The series got its start in a magazine.
Taxi creator James L. Brooks just happened to be reading New York magazine in 1975, when he came across an article about a taxi garage in Greenwich Village. This article alone was enough to inspire the idea of an ensemble sitcom set in the same place. And the rest was history!
Tony Danza was discovered while boxing.
Before he became a Hollywood icon, Tony Danza was a boxer in Brooklyn. After watching him in the ring one night, producers for The Warriors approached him about a role, but James Brooks swooped in at the last minute and offered him the part of boxer Tony Banta on Taxi.
One character got multiple name changes.
Before Tony Danza was hired, Taxi creators had envisioned their boxer character as an Irishman named Phil Ryan. After bringing Danza aboard, the character turned Italian and became Phil Banta. Finally, a few days into rehearsal, the character's name changed once again to Tony Banta. Danza believed this change happened because the producers liked him so much--in reality, they worried that he would forget to answer to any other name besides Tony.
Judd Hirsch tried to sabotage negotiations.
Before his role on Taxi, Judd Hirsch was primarily known as a stage actor. When producers approached him about a role, he was worried about being tied down to a television job, so he made an offer that he knew would be too high for the studio to accept. To his surprise, they did just that, and he took the role of Alex Reiger.
Danny DeVito had an interesting audition.
Danny DeVito's character, Louie De Palma, is a loudmouthed sleazebag. So, during his audition for the role, DeVito gave producers just that--he walked into the room and proceeded to berate the producers for such a terrible script. His stunt got a laugh, and he was hired shortly after.
Danny DeVito was warned against doing TV.
When Danny DeVito told Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson that he was auditioning for a sitcom, both actors told him it was a bad idea. According to DeVito, the iconic pair warned him that television "uses you up."
Mandy Patinkin was almost the lead.
While Judd Hirsch was busy being indecisive about taking the role of Alex Rieger, producers were auditioning other potential actors--including the iconic Mandy Patinkin. While he would not ultimately get the role, Patinkin would later guest star on an episode of Taxi.
Andy Kaufman had an unusual contract.
Everything about Andy Kaufman was unusual--including the contract he signed to star on Taxi. Because he was worried about the excessive time demands required for shooting a TV show, he managed to get a clause in his contract that only forced him to show up twice a week. He made an appearance on Tuesdays for a read through and on Fridays for the actual taping. Despite this light load, Kaufman still managed to show up late on a regular basis.
Latka was based on Andy Kaufman's stand up act.
Before he was on Taxi, Kaufman was most well known for his stand up act--in which he would frequently play different characters. One character in particular, "Foreign Man," was such a hit that producers asked him to do exactly what he was doing on stage. And with that, Latka Gravas was introduced to the world.
Another Andy Kaufman character got in on the Taxi fun.
In addition to his "Foreign Man" character (which would become Latka Gravas), Andy Kaufman also frequently portrayed Tony Clifton--a sleazy, Vegas-inspired character. Before Kaufman would sign a contract for the show, he insisted that Clifton get his own separate contract, dressing room, and parking spot. Producers obliged, and when "Clifton" made a scene on set, he was very publicly fired--which was what Kaufman had wanted the entire time.
Rev. Jim took Tony Banta's original personality.
Before Danza was hired, his boxing character was supposed to be a little slow and off his rocker. However, when Danza took the role of Tony Banta, producers decided it would make more sense if the character was more naive than plain stupid. Instead, they transferred this original personality onto the character of Rev. Jim Ignatowski (played by Christopher Lloyd). Rev. Jim had made guest appearances in the first season and was then brought on to the main cast in season 2 to provide his goofy brand of humor full time.
Christopher Lloyd provided Rev. Jim's fashion sense.
When Christopher Lloyd showed up to his audition for Rev. Jim, the receptionist thought he was homeless thanks to his beat up jeans, jacket, and boots. The producers appreciated his look, though, and styled Rev. Jim based on the outfit Lloyd had worn to the audition.
The Taxi theme song got a last-minute change.
Producers had intended for the song "Touchdown" by jazz musician Bob James to be the theme song for Taxi. However, when they heard another track the artist had composed for the show, they decided it was a better fit for the opening credits. That track was "Angela", and it's become one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time.
Actor Jeff Conaway struggled with drugs while on the show.
Jeff Conaway had been struggling with substance abuse since before he starred on Taxi, but these problems all came to a head during his time there. When he was found in his dressing room too high to act, producers fired Conaway and wrote his character, Bobby Wheeler, out of the show.
The show went on smoothly after Conaway's departure.
When Jeff Conaway was too high to read his lines, producers divvied them up between Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd. They all got big laughs from the audience, who didn't seem too concerned with where the humor was coming from.
Tony Danza is behind the wheel in the opening credits.
In the opening credits, we see a looping segment of a taxi driving across the Queensboro Bridge in New York City. Little did we know that it was Tony Danza behind the wheel!
Taxi was cancelled twice.
After four seasons, ABC decided to pull the plug on Taxi. However, another channel was willing to pick it up--only to cancel again after another season!
NBC and HBO both fought for Taxi.
After ABC's cancellation, two other channels were interested in picking up Taxi--NBC and HBO. Ultimately, NBC won that war and gave Taxi another 24 episodes.
The taxis came from Kalamazoo.
All of the taxis featured on the show came from the Checker Motors Corporation in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Unfortunately, the company went under in 1982.
Danny DeVito was a victim of the tabloids.
In season one, Danny DeVito's character, Louie De Palma, is seen playing the violin. A photo of this scene made its way into the tabloids with the rumor that DeVito was leaving show business to pursue his dream of playing the violin. This wasn't the case, but some of DeVito's relatives fell for it--writing to him to see if the musical rumors were true.
Sometimes the show fudged the numbers.
With a little makeup and the right lighting, anyone can be made to look any age. And that's exactly what Taxi did to one of its actors. When Susan Kellerman guest starred on the show, she was only five years older than Andy Kaufman. But with a little Hollywood magic, she was able to play the mother of Kaufman's character, Latka.
The cast reunited thanks to Jim Carrey.
In 1999, Jim Carrey starred as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, a biopic about Kaufman's life. Several actors from the cast of Taxi made cameo appearances in the film as themselves--including Carol Kane, Jeff Conaway, and Christopher Lloyd.
The cast was not crazy about Andy Kaufman.
Because of his unsual style, Andy Kaufman often butted heads with cast and crew on the set of Taxi. Judd Hirsch went as far as to publicly say that Kaufman was hated by everyone involved.
This was only one hit among many for some crew members.
Glen Charles, Les Charles, and James Burrows all wrote or directed for Taxi, but this sitcom was only the beginning for them. Shortly after season 3, the trio would go on to create another little sitcom you might know as Cheers.
Taxi wasn't the end for Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd.
Pretty much everyone from the main cast of Taxi went on to have long entertainment careers, and sometimes cast members found themselves crossing paths with others. Most recently, Christopher Lloyd had a guest role as Santa on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia--a TV show starring Danny DeVito.
Simka did what Latka never could.
While Carol Kane won two Emmys for her portrayal of Simka Gravas, who was Latka's wife, Andy Kaufman never won an award for his portrayal of Latka.
Judd Hirsch had multiple irons in the fire.
Although he eventually agreed to a television role on Taxi, Judd Hirsch didn't always put the TV show first. He was sometimes late to rehearsal because he was busy conducting business in his office.
Tony Danza kept in touch.
After the end of Taxi, several former cast members made appearances on Who's the Boss--starring Tony Danza. These included Jeff Conaway and Marilu Henner.
Carol Kane and Andy Kaufman had very different rehearsal styles.
Andy Kaufman came from the world of stand up and hated rehearsing. Carol Kane came from the world of theater and couldn't imagine not rehearsing. Considering they were playing love interests, this caused many arguments between them on set. However, Kane would later go on to say that these fights were necessary for developing the chemistry between their characters, Latka and Simka.
Some cast members found outside success during their time on Taxi.
While Taxi racked up an impressive amount of awards during its run, several actors on the show found similar outside success during the show's run. These include Judd Hirsch, who won an Oscar in 1980 for Ordinary People, and Danny DeVito, who won an Oscar in 1983 for Terms of Endearment.