Andrew Geoffrey Kaufman (January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an actor and performance artist. He was a 1967 graduate of Great Neck North Senior High School, where he participated in camera club and computer programming and was president of a campus organization called Teenagers Pitch In.
Kaufman’s entertainment career started in the early 1970s, when he began performing in small comedy clubs. He got his big break when he was invited to do a guest spot on the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975. This led to repeat appearances on that show as well as appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Hollywood Squares, and numerous other programs. Kaufman is perhaps best known for his role as Latka Gravas on the sitcom Taxi (1978-1983).
Kaufman was a unique performer who didn’t like traditional comedy. His acts were sometimes perplexing but never dull. And he liked to trick his audiences. Decades after his premature passing, a rumor persists that it’s just his greatest hoax (certainly fueled by the fact that he used to talk about faking his own death). R.E.M.’s song “Man on the Moon,” a tribute to Kaufman, was released in 1992. A biopic by the same name, starring Jim Carrey, premiered in 1999.