For years, actor Andy Kaufman gained fans through his extensive and original hoaxes and pranks. Referred to as a comedian by most, Kaufman preferred the term “song-and-dance man” due to the lack of traditional comedic elements incorporated into his work. Throughout his career, Kaufman allegedly told people, including partner-in-crime Bob Zmuda, that he wished to fake his own death. Recently, audio recordings have been discovered and edited, highlighting on Kaufman’s pranks and gags. But, more importantly, these recordings include a conversation between Kaufman and what seems to be Zmuda, discussing an ex-girlfriend who could be crazy enough to kill Kaufman- or at least believed to be. Kaufman looked at this as an outlet to fake his own death, making skeptics return to the original question: Did Andy Kaufman really die?
Born Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman in New York City on January 17, 1949, Kaufman began performing at age nine. He went on to attend Grahm Junior College in Boston where he graduated in 1971. From there, Kaufman began working as a stand-up comedian in small clubs throughout the east coast. His career took off with his character ‘Foreign Man’ from a fictional island. Foreign Man would lip sync to the Mighty Mouse theme song and tell jokes before doing interpretations of well-known people. The act was picked up and performed on Saturday Night Live in the fall of 1975.
Forigen Man was changed to Latka Garvas and starred in the ABC sitcom Taxi beginning in the late 1970s. He then began his own show Andy’s Funhouse, which was picked up by ABC and featured some of Kaufman’s acts from college. The Andy Kaufman Show soon followed and ran similar to Funhouse. In addition, Kaufman had multiple appearances on The Mightnight Special, The Tonight Show, David Letterman and The Merv Griffin Show.
In 1983, Kaufman developed a bad cough which was later diagnosed as a rare form of lung cancer. After the cancer spread to his brain, Kaufman died on May 16, 1984 in West Hollywood at age 35.
But not everyone believed that Andy Kaufman was really gone, sticking to his interest about faking his death only to resurface twenty years later. A group known as ‘the disciples’ meet at an online clubhouse to discuss the theories of Kaufman’s death and insights as to what will be his next move. The website’s URL, andykaufmanlives.com is registered to Stephen Maddox of Greenwood, Indiana, explains The Huffington Post.
In 2004, twenty years after what some believe to be the faking of Kaufman’s death, Zmuda organized a tribune night at ‘The House of Blues’ in L.A. Maddox and his fellow disciples were among the audience, and did not become discouraged when Kaufman failed to show. But believing Kaufman could have in fact faked his own death continues to cause doubts of the man’s true whereabouts. In 1981, Kaufman met with professional hoaxer Alan Abel, who faked his own death the year before. It is said that Kaufman and close family members made the stunt work for Kaufman himself. Rumors that he and his stepfather exchanged identities circulate. Kaufman was then supposed to appear at a hotel in New Jersey in 2008, as arranged by Maddox, but again never showed. The followers of Maddox’s website began to lose hope, but then received an e-mail from Maddox, claiming to be the son of Kaufman. In the e-mail, Maddox explains that Kaufman was living in an apartment complex in New Mexico under the name Lynne. This was one of the last times Maddox was heard from and he has since stopped answering e-mails and phone calls.
The most recent audio recording has been composed of Kaufman doing pranks, gags and interacting with others as well as Kaufman exchanging calls with an ex-girlfriend who he continually makes plans with only to blow off for his new love interest. Following that is the recording of Kaufman speaking to what sounds like Zmuda. The two joke that the unhappy ex-girlfriend could be expected to kill Kaufman in rage, serving as an outlet for him to fake his own death.
The audio titled ‘Andy and his Grandmother’ has been cut down from 82 hours of micro-tapes and was released on July 16. Within the recording is seventeen tracks of never before heard jokes and plans that Kaufman creates from 1977-1979. Despite the evidence supporting Kaufman’s death, the conclusion of the album will no doubt add to the fuel of the fire of conspiracy theorists that believe Kaufman is still alive.