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Andy Kaufman's brother backpedals as faked death story takes off

Image: Andy Kaufman
Andy Kaufman.Hulton Archive / Getty Images file

Andy Kaufman's faked death is looking more and more like a hoax perpetrated by the comedian's brother.

STORY: Andy Kaufman's brother says comedian is alive, in love and has a daughter 

Sounding rushed and harried in a short phone conversation on Thursday morning, Michael Kaufman, the brother of the "Taxi" star — who officially died in 1984 at age 35 from lung cancer — apologized for having to delay a planned interview with THR, the second such postponement in two days. He then admitted that the attention foisted upon him in the last 24 hours has become overwhelming.

"This is so, like, out of my league what's going on here," Kaufman says.

The media and online feeding frenzy follows events at Monday night's Andy Kaufman Awards, held at Gotham Comedy Club, where Michael read a letter allegedly typed by his brother which stated Andy was alive and living with a woman with whom he had raised a daughter. That alleged daughter was then brought up on stage. (Kaufman had another daughter in 1969, Maria Bellu-Colonna, whose relation to the comedian is not in question.)

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Video of the event posted to TMZ shows the woman, who says she is 24, answering questions posed by Michael. "I'm not trying to prove anything," the woman says, nervously touching her hair and face. "He didn't tell me specifically to impart anything. ... He was really thinking about coming."

Asked by an audience member what the legendary comic was up to these days, the woman answers, "He just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. That's why he wanted to leave the showbiz and whatever. And so he's pretty much a great dad and raised us..."

Since the video was published online, reports have surfaced that the woman posing as Andy Kaufman's daughter is in fact Alexandra Tatarsky, a 23-year-old actress. The Smoking Gun cites an anonymous source who says Michael met Tatarsky while she was working at an Andy Kaufman-themed exhibit at the Maccarone Gallery in Manhattan, entitled, "On Creating Reality." That's where Kaufman recruited Tatarsky to play the role of the comedian's daughter, the site reports.

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The brother would not comment on the allegations. Saying he was late for planned TV appearances arranged for him by Al Parinello — the producer of the Andy Kaufman Awards who previously told THR, "I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank" — Kaufman backpedals on the claims.

"I think I've been misquoted, OK?" Kaufman says. "I never came out with, 'He's alive.' I'm as skeptical as anybody else."