Cult comedy star Andy Kaufman alive? Really? Well he faked his own death in 1984, according to his brother Michael Kaufman who claims to have received a letter from the screen legend in 1999.

Kaufman, best known for playing Latka Gravas in the classic sitcom Taxi, 'officially' died from lung cancer in 1984. His family had grown concerned about his persistent coughing during a Thanksgiving dinner in Long Island and just days later he was diagnosed with a rare type of lung cancer.

Kaufman had taken on a gaunt appearance during his final performances, apparently choosing to try cure the disease with natural medicines including fruits and vegetables. He is said to have died in West Hollywood on May 16, 1984 with the cause of death listed as kidney failure caused by metastasized large-cell lung carcinoma. His body was interred in the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, New York. 

However, appearing at an awards show in Andy's honour, Michael Kaufman said he received a letter from his brother in 1999, confirming that he was still alive. Michael than introduced a woman who claimed to be Andy's 24-year-old daughter - her age means she was born five years after Kaufman's apparent death, reports the BBC.

"He just wanted to be a stay-at-home dad, that's why he wanted to leave the showbiz," she explained.

"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."

Her arrival on-stage was preceded by a long anecdote in which Michael said he discovered an essay in which Andy detailed planned to fake his death. It was accompanied by a note saying the comedian would reappear on Christmas Eve in 1999, in a particular restaurant. Andy failed to show on that date, though Michael claims to have been handed a letter explaining that his brother had gone into hiding to live a normal life.

Kaufman, who eschewed standard conventional comedy in favour of eccentric performances and elaborate pranks, often confused and frustrated fans.

After a performance  at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1979, Kaufman invited his "grandmother" to watch the show from a chair at the side of the stage. At the end, the woman stood up, took off her mask and revealed to the audience that she was in fact Robin Williams. 

However, the performance was most famous for the fact that Kaufman took the entire audience out for milk and cookies, in 24 buses. He also invited anyone interested to meet him on Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show would continue.