Andy Kaufman officially died from lung cancer in 1984 (Paramount)
Andy Kaufman officially died from lung cancer in 1984 (Paramount)

Cult comedian Andy Kaufman faked his own death and is still alive today, according to his brother and a 24-year-old woman who claims to be his daughter.

The Saturday Night Live and Taxi star officially died aged 35 in 1984 from lung cancer, but rumours that he faked his death to escape fame - many of which were fuelled by Kaufman himself while he was alive - have never stopped circulating.

The rumours his death was all an elaborate hoax have once again resurfaced after his brother, Michael Kaufman, appeared onstage at the annual Andy Kaufman Awards saying he received a letter from the comedian in 1999.

He then introduced on-stage a 24-year-old woman who claimed to be Kaufman's daughter. If true, she would have been born five years after Kaufman is reported to have died.

She told the audience at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York that Kaufman wanted to leave show business to be a stay-at-home dad and that she is only going public about that her alleged father now following the death of Kaufman's dad earlier this year.

The unnamed woman said: "He's pretty much a great dad, and raised us. My mom has her own business... He helps her with that kind of thing, paperwork and stuff, so he can work from home and he doesn't have to be hiding out [or] concealing himself.

"He just makes us food and takes care of the house."

The woman added that Kaufman was "really thinking" about coming out of hiding and appearing at the award show.

Before the woman was introduced onstage, Michael Kaufman told how he found an essay about how his brother planned to fake his own death and that he would reappear at one of his favourite restaurants on Christmas Eve 1999.

Michael said he went to the restaurant to find the comedian, but he never showed up. Instead, a waitress handed him a letter from Kaufman which explained he had gone into hiding and had a daughter with a woman he fell in love with.

The letter also said not to mention that Kaufman was still alive until after his father, Stanley, had died. The Kaufman's father passed away earlier this year, which led to the 24-year-old woman contacting Michael to say Kaufman was still alive and enjoyed watching the award ceremonies online.

Comedian Killy Dwyer, who attended the awards show, described the moment the woman was invited onstage via Facebook. She wrote: "She said [Kaufman] 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 b******t 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 mindf*****g and AWESOME."

Award show producer Al Parinello told the Hollywood Reporter: "I witnessed the entire thing and I can tell you without a doubt this was not a prank."

Kaufman's career contained a number of elaborate pranks that delighted and confused audience members in equal measure, including taking all 2,800 audience members to have milk and cookies following a show at the Carnegie Hall.

He also performed as lounge singer named Tony Clifton, the role of which would sometimes be played by his friend Bob Zmuda. The fact Cliffton, who was reported to have reeked of cheese and frequently insulted audience members, continued to perform way after Kaufman's death, is one of the reasons why rumours Kaufman is still alive still circulate to this day.

The 1999 biopic about Kaufman's life staring Jim Carrey also ended with the possibility he is still alive.