It was reported that 300 people attended Kaufman’s funeral. A handful were sex workers.
Many of the Late Night staff thought it was another classic Kaufman stunt.
Andy Kaufman Appearances on David Letterman
Former Letterman executive produer, Robert Morton was one of the few people to attend Andy’s funeral.
Carol Kane was the only Taxi cast member to attend his funeral.
His manager, George Shapiro, refused to attend, and no one knows why.
Bill Zehme – Lost in the Funhouse, the official Kaufman biography:
“Andy would begin doing things he did not tell George about, such as plotting his own death, which was nothing if not the penultimate bombing.” “Throughout the next year he would posit the idea to other people – to Zmuda, certainly, as well as his sister and his brother and also Mimi Lambert.”
Saturday Night Live:
SNL producer Bob Tischler and two writers, Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield were let in on the concept, “…the hoax I’d really like to pull off is my death. But I’m afraid of doing it – because when I do these things, I do them for real, and so I wouldn’t even be able to tell my parents,” Andy confided.
Bob Thompson (a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University):
“I still try to hold onto a little bit of hope that he didn’t really die. But I have to say, if he is going to come back and still have an audience, he’d better do it pretty soon.”
[were you friends?] “OF COURSE and still is, Legendary!”
Merle Kessler (a hoaxer and founding member of the Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater):
“When Kaufman died I thought it was a joke. People on the street would approach Andy (sitting in his wheelchair) and say, ‘Andy, come on man. This dying bit is just too much!’ Andy would turn to friends and just shrug in astonishment, ‘Can you believe it? They think I’m making this up!'”
I really never met Andy, but once I saw just him in the crowd at the California State Fair. Teller said, “There’s Andy Kaufman!” He was dressed like a redneck-style trucker, and he was yelling at the guy behind the counter, “I’m not that faggot on Taxi, asshole, what the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t play no fucking faggot on no fucking TV show, you piece a horseshit.” And we watched him, and Teller said, “yeah, that’s Andy Kaufman,” and I said, “It sure is.”
“During our first season, Judd and I ran into Andy in New York. We were doing some publicity for the show. And we saw him panhandling in the Bowery. He was bum, a total bum. I mean, we had a hit sitcom on the air, and there he was, panhandling, because he wanted the experience.”
“Oh, my gosh. I’ll tell you one that wasn’t in the movie. One time Andy came in with the most humongous boil you’ve ever seen. It was three inches in diameter at least. It was disgusting. He said, ‘Watch this.’ He made an announcement to the audience. He said that for a dollar they could line up and touch Andy’s boil. A hundred and eight people lined up and did it. That’s how crazy he was, but crazy fun.”
“Andy was the master of the comic switch; at his tribute, people were expecting Tony Clifton to speak.” (on death/funeral service)
“He would come into a room, no matter where, and the psychological room would become his room. You were participating in his drama. Whether he was going to pick a fight with a waitress or whatever. It was always exciting. If there was anybody who manifested the phrase, all the world is a stage, this was the guy. Everything he did was his art.”
“I’ve always had this strange feeling that i was being set up- that Andy was in cahoots with [director] Milos [Foreman]… Even now, I wonder sometimes…”
Vernon Chatman (South Park producer, curated Andy and his Grandmother tapes):
“If there’s one American personality who could fake his death in the last 60 years, it would be Andy. The fact that he died of lung cancer at 35 is just crazy. On the [unreleased] tapes he would talk about going on meditation retreats. He had a level of patience and commitment that he practiced from the age of 20.”
John Moffitt (producer of Fridays):
“Andy asked to speak privately to both me and Jack [Burns]. We moved into a quiet room away from the others, and Andy closed the door, making sure no one besides us could hear. He told us he was about to embark on the greatest prank of his career and made us swear we would never repeat it to a living soul. He then told us it would be the biggest thing in the history of show business, then he lowered his voice and said, ‘I’m going to fake my death, go into hiding for 10 years, and then reappear.’”
“Andy said, ‘Come downstairs. I want to talk to you.’ So Jack and I went down there with him. And Andy closed the door and said, ‘Okay. I have another idea, something I really want to do.’ And he started telling us that he was going to fake his own death. And it seemed very logical to us. We just thought, you know, Okay — that’s Andy, that’s the next thing he’s gonna do. You know, we’d faked the fight on the set of Fridays. And then he’d done this whole evangelical thing, where he wanted this evangelist to marry him to this woman, and he was gonna come on and pretend he’d Seen the Light and was Born Again . . . Andy was always into those things.
“And so when he said he was gonna fake his death, we thought, Great! And, of course, I thought, If you’re gonna come back again, do it on our show. Because . . . Andy was really like a lightning rod. He could do things that everybody would pay attention to. So we thought, Yeah, that’s a great idea. So after talking it through, we went upstairs, and that was the end of that.
“And then the show got canceled. And then, all of a sudden I heard Andy was sick. And I’m thinking, Okay — here we go! He’s doing it! And then someone said, ‘No, really. We saw Andy, and he’s really, really sick. He’s lost his hair, he’s thin as a rail, he’s really sick.’ And I again thought, ‘You know, Andy would go to any kind of extreme to fake this, to do his prank. He would starve himself, he’d tear out his hair, he would undernourish himself. He would do it. That’s what Andy would do.’ He was always testing how far he could go, testing the limits of comedy and beyond.
“I mean, it was just the perfect next prank. Where would he go next? He’d done the whole wrestling thing and all of that, so what would he do to make a huge splash, get a lot of press, a lot of attention? It’d have to be something really big, and what could be bigger than that?”
“People were saying, No, Andy really is dead,and I came around to kind of believing, Gee, maybe he actually is. A lot of people didn’t believe it, because they knew Andy’s pranks.
“Is he or isn’t he? You never can tell. You just can’t completely dismiss it. There’s nobody like Andy. Nobody has done things like him. Nobody has gone out that far. Nobody has tested the audience and the limits of laughs, of comedy, as Andy has. So if anybody would do it, it would be Andy.
“It’s not that I believe he’s still alive — but every once in a while I think maybe he is going to pop up. And if he does, it may be the greatest prank of all time, but what’s he done with 20 years of his life? He had to have another life somewhere.”
“Anybody who was associated with him has some little, minute-but-still-present hope in their hearts and minds. I don’t think any of us really believe it. But there’s still that strange hope. Because he never broke any act, he never let on when he was up to something, he never winked at anybody ever. I don’t think anybody was completely in on everything except Andy.”
“He did talk about faking his death. He was driving over to my office when he heard John Belushi died. And he said, Belushi stole my bit! He’s faking his death! That’s what he felt.”
Kaufman was “extremely interested” in Abel’s death hoax. “He was asking Alan all about how he did it.”
“Andy always said he wanted to fake his own death and disappear. He’s probably been off somewhere waiting tables for the last 15 years, waiting when the right time was to reappear.”
Ed Cavanagh (Gotham Comedy Club):
“You could see by the look on [Michael’s] face that it had an emotional impact on him. I don’t know whether somebody is perpetrating something on him or not. I’m truly 50-50 on this one.” (about the “daughter” incident)
Michael Stipe (REM):
“What I was doing with the lyric for Man on the Moon was pulling in various crackpot conspiracy theories of our time, like Elvis Presley was still alive somewhere. And, even more absurd and ourageous, that when they sent a man to walk on the moon that he actually went to a stage set up somewhere in Arizona and the moonwalk never really occurred. And these were the comparisons I was drawing to the people who were not able to believe that Kaufman was dead, that, to the end, he was pulling a prank. That that idea is just as outrageous as those other theories. That he, for me, as a fan of his, puts himself on that level by being such a prankster that people actually thought that.”
Al Parinello (Andy Kaufman Award executive producer) said that Michael Kaufman’s suspicions about his brother date back to approximately the late ’80s, when Michael discovered among Andy’s letters an elaborate plan for staging his own death.
They were heightened in 1999 when Michael received a letter alluding to a ‘traditional Christmas dinner,’ an inside joke between the siblings, and claiming that Andy was still alive and raising a daughter.
Correspondence has continued intermittently over the years, according to Parinello.
“I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank,” says Al Parinello, a lifelong friend of the comedian who produces the AK Awards.
Parinello, who met Kaufman when they were undergrads at Grahm Junior College in Boston, says he is convinced of the story’s veracity, even though he attended Kaufman’s funeral and saw his body with his own eyes.
“It was a closed casket,” he recalls. “Only the family actually saw the body.”
How then does he reconcile Monday’s events? “Andy was an aficionado of meditation,” he explains.
“One of the things Andy was taught at the highest level was a process where one could slow down his breath to a point where you can literally fool anyone that you may be dead when in fact you are alive.
So that’s the one thing that Michael checked for.”
Ed Cavanagh (Gotham Comedy Club, where the AK Awards were held)
“You could see by the look on [Michael’s] face that it had an emotional impact on him.
I don’t know whether somebody is perpetrating something on [Michael] or not.
I’m truly 50-50 on this one.”