Michael Kaufman standing next to a woman who either is or is not Andy Kaufman’s 24-year-old daughter
Every year for the last several years, at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York, a ceremony called the Andy Kaufman Awards takes place in which the eponymous, dearly departed, and much-missed comedian is celebrated, and current performers carrying on the spirit of his baffling comedy are singled out for recognition (Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts have been two of the comedians so honored).
On Monday evening, this year’s edition of the Andy Kaufman Awards took an unusually Kaufmanesque turn, not only when Kaufman’s brother Michael took the stage to announce that Andy is indeed still alive but even more so when a young woman took the stage, claiming to be his daughter and likewise “confirming” that Andy is alive and well.
The woman in question did not, apparently, give her name, but she did reveal her age—24, which would put her birthdate at around 1989. The fact that intrigues is that Kaufman died in 1984 at the age of 35.
Killy Dwyer, who was part of the event as one of the potential honorees, posted the following on her Facebook page:
Ok. Tonight was a mindfuck. Anyone who was there will attest. Andy Kaufman’s daughter came onstage and claimed he was alive. It was. It was…I can’t tell you how it was, only that it was as real as any reality that i’ve seen. and yeah. I get that it is—could—might all be a hoax. That was the only and last thing I want to say. it was fucking fucked up. She said he is alive and that the passing of his father this July made him want to reach out via her- to Michael, Andy’s brother. She said he is watching the award entries, semi and finalists with great interest always. He just wanted to disappear. To be a father. To be an observer. As much as this seems like bullshit as I type it, it was as real as anything I’ve ever seen. There is video. It was chilling, upsetting and absolutely intriguing. I bawled my eyes out. The entire room was freaked out. It was, if nothing else, brilliant. and incredibly mindfuckng and AWESOME.
To supply a little background, the basic facts are these. Between roughly 1970 and his passing in 1984, Kaufman established himself as one of the most original voices in comedy, primarily through his appearances on Saturday Night Live and his status as a regular player on the cast of Taxi (1978-1983). He gave a number of live performances coinciding with his run on Taxi that are considered legendary, particularly his April 1979 show at Carnegie Hall in which, among other things, he took the entire audience out for milk and cookies (this required the use of 24 buses) and invited everyone to join him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning.
Long accustomed to baffling and irritating his audiences, in his last years Kaufman refined what can only be called an especially provocative form of anti-comedy to its most sublime expression. Kaufman became renowned for belligerently boasting that he could beat any woman in the sport of wrestling—and several such matches were staged. He also had a scuffle and a heated exchange with Memphis wrestler Jerry Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman.
He developed an alter ego named Tony Clifton, whom Kaufman insisted be hired as a guest actor on Taxi—Kaufman’s partner in crime, a curious figure named Bob Zmuda, later continued with the Clifton persona after Kaufman’s death of lung cancer in 1984, in part to fuel speculation that Kaufman was still alive and controlling this macabre anti-comedy from offstage.
Rather brilliantly, Kaufman—alive or no—managed to set up conditions whereby almost anything that happens can be said to further corroborate either the facts of his death or the concocted nature of same. It is well known that Kaufman spoke often of faking his own death, but most reasonable observers have concluded that this is highly unlikely.
This is what makes the events of last Monday night so compelling and weird. Nobody claims to know who the young woman is or whether she is telling the truth. At the Andy Kaufman Awards on Monday, Michael Kaufman, Andy’s brother, told a story about Andy’s supposed promise to meet up with Michael on Christmas Eve of 1999, on which date Michael showed up at the appointed restaurant but Andy did not—however (according to Michael) an emissary did hand Michael an envelope that evening explaining about Andy’s faked death and his new family, including a daughter.
So what we know is, either Andy Kaufman is alive or his brother and an unidentified woman staged a remembrance of his brilliantly perverse comedy in the most attention-getting manner imaginable.
Kaufman in rare form, taunting Jerry Lawler and wrestling a woman named Susan:
(The best account of this bizarre turn of events can be found at the Comic’s Comic.)