Characters: Taxi

The core characters of the 1970's/1980's sitcom Taxi include:

Alex Reiger

Played by: Judd Hirsch

The heart and soul of the series. After having a nice office job, his lack of ambition got him fired, he lost contact with his family, and ended up a taxi driver content to spend the rest of his life driving cabs.

  • Absentee Actor: In "What Price Bobby", Alex only appears during The Stinger. This was because Hirsch was busy filming Ordinary People at the time.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Not too gently confirmed in a late episode by two members of a co-op board.
  • Berserk Button: He doesn't react well when he gets compared with pelicans.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In "Bobby's Big Break", when Louie was ranting about how he was going to put Bobby through ultimate hell when he returned to the garage, Alex finally snapped and tore the front of Louie's wire-mesh dispatcher's cage with his bare hands and proceeded to yank Louie out of the cage and grab him roughly by the scruff of his shirt until Louie compromised.
  • Billed Above the Title: "Judd Hirsch in ... TAXI."
  • Boyfriend Bluff: In "Elaine's Old Friend", Alex posed as Elaine's college professor boyfriend, Bill Board, an act that managed to woo Elaine and even Elaine's friend while she was on a date with her own boyfriend. Even afterward, Elaine considered they should take their relationship further, but the end of the episode left it ambiguous as to whether or not anything was going to come out of it.
  • Brilliant but Lazy
  • Closer to Earth
  • The Comically Serious
  • Compressed Vice: His compulsive gambling in "Alex Goes Off the Wagon".
  • The Confidant
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Dogged Nice Guy
  • The Face
  • The Gambling Addict
  • Hollywood Dateless: Gets flanderized into this in the last season.
  • Knight in Sour Armor
  • Motor Mouth: Happened when he was given some uppers in "Men Are Such Beasts".
  • Nice Guy
  • Only Sane Man: And how. When your friends and co-workers include an egotistical actor, a wacky immigrant mechanic, a burned-out relic of the '60s, a boxer one straw short of a haystack, and a vile toad of a dispatcher who likes to torture his employees, you know you must be the most normal one of the bunch.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes: Square and Sage.
  • The Stoic
  • Straight Man: Alex became this in later seasons.
  • Token Good Teammate: Despite Alex's initial sour demeanor when given one of his friends' problems, he always comes through in the end and everybody knows they can rely on him. Secretly, however, it's something that Alex resents, as learned in "Mr. Personalities", when Latka (as Alex) relates all of Alex's innermost thoughts to a psychiatrist.
  • The Unfavourite: The reason Alex is strangely nonchalant about his father having a heart attack.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Louie.

Bobby Wheeler

Played by: Jeff Conaway (seasons 1-3)

  • The Ace
  • Bad Bad Acting: The acting stints that he lands are full of this.
  • Break the Cutie: He always comes closer than anyone to getting out of the garage, and always has his dreams crushed in the most humiliating way possible. Louie delights in reminding Bobby what a failure he is.
  • Butt Monkey: Bobby has the unfortunate plug of being Louie's favorite of the cabbies to pick on.
  • The Charmer
  • Genre Savvy: Being an actor, he was often this. Like when the entire garage crowded the door awaiting for some movie people, only to be stopped by him, calling then "a bunch of 'groupies'".
  • Put on a Bus: To Hollywood.
    • The Bus Came Back: For a guest appearance in the episode "Bobby Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Jeff Conaway was fired after his heroin addiction became too disruptive to the filming schedule. When he was finally completely unable to film an episode, Bobby's lines were split between other characters where they fit just as well, causing the producers to realize they didn't need the character at all.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The "sensitive guy" to Tony's "manly man". Subverted with Bobby's selfishness.
  • Small Name, Big Ego
  • Straight Man: To Tony. Lampshaded in an early episode after Tony said "Touché" instead of the more conventional "Bon appetit":
    Bobby (to Tony): Why do you always have to annoy me?
  • What Could Have Been: Originally, Bobby was to be played by Robin Williams, before Mork and Mindy was picked up.

Louie DePalma

Played by: Danny DeVito

The diminutive, but despotical dispatcher at the Sunshine Cab Company.

Elaine O'Connor-Nardo

Played by: Marilu Henner

Tony Banta

Played by: Tony Danza

A wannabe amateur boxer who gets some big breaks that always crumble down.

Reverend Jim "Iggy" Ignatowski

Played by: Christopher Lloyd (seasons 2-5)

A gentle burned-out hippie, Christopher Lloyd's character first appeared in a one-shot role in the first season, being hired to officiate Latka's green card "wedding", but he was so well-received that the producers brought him back early in Season 2, becoming a regular just a few weeks in.

Latka Gravas

Played by: Andy Kaufman

The Sunshine Cab Company's mechanic. An immigrant from an unnamed (perhaps Eastern European) country who firmly believes in the American Dream (Type 1), he is innocent and polite but extremely naive and can have a hard time reconciling the ways of "the old country" with his new life. Created as an Expy of performer Andy Kaufman's stage persona of "Foreign Man" and intended as a Breakout Character, the show eventually took him in a Denser and Wackier direction via a multiple personality disorder. But The Power of Love for fellow old-worlder Simka Dahblitz brought him around, and Latka became the second and last regular character (and longest-serving one) to get married in the course of the series.

  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Latka tried to tell his feelings for Simka, but he turned into Vic Ferrari before he could complete his speech.
  • Absentee Actor: Andy Kaufman was extremely reluctant to do a sitcom and made it a requirement in his contract that he wouldn't have to appear in every episode. He doesn't; in fact, Latka appears in fewer and fewer episodes as the series progresses.
  • Actor Allusion: There were a number of in-joke references to Kaufman's stand-up act, including having Vic sing the "Mighty Mouse" theme.
  • Always Someone Better: Vic!
  • And Starring: "Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas."
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Latka's native language. Most of this was Kaufman's creation and he had to teach it to Carol Kane when she made her first appearance as Simka, but a few specific words were added by the writers ("nik-nik" = "love", for instance).
  • Berserk Button: Go ahead, try to mention Vic Ferrari to Latka. Or mess with his woman, Simka.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: It has been shown that despite his innocent demeanor on the job, Latka can at times get carried away in his thoughts, such as in the episode "Fantasy Borough", where he daydreamed that he and Louie switched roles, with Latka as the top sarge and Louie as the harrowed mechanic. Ultimately, it climaxes with Latka about to execute Louie by firing squad. When Louie snapped Latka out of it moments later and pissed him off again, Latka simply said "fire."
  • Big Eater
  • Bilingual Bonus / Yiddish as a Second Language: His name is Yiddish for "potato pancake."
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Why Latka creates the Vic Ferrari alter ego, who can, in "Latka the Playboy".
  • The Casanova / The Charmer: As Vic Ferrari.
  • The Cast Showoff: Kaufman was able to perform dead-on impersonations of both Judd Hirsch and Tony Danza at some point during the series' run, in addition to creating the Vic Ferrari persona.
  • Catchphrase: "Tank you veddy much", a carryover from Kaufman's stage act.
  • The Chew Toy
  • Citizenship Marriage: Latka had one of these in "Paper Marriage" to avoid deportation before eventually being wed to Simka in Season 4.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Vic Ferrari personality helped Latka score with multiple women, but the reason he wanted to dispose of Vic was because Vic continuously interfered with Latka's own life and even attempted to take over completely.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Subverted, as Latka was still a central character, but episodes that stood out for being primarily focused on him: "Paper Marriage", "Mama Gravas", "The Apartment", "Latka's Revolting", "Guess Who's Coming For Brefnish", "Latka's Cookies", "Latka the Playboy", "Mr. Personalities", "Simka Returns", and the remainder of the series' episodes that involved his relationship with Simka.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Simka realizes that Latka "did it with another woman" immediately after he walks into the door in the snowstorm episode.
  • The Ditz: Latka seemed like one at times, but that was arguably more a case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • Expy: Of Kaufman's "Foreign Man" character, which he originated in his acts before he was offered a role on Taxi.
  • Extreme Doormat: Especially when faced with Louie's wrath.
  • Funny Foreigner: Of course.
  • Happily Married: To Simka.
  • Jerkass: Vic.
  • Immigrant Patriotism
  • Literal-Minded: In "Mama Gravas", when Latka is telling the gang his mother is arriving soon.
    John: When does her plane land?
    Latka: Right at the end of flight.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac
  • Man in White: Latka wears white overalls, which accentuate his innocence, on the job.
  • Mate or Die: This almost ruins Latka and Simka's marriage when Latka sleeps with a female cabbie to keep from freezing to death in a snowstorm.
  • Momma's Boy: After his father died, his mother was all he had left, so you can guess how Latka reacted when Alex slept with his mother.
  • Mr. Imagination
  • Nice Guy
  • Pitbull Dates Puppy: The Puppy in his relationship with Simka.
  • The Pollyanna
  • Reality Subtext: Andy Kaufman's character develops multiple identities? You don't say!
  • Ruritania: This is the only explanation given on the show from where Latka might be from. We've seen drawings of the country like nothing that can be identified as a known location as well as some of the dress styles that suggest an Eastern European land.
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes: Goofball.
  • Split Personality: Develops one in "Latka the Playboy" and it sticks for most of Season 4.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Kaufman was perceived as this by the show's cast and crew, particularly by Tony Danza.
  • Star-Making Role
  • Wacky Guy: The show's first character of this type, followed by Jim.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist

Simka Dahblitz-Gravas

Played by: Carol Kane (season 5)

Latka's feisty Distaff Counterpart. Initially appearing as a one-off character in Season 2's "Guess Who's Coming to Brefnish", her relationship with him fell apart owing to his prejudice against the "mountain people" of their home country, as she happened to be one of them. After an unsuccessful attempt to make a go of it in Omaha, Nebraska, she returned to New York City in Season 4 and ultimately gave Latka a reason to give up his multiple personalities. By season's end they were wed, and she was a regular in the fifth and final season.

John Burns

Played by: Randall Carver (season 1)

A somewhat nerdy college student from the Midwest who became a cabbie after having to go to the garage since Alex didn't have enough change for fifty bucks. He had a couple of episodes centered on him (with one of them focused on his Accidental Marriage), but he was quickly Demoted to Extra and was written out after the first season. Portrayed by Randall Carver.

Jeff Bennett

Played by: J. Alan Thomas

  • Ascended Extra: While he never quite made "regular" status, Jeff had the episode "Crime and Punishment" centered on him when Louie accuses him of stealing car parts. Plus, Thomas filled in for Andy Kaufman during rehearsals whenever Kaufman was not present, and his role in the episodes where he was given something to do basically took the "Louie foil" slot that Latka often held.
  • Beleaguered Assistant
  • But Not Too Black
  • The Danza: Sort of; J. Alan Thomas' actual first name was "Jeffrey".
  • Living Prop: Was this at the beginning of the show before over time getting a promotion.
  • Recurring Extra
  • Running Gag: Louie can never quite recall his last name. It's Bennett.
  • Token Minority