Did Andy Kaufman Fake His Death?

December 29, 2017

Netflix recently released Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, a documentary about Man in the Moon, the 1999 film about avant grade comedian Andy Kaufman starring Jim Carrey. One thing neither movie covers: Did Kaufman fake his 1984 death and assume another identity as one of his patented comedy stunts?

The Daughter

The Andy Kaufman Awards are handed out each year to a comedian who’s keeping alive the spirit of Kaufman’s bizarre, experimental, reality-bending brand of comedy. At the 2013 iteration, a woman appeared on stage with Kaufman’s brother, Michael Kaufman, and delivered the shocking news that she was Kaufman’s daughter, and that dad faked his death to be a stay-at-home parent for her and her brothers and sisters. (The whole thing turned out to be a Kaufmanesque stunt — the woman was an actress named Alexandra Tatarsky.)

The Hiding Out Theory

Some say that Kaufman so hated being famous that he faked his own death to get away from it all. He didn’t die of lung cancer at all, but pretended to, and moved to a remote town in New Mexico where he leads a monastic existence.

The Jim Carrey Theory

There’s one tantalizing idea why Carrey was so able to channel Kaufman’s unique sensibility for Man on the Moon: because they’re the same person. Some fans think that Kaufman “died” in 1984, underwent plastic surgery, and emerged later that year as an up-and-coming Canadian comic and actor named Jim Carrey.

The Rocco Theory

In the early 2000s, an Orange County swap meet merchant named Steve Rocco won a seat on the local school board. He’d show up wearing dark glasses and would spend meetings ranting about a secret organization that runs Orange County. This strange behavior, plus the fact that Rocco somewhat resembles Kaufman, and ran a website called Andy Kaufman Lives, led people to the “logical” conclusion.

The Donald Trump Theory

The reasoning: Trump’s over-the-top personality and nontraditional campaign were so unprecedented as to remind many people of Andy Kaufman, or his kooky characters like “Foreign Man” (which became his Taxi character, Latka) or crass lounge singer Tony Clifton. Speculation was that Kaufman would “reveal” himself on election night.

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