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The character was then changed into Latka Gravas for ABC's sitcom Taxi, appearing in 79 of 114 episodes in 1978-83.Kaufman's longtime manager George Shapiro encouraged him to take the gig.His Foreign Man character was the basis of his performance as Latka Gravas on the hit television show Taxi 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.Though Kaufman's performances on the show were widely praised, even garnering him two Golden Globe Award nominations, Kaufman greatly disliked sitcoms and was unhappy about being so closely identified with Latka, which led him to clash frequently with the show's cast and crew.Kaufman first used his Foreign Man character in nightclubs in the early 1970s, often to tell jokes incorrectly and do weak imitations of famous people before bursting into his Elvis Presley imitation.

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Another such recurring character played by Kaufman was the womanizing Vic Ferrari.The Mighty Mouse number was featured in the October 11, 1975, premiere, while the joke-telling and celebrity impressions (including Elvis) were included in the November 8 broadcast that same year.Arguably his best-known act, Kaufman's Foreign Man persona was later adapted as the character Latka Gravas on the ABC sitcom Taxi.In 1982, Kaufman brought his professional wrestling villain act to Letterman's show by way of 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.

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...