Why does Andy Kaufman still fascinate?

Story highlights

Internet buzzed this week after reports that Andy Kaufman might be alive

Kaufman's brother ultimately said he felt he was victim of hoax

People want to believe because "it would be the longest joke ever told"

CNN  — 

It was vintage Andy Kaufman: New rumors that he might be alive.

This time, his younger brother gave it credence. Never mind that Michael Kaufman said he was with his brother when he died in 1984. Three decades later, he was now reading from a mysterious letter purportedly written by Andy in 1999 and standing onstage with a woman who presented herself as the comedian’s 24-year-old daughter.

The announcement just happened to be made at a New York comedy club during the annual Andy Kaufman Awards show.

We lapped it up. Because we sooooo wanted to believe it was true: The comedic genius would finally make his grand return. An aging Tony Clifton. A triumphant Latka Gravas. A limping Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World.

Anything to keep the hope alive.

Then, Michael Kaufman hit us with the next line: He believes he’s the victim of a hoax.

Kaufman has already been immortalized in the R.E.M. song “Man on the Moon” and in the Jim Carrey movie by the same name. His wrestling antics with Jerry “The King” Lawler are forever etched into American lore from Kaufman’s infamous expletive-laced tirade on “Late Night with David Letterman.”

This week’s news got us wondering why Kaufman still fascinates. Here are five reasons, in a reverse-order fashion he would appreciate:

5. The Ultimate Internet Troll

Kaufman was Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat two decades before “Borat” hit the big screen. He was “Jackass” and “Punk’d” rolled into one.

Kaufman was the Internet troll before the Internet was created.

“He was like that annoying house fly who won’t leave you alone,” says Bob Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. “He was the opposite of a super villain. It’s not like he could freeze the world or burn the world up. He could just irritate the daylights out of the world.”

4. The Big Rematch

Let’s face it: How much fun would it be to see Kaufman step into the ring with Lawler one more time?

The Great Ruse: The comedic genius who rocked wrestling

Maybe an Aging-Loser-Leave-Town match. Even Lawler pines for that moment. As the rumors swirled this week of Kaufman being alive, Lawler challenged Kaufman to hop back into the ring. “We would have to have a rematch,” Lawler told CNN. “We could rekindle the feud with no problem.”

3. Milk and Cookies

He once took an entire audience out for milk and cookies after a show. Enough said.

2. Love Him, Hate Him

If you’re 40 or older, you likely have some memory of Kaufman. On the sitcom “Taxi.” On “Saturday Night Live.” From Letterman. From comedy clubs. From wrestling.