For those of us who, like me, can’t get enough of Andy Kaufman there is (mercifully) Taxi.
In my readings about Andy it came to my attention that Kaufman didn’t particularly like being on the show.
I can see where he was coming from (I think). The show must have felt awfully restrictive for such a vast personality like him.
But this is where America at large got to know Andy Kaufman. Taxi. And so we shall start (or continue) here.
Andy’s appearances on Saturday Night Live (from its very inception) were inspiring performances which predated his new steady gig as Latka Gravas on Taxi by about three years.
But let’s let everyone get into the act here.
Judd Hirsch: What a presence! This guy… You just immediately like him. He’s unassuming. He has a kind face–kind mannerisms. And so he is, somewhat like Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld, the focal point of the show. Kaufman might be the star for weirdos like me, but Hirsch was no doubt the star for the masses. What an impressive acting job in this the pilot episode!
Danny DeVito: Still going strong…the little man in the cage was a classic in his day. What vigor! What vitriol! Yeah, it gave the nation (America) a little taste of New York City life. Five-feet-tall in platform shoes and he doesn’t take attitude from anyone. What a scrapper! What an actor!!
Marilu Henner: She doesn’t get a chance to do very much acting in the pilot, but I must say: what a beauty!!! I had forgotten. It had never crossed my mind. In retrospect, she is a revelation. Kudos to casting for finding such a star!!! [It should be pointed out that her character is named Elaine (a name picked up later for Seinfeld‘s main female role).]
Tony Danza: Hey! Ho!!! But seriously, really a great role for Danza. The stereotype would be lifted by the television show Friends later on for their character Joey (played by Matt LeBlanc). Watch Taxi for the original article.
Jeff Conaway: The late Mr. Conaway was perfect as Bobby Wheeler. His “magical” phone call to Sir Laurence Olivier is priceless!! Conaway helps set the era with his open-chested polyester (?) shirt. He almost looks like Peter Frampton in this opening episode.
Those were the major players in this pilot episode. AND we can’t forget the stunning Talia Balsam (who plays Alex’s daughter).
But the real focus is Latka. For me. That’s the real focus.
Latka doesn’t have a lot of lines, but he has at least one classic bit: his effort to flirt with Marilu Henner.
Latka’s pickup line is simply, “Bed?”
Not bad from a guy learning English out of a Berlitz travel guide.
And so our dear little hero Mr. Gravas struggles with some phrases about chambermaids and such. Fortunately Alex (Judd Hirsch) is helping him with English. Useful phrases like, “Hold on a minute while I use the can.” [Or something like that.]
And so we must thank the creators of Taxi for getting Kaufman on the show. Thank you to James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis, and Ed. Weinberger. Thank you gentlemen for seeing the talent in Andy Kaufman and giving him a chance to have a lasting body of work.
Or as Andy would say, “Tank you veddy much.”