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. 

More TV

  • UTA

    UTA Launches Sports Division, Invests in Klutch Sports Group

    UTA is diving into the sports arena through an investment in Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents LeBron James and other stars. Klutch Sports founder Rich Paul will serve as head of the newly created UTA Sports wing in addition to running his own banner. Paul launched Klutch Sports in 2012 in Cleveland. UTA [...]

  • The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con

    The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con Parties and Activations

    Hollywood is heading down the California coast to San Diego because It’s time for 2019 Comic-Con International. The annual cosplay celebration officially kicks off tomorrow, July 18, with a preview happening tonight. Here, Variety gives you a guide to this year’s parties and activations. Make sure to check back for updates. Wednesday, July 17Amazon Prime [...]

  • Ken Ehrlich Jane Ortner Education Award,

    Grammy Awards Producer Shuffle: Ben Winston to Take Over From Ken Ehrlich in 2021

    As Variety reported in December, Ben Winston will take the reins of the Grammy Awards as executive producer in 2021 after longtime telecast leader Ken Ehrlich completes his 40th ceremony next year. Winston has become a prolific producer for CBS and other outlets since he moved to the U.S. nearly five years ago to launch [...]

  • Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky

    Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky Cinema After Management Shuffle

    Sarah Wright, Sky’s top acquisitions exec, will take on responsibility for Sky Cinema after a management shuffle at the pay-TV giant. Wright fills a role vacated by Ian Lewis, who recently left Sky after 20 years. He was one of several Sky staffers to leave after its takeover by Comcast. As director of Sky Cinema [...]

  • Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer

    Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer on Matthew Modine Slate

    Veteran actress and union activist Jodi Long is running for secretary-treasurer of SAG-AFTRA as a member of Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. She is facing Camryn Manheim, who announced her candidacy on July 9 as part of the Unite for Strength slate for the re-election of union president Gabrielle Carteris. Unite for Strength and United [...]

  • BAFTA Backs BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training for

    BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to BAFTA Voters, Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to BAFTA voters and, more widely, to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K. With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, [...]

  • New U.K. Film and TV Studio

    New U.K. Film and TV Studio Proposed for Leeds, in Northern England

    With studio space in high demand, a sizable new film and TV complex has been proposed for Leeds, the city in northern England that is fast becoming a major U.K. media hub outside of London. It has already been selected as the base for Channel 4’s new national headquarters, and companies such as pay-TV giant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content