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Listen: Jimmy Fallon on the Genius of ‘Taxi,’ and How Crying in a Carl’s Jr. Parking Lot Turned Into Triumph

When Jimmy Fallon comes back to Los Angeles, he often flashes back to the lean early days of his career, when he wondered whether he’d ever make it.

“I just don’t miss those things,” Fallon said of awkward auditions and soul-crushing rejections.

“There was a Carl’s Jr. parking lot by Universal that I remember crying in,” he recently recounted to Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “‘This is over, I’m not gonna make it. I can’t crack it. I have no money, I don’t even know if I have a future.'”

Of course, Fallon eventually made it back east on “Saturday Night Live,” and now, “I have my own ride at Universal! How cool is that?”

Even back then, Fallon would relish visiting studio lots like Paramount, where he’d go on auditions but also geek out on pop culture history. Now, he gets to channel his inner fan every night on “The Tonight Show.”

Fallon recounted how it all started by watching a lot of TV as a kid — including the golden age of late-1970s sitcoms like “Barney Miller” and “Mary Tyler Moore.”

But “Taxi” was one of his all-time favorites, and in particular, the episode “Jim’s Inheritance,” from late in the show’s run, when Jim, played by Christopher Lloyd, loses his father. The episode’s poignant ending still resonates with Fallon to this day.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Fallon said. “It’s the most funny, poignant, most beautiful thing. It just always stuck in my head and I will never ever forget it. There’s so many episodes from that show that stick in my head. But this one kind of changed me a little bit.”

On this edition of the podcast, we talk to Fallon about that episode, as well as sitcoms in general, and also what he misses most about Los Angeles. Listen below:

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount Television/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885198ae) Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Danny De Vito, Marilu Henner Taxi - 1978-1983 Paramount Television Television
CREDIT: Paramount Television/Kobal/Shutterstock

Taxi” Season 5, Episode 2, “Jim’s Inheritance,” was written by Ken Estin and directed by Noam Pitlik, and first aired on October 7, 1982.

The episode is a showcase for Lloyd, whose character — the Reverend Jim “Iggy” Ignatowski — discovers that his father has passed away. The storyline came about when the real actor who played Jim’s dad, Victor Buono, had also died. In the episode, Jim discovers that his father had left him $3.5 million in his will. But his siblings sue to declare him incompetent and gain control of his estate.

Lloyd won an Emmy that year for supporting actor in a comedy, while Estin was nominated for outstanding writing in a comedy series for the episode.

For Fallon, “Taxi” was the perfect sitcom. He calls it “like watching good theater.”

“Sometimes it would be a little too risque for me and my sister, so we weren’t allowed to watch,” Fallon recalled. “But watch these episodes. You go, Tony Danza is a great actor. And Christopher Lloyd is unbelievable. They all had these moments.”

“That show meant so much to me,” he added. Asked why he thinks multi-camera sitcoms like “Taxi” are in short supply today, Fallon wonders if they’re too slow for modern audiences.

“I think everything has to be 10 jokes a minute now,” he said. “That’s what people are used to. It’s machine gun comedy, as opposed to all you need is five really good ones. But I think you know, there could be a renaissance of these types of shows. I would love to watch a sitcom that was beautiful like this.”

Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode With Michael Schneider” is where stars and producers gather to discuss their favorite TV episodes ever — from classic sitcoms to modern-day dramas — as well as pick a favorite episode from their own series. On “My Favorite Episode,” some of the biggest names in TV share their creative inspirations — and how those episodes influenced them.

Be sure to subscribe to “My Favorite Episode” on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. 

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