Andrew Geoffrey "Andy" Kaufman (January 17, 1949 – May 16, 1984) was an American entertainer, actor and performance artist. While often referred to as a comedian, Kaufman did not consider himself to be one. He disdained telling jokes and engaging in comedy as it was traditionally understood, referring to himself instead as a "song-and-dance man." Elaborate hoaxes and pranks were major elements of his career. His act maintains a cult following and he continues to be respected among comedians for his original material, performance style, and unflinching commitment to character.
At the beginning of an April 1979 performance at New York's Carnegie Hall, Kaufman invited his "grandmother" to watch the show from a chair he had placed at the side of the stage. At the end of the show, she stood up, took her mask off and revealed to the audience that she was actually comedian Robin Williams in disguise. Kaufman also had an elderly woman (named Eleanor Cody Gould) appear to have a heart attack and die on stage, at which point he reappeared on stage wearing a Native American headdress and performed a dance over her body, seeming to revive her.
The performance is most famous for Kaufman ending the show by actually taking the entire audience, in twenty-four buses, out for milk and cookies. He invited anyone interested to meet him on the Staten Island Ferry the next morning, where the show continued. This kind of performance art was a hallmark of Kaufman's career. This was depicted in the biopic Man on the Moon; however, in the movie, it takes place after Kaufman was diagnosed with cancer, when in reality, it took place nearly four years earlier.