Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman (January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an American comedian, actor, writer, performance artist and professional wrestler. While often referred to as a comedian, Kaufman described himself instead as a "song and dance man." He disdained telling jokes and engaging in comedy as it was traditionally understood, once saying in a rare introspective interview, "I am not a comic, I have never told a joke. ... The comedian's promise is that he will go out there and make you laugh with him. ... My only promise is that I will try to entertain you as best I can."
After working in small comedy clubs in the early 1970s, Kaufman first came to the attention of a wider audience in 1975, when he was invited to perform portions of his act on the first season of Saturday Night Live. His Foreign Man character was the basis of his role as Latka Gravas on the hit television show Taxi, on which he appeared from 1978 until 1983. During this time, he continued to tour comedy clubs and theaters in a series of unique performance art / comedy shows, sometimes appearing as himself and sometimes as obnoxiously rude lounge singer Tony Clifton. He was also a frequent guest on sketch comedy and late-night talk shows, particularly Late Night with David Letterman. In 1982, Kaufman brought his professional wrestling villain act to Letterman's show with a staged encounter with Jerry "The King" Lawler of the Continental Wrestling Association (although the fact that the altercation was planned in advance was not publicly disclosed for over a decade).
Kaufman died of lung cancer in 1984, at the age of 35; however, because pranks and elaborate ruses were major elements of his career, persistent rumors have circulated insisting that Kaufman faked his own death as a grand hoax. His body of work maintains a cult following and he continues to be respected for his original material, unique performance style, and unflinching commitment to character.
He is also known as Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman and Andrew G. Kaufman.
Kaufman had often spoken of faking his own death as a grand hoax, with rumors persisting, often fueled by sporadic appearances of Kaufman's character Tony Clifton at comedy clubs following the comedian's death.