it’s true – you think that this is a hoax and you were a victim of the hoax?”

“Correct,” Kaufman said. He denied he was part of the hoax.

The Smoking Gun reported the woman is actually an actress named Alexandra Tatarsky, and her father is a 58-year-old psychologist. The website reported that Michael Kaufman met her earlier this year at a Manhattan gallery and recruited her to pose as his brother’s daughter.

“That is not true,” Michael Kaufman told CNN. Attempts to reach the Tatarskys were unsuccessful.

Asked if he was angry, he said, “I’m still processing it. As Andy’s brother, you learn over the years, you know, to go with the flow, kind of. So I have mixed emotions. I never allowed myself to get too excited, but I was always slightly skeptical.”

Andy Kaufman, the comedic genius, had often talked about faking his death and joked about his eventual return. Sightings of Kaufman’s boorish character Tony Clifton were reported at comedy clubs following the comedian’s death in 1984 from a rare form of cancer at age 35. Even some of his closest friends never quite believed Kaufman died. A cult following ensued.

As the latest reports spread Thursday, the Los Angeles County Coroner took the unusual step of re-releasing Kaufman’s death certificate. “Andy Kaufman is dead,” the coroner’s office said in a statement.

Kaufman’s manager, George Shapiro, was at the comedian’s side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on the day he died, May 16, 1984. “Andy’s very much alive in our hearts, but I don’t think his body is around,” Shapiro told CNN Thursday. “He died. I was in the hospital.”

Michael Kaufman told Tapper he, too, was at his brother’s deathbed. “I saw him emaciated. I saw him die.”

The latest story began Monday. In a tale almost as outlandish as his brother’s skits, Michael Kaufman told an audience at a New York comedy club that he received a letter from his brother 15 years after his death. A woman then came on stage and said she was Andy Kaufman’s daughter born in 1989.

Michael Kaufman explained he was going through Andy’s writings many years ago and found a reference to him “talking about faking his death,” including the line, “I will reappear.” It said Andy’s reappearance would take place at a restaurant on Christmas Eve in 1999.

When Michael Kaufman went to the restaurant, he said, a parking attendant gave him a letter purportedly from his brother. Michael Kaufman read the letter to the audience at Monday’s annual Andy Kaufman Awards show.

“It was too much pressure to be Andy Kaufman. I just wanted to be Andy,” Michael Kaufman read. “I think that’s why I got sick. I had to change completely and quickly. I’m extremely very happily married with the most wonderful wife in the whole wide world and with the two greatest kids: a 10-year-old daughter and a son who is 8.”

Michael Kaufman told the audience a woman approached him about a month after his father, Stanley Kaufman, died this summer: “She told me a lot of secrets that Andy and I had together, like our secret handshake, the way Andy made fun of me for being too nice of a guy.”

She then came onstage.