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Reports that Andy Kaufman may have faked his 1984 death spread like wildfire on the Internet Thursday, fueled by suggestions from Kaufman's younger brother.
But now, Michael Kaufman has doubts.
"I'm questioning things as much as you and everybody else is," Michael said in an interview with "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
Michael told an audience at a New York comedy club Monday night that he received a letter from his brother 15 years after his death. He then introduced a woman he said was his brother's daughter born in 1989.
"Now that it's Thursday, not Monday anymore, I believe I am part of the hoax," said Michael Kaufman. "I don't believe that she's acting on her own, though."
Reports of the Monday event fed long-held conspiracy theories that Kaufman's death from a rare form of cancer at age 35 was a hoax. Then the Smoking Gun reported Thursday that the woman Kaufman introduced is a young actress who posed as the comedian's daughter, and that she's really the daughter of a 58-year-old psychologist.
Michael maintains that he did not recruit this woman, and had never seen her until Monday night.
Asked if he is angry about being part of a hoax, Michael said he is "still processing it."
"As Andy's brother, you learn over the years, you know, to go with the flow, kind of, and so I have mixed emotions now," he said. "I never allowed myself to get too excited. I was always slightly skeptical. So I'm not coming down that far."
"There's something nice about this for Andy, you know, and as the brother, you know, I put my own feelings aside," said Michael.
Because as much as this bizarre hoax may hurt him now, "I can't be hurt more than I was in 1984," he says.
Andy Kaufman told his brother he had cancer on Christmas Eve, 1983. He made Michael promise to keep it a secret from the family, especially from their father. Their mother was ill at the time, and Andy thought his dad had enough on his hands.
"So Andy's famous for telling me to keep secrets. But I saw Andy, I saw him emaciated, I saw him die, and I even saw him in the casket," said Michael.
The story is so wild, it is hard to believe that Michael was not in on it; the story was so convincing, because Michael was so convincing.
"I'm convinced by it because of what happened 14 years ago, and now I'm starting to even doubt that," said Michael, referring to a letter he received in 1999, portions of which he read on CNN:
"I'm sorry for all the pain I must have inflicted on [lists family members]. Hope you can understand my reason, number two. (Michael: He writes number two first, for the heck of it). Number one, to have a life, there was too much pressure to be Andy Kaufman. I just wanted to be Andy. I think that's why I got sick. I had to change completely and quickly."
"In the letter he tells me, 'Please don't tell anybody, especially dad.' Not a soul until after he dies," said Michael.
Asked what he wants people to remember about his brother, Kaufman said, ""Remember that Andy was a genius, he was also a good guy ... And he's left behind a legacy."
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The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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