Saturday, January 23, 2021

Weekend Post

 A number of you commented yesterday that you thought the Reverend Jim Driving Test scene from TAXI was one of the all-time classics.  I totally agree.  However, eleven years ago I posted it and was surprised to find a lot of readers didn't find it funny.  Surprised isn't the right word.  SHOCKED is.   I realize comedy sensibility changes over time and different generations find different things funny, but I thought (wrongly so) that this scene would make anybody laugh.  

 See for yourself.  Here it is.  Written by Glen & Les Charles and directed by James Burrows.  

UPDATE: Because a number of commenters have complained about the laugh track -- the laughs are REAL.  You're hearing the actual audience laughter.  Along the way you also hear scattered applause -- that's a dead giveaway.  There's no scattered applause in laugh tracks.  And you don't get scattered applause unless the audience is really delighted and laughing.  I will grant you that most multi-cams not only use a laugh track but use it way too much and too loud.  But please accept the fact that 200 strangers in the bleachers that night found this scene genuinely funny and laughed out loud.  


 

80 comments :

VincentS said...

Are you kidding? Who WOULDN'T find that scene funny? I'd put it right up there with Who's On First. Well, that and the Bernie meme are the most extraordinary things I've seen all week.

Don Kemp said...

Personally, I find it hilarious. What cinches it for me is when Jim is given the answer "slow down" and he repeats his question e v e n s l o w e r.


HOWEVER, Taxi was rooted in a reality many people could easily recognize. Even down to Latka, a lot of people knew or were an underachieving loser, a dumb jock boxer, or a wanna be actor who were waiting tables, driving cabs, etc. In other words, should have been doing something else but settled.

So in reality, no one gets to bring friends to the DMV to help when they take a test. It was one of the few times viewers of Taxi were asked to go along with the premise and suspend disbelief. Yeah, it's funny, again, I found it hilarious and have no problem going along, but when the immediate reaction from others who don't laugh is "that would never happen" before commenting on whether it was funny, there's the hurdle.

David Leaf said...

Yes. But not as funny as it was decades ago.

Jim said...

Didn’t want to like it. Laughed out loud twice. Yes, funny. Many funny moments packed in there. As always, I hate the laugh track to the point I can’t watch a show that uses it pervasively.

I also tried but failed not to think about Marilu Henner’s hyperthymesia, remembering virtually every day of her life. Including this scene if you give her a call.

Moot said...

I was born in '82 and first watched Taxi in the mid-90s when arrived on Nick at Nite. The show was good enough to watch once, but I never wanted to watch it a second time, and I guess I'm not surprised that I never saw it show up again in syndication, that I noticed. This scene, to me, was meh. It wasn't bad, but it didn't reach the point of hilarity where I need to share it with someone I know. What stuck out to me was how obtrusive that damn laugh track is...initially, at about the :16 mark, I thought some wacko was in the BMV cackling, and that would be part of the scene, but no, just some over-the-top person on the laugh track.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I don't know why other people wouldn't find it funny, but I know why *I* don't because of my particular tastes. There was, in the 1980s and 1990s, a vogue for every sitcom having a character I call the "village idiot". They weren't always stupid, though sometimes they were, which I put down to the writers making sure there was always a character so dumb that even the slowest audience member could understand their stupidity. Sometimes they were just quirky - Andy Dick's character in NEWSRADIO, for example. Or, like French Stewart's character in 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN or Mork, alien and confused (though Stewart's character was always written as a lightweight compared to the rest). With some exceptions (such as those), I have rarely enjoyed village idiot sitcoms. I like watching smart people. Even Penny on BIG BANG THEORY wasn't stupid (most of the time; occasionally a writer would forget); she wasn't well-educated or possessed of a scientific brain but she *was* better able to cope with *life* than the geniuses and had emotional intelligence that they lacked. (Note that THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW didn't have such a character, which may contribute to why it holds up so well.)

In this scene, *for me*, once the first joke establishes the situation, the rest become obvious. So, no, I didn't laugh.

And this was a first viewing, because - and I recognize this also puts me on the wrong side of having a sense of humor - I never really got into TAXI.

All that said, I recognize the skill with which the scene was written and, especially, performed.

wg

Mike Doran said...

Stop and consider the whole premise of this Taxi episode:
The drivers are trying to help get a chauffeur's license for a man who can barely stand up, let alone drive a car.
I am about to use a word I've come to hate: WOKE.
Jim Ignatowski has drug-induced dementia.
In the real world, he'd likely be under 24/7 supervision, medical or otherwise.
Any of you out there with a family member or long-time friend who has a form of dementia, whatever the cause, is hardly likely to regard it as a possible source of amusement.
Even though this scene is laugh-out-loud funny, then, now, and always.
- Just like comic drunk scenes from so many years before, that we all grew up watching in movies and on TV.

I just turned 70 years old, this past September.
Growing up, I'd laugh out loud at Leon Errol, Jack Norton, and Arthur Housman in old movies, and then at Red Skelton, Hal (Otis) Smith, Dick Wilson, and so many other comics on TV, doing drunk schtick that was funny as hell - but I also had a few Irish relatives who would get loaded in real life, and they weren't funny at all.
I was taught the difference at an early age; I always thought I understood - but these days, I'm told that understanding is not enough (or something like that).
I also have had relatives who developed forms of dementia, from various sources, and I can tell you that this was not enjoyable at all - but that didn't stop us all from laughing at goofy comics who talked funny, walked funny, did crazy things ...
... the times, they are a-changin' ...

And as you well know, this isn't limited to physical impairments.
Just check back on your own posting from about a month ago, in which you explained why you don't think Cliff Clavin is funny anymore.

I'm not enjoying my "twilight years" very much at all.
I wish all of you better luck in this regard.

Craig Gustafson said...

That's amazing. The Drivers License scene is one of the top three tv sketches of all time, the others being "The Elephant Story" (uncensored version) from "The Carol Burnett Show" and "This is Your Story" from "Your Show of Shows."
If you run into a group of people who think Uncle Goopy isn't funny, please don't tell me.

Mike Barer said...

I loved Mary Lu Henner.

Roseann said...

You are right - it is hilarious. Jim is dysfunctional and if you accept that and go with it is hysterical. Forget about the real world and relax.

Mike said...

Beyond the Abbott & Costello style gag at the end, which is brilliant, my favorite bit is Jim asking, "Do they sell beer over there?"

sanford said...

Wendy Grossman mentioned that many comedy's had a village idiot. I would assume she watched Andy Griffith. Barney Fife was certainly a village idiot. And so were a few other characters.

Bob B. said...

Mark me in the column that doesn't find this funny. The scene goes on way too long. I had two problems with Taxi. The first was stretching a "joke" out much too long (Seth MacFarlane is doing this to excess currently). And the second was writing themselves into a corner and trying to escape in the last minute or so. I could give countless examples.

The Big Guy said...

One of the funniest TV sitcom scenes EVER. Of course, I'm 73. Maybe that's why.

annie said...

funny, but yellow light/slow went on too long. Also, I can't stand the laugh track.

Steve said...

Fyi, Ken, I don't have any connection to the people behind this podcast but it's a parody of morning radio and you might enjoy it. I find it very entertaining. https://thecomedybureau.com/979-the-rat-race-all-things-comedy/

Andrew said...

For what it's worth, I showed it to my two daughters years ago when this scene was mentioned on your blog. They were probably 12 and 14. They thought it was hysterical.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Great scene. "I thought this was the test"...

Huge TAXI fan. Christopher LLoyd was a fantastic addition to the cast.

How about when he bought a race horse and brought it to his apartment, helped Martin Short as a network programmer, and of course the moment he eats a pot brownie and goes from Harvard Ivy league prepster to Iggy.

Do You Do Any Wings? said...

“That’s a tough choice...” Wonderful, peerless.

Andrew said...

I forgot to add, one time I was at a large Thanksgiving gathering of friends. I showed a couple of them the WKRP turkey drop scene. They didn't find it funny at all. After I showed them the scene there was an awkward silence, and then they changed the subject. That to me was incomprehensible.

WB Jax said...

I'm surprised to see how little the comedy holds up in some of these shows. Having said this, CAR 54's "Biggest Day of the Year" and THE HONEYMOONERS (lost ep) "One Big Happy Family," no many how times I've seen these episodes repeat, never fail to leave me in stitches. Absolute sitcom gold...from sixty-year old series!

Anonymous said...

I was surprised myself that I didn't find it funny. It was too slow. The jokes were not original and seemed lame and predictable. They left out the usual Q:Sex? A: yes! I assume it is considered funny that Jim is a non-functional drug addled adult, but I never really find that to be funny. I also don't laugh at farts or when people slip on ice.

I find that I like comedy best when people act more like people would actually behave; but none of these characters is doing so and I think I can sense the actors being uncomfortable about that.

As a teenager, I watched Taxi and liked it when it ran; but I didn't revere it like Mary Tyler Moore or Bob Newhart. I remember not liking it as much after Kaufman left and Jim became more prominent. Please don't assume I have no sense of humor--I watch comedy almost exclusively.

Jeff Boice said...

I laughed. When I was younger, I laughed at the Crazy Guggenheim character on the Jackie Gleason show. To me they're hilarious.

blinky said...

Absolutely tastes change. I think it is evidence of the fact that we all change all the time, but slowly, so we don't notice.
I look back at movies I adored 20 years ago only to watch again and sit dumbfounded that I liked them in the first place, for example: Jerry Lewis movies.

Tudor Queen said...

I know tastes change - and overall, while I thought the character was great, and Christopher Lloyd was brilliant as the Rev. Jim, a little of him could go a long way, same with Latka - but I saw this when it first aired and was happy to watch it again since you were kind enough to post it.

It's still incredibly funny.

Craig Russell said...

Entertaining, but not the funniest I have ever seen. But thats what ENTERTAINEMNT is....and comedy. Its all subjective. If we all thought everything the same way was funny we would be robots.

Village Idiots. Jim, Kramer, Patrick Star from SpongeBob. Pretty sure Patrick is based on Jim Ignatowski.

And it does move a little slow in places. But thats because of the time. 1980 TV and entertainment was just different then. Try and watch an old Johnny Carson from 1977. The monologue goes on for 8 minutes...and the interviews (especially on a 90 minute show) are painfully slow. Same with Dick Cavett from the same time period. It doesnt hold up as well now.

sumerlad said...

About tastes changing, recently I started watching a John Ford movie for the first time in a long time and there was a long long scene with three cavalry sergeants and the joke was they were very drunk. I watched about five minutes and then wondered why this was ever considered funny.

Chris said...

People's opposition to live studio audience laughs/applause is baffling to me, but possibly that's because I'm far more a theater/stand up comedy person than a film person, so I love the audience reaction and I respond to it. I have an idea for modern tv producers though. They should try actually showing the studio audience and the lights and such and deliberately play up the theatricality of it, at least at the beginning and end. Trust the audience to suspend disbelief, make it feel live. I have no idea if that would actually work but I feel like it has potential, and it might help with modern audiences who react so negatively to the convention of audible audience laughs.

Anonymous said...

Never seen the show but can't someone use that demented guy's special car to go back in time and change the laugh track so it sounds less like a "Roda" episode?

Kevin In Choconut Center said...

I think it's one of the funniest scenes ever filmed. But then again, I was 12 years old when its episode first aired.

Ted. said...

This is a true story: When I was just out of college, I found myself in a conversation with columnists for my city's alternative newspapers, including a well-known film critic. They took themselves VERY seriously. The talk turned to our favorite characters in movies and TV. I mentioned that I loved Jim Ignatowski, because Christopher Lloyd always made me laugh. I swear, every single one of these people stared at me like I was the biggest piece of excrement they had ever wiped off their shoes. Then they continued the conversation as if I wasn't there. I learned a valuable lesson that day about what the intelligentsia considers okay, or not okay, to enjoy. (Incidentally, today those publications consist almost entirely of restaurant listings and marijuana ads.)

Kosmo13 said...

No, this wasn't funny. I'd never seen that clip before, but as soon as I heard the set-ups, I knew what the punchlines were going to be.

Dan Moniz said...

Outside view: I've never actually seen any of the show (Big fan of everything else you were part of, but never got around to this one)
I can see 100% how it was funny then, but it just doesn't work now, but here's why for me. The joke has been done so many times since, that even though it WAS funny, should be funny, can be funny still, once I've heard it a dozen or more times from other copy cats it just doesn't work anymore. I don't hate the scene, it's fine, but the jokes are already beaten to death now. So yes, it WAS funny I'm sure, probably great! But now it's just the same stuff that t.v. and movies have been copying for too long, which makes it impossible to go back to old stuff and laugh now thanks to non-creative people writting. I can't just find it funny because "this was original" is the excuse... if it's NEW to me as an episode, but an old joke, it lands the same way if anyone else uses it nowadays, it's not new to me. The joke isn't back, the people that dragged it through the mud over the years because they fail at writing ruined it.

Fed by the muse said...

Just saw the "Frasier" pilot after many years. Smart, clever, doesn't date...it's still terrific.

Fed by the muse said...

Meant to add if "The Good Son" is a home-run, the follow-up, "Space Quest" (which introduces Bulldog Briscoe) is at least triple. Both, IMO, strong, back-to-back "Frasier" episodes, the latter of the two containing Daphne's classic 'six more weeks of winter...' come back.

Brian Phillips said...

Well, if some people didn't find it funny, here is an excerpt from "Hailing Taxi" by Frank Lovece and Jules Franco:

"If you look closely at that scene," says Marilu Henner, "you'll see me stabbing my hand with a pencil to keep from laughing. I could barely stop myself." Recalls Jim Brooks, "Chris with his driver's test go one of the biggest laughs I'd ever heard...we just had to bring him back on the show."

Chris Lloyd remembers "being disappointed when the cut it. I wanted to to it AGAIN-get up on my feet this time and REALLY make it slow!"

Brian Phillips said...

To Moot: I won't dictate your sense of humor to you, but I am nineteen years older than you so I can provide some context. At the time, Taxi wasn't just funny, it really stood out. While Barney Miller and M*A*S*H were still on and WKRP in Cincinnati debuted that year, you also had Grandpa Goes to Washington (Jack Albertson), which was not very good, Another Day (with David Groh and Joan Hackett), which had the most hyped audience I ever heard, applauding as each character came on set FROM THE FIRST SHOW and The Waverly Wonders featuring the comic stylings of ex-quarterback Joe Namath.

I was so fond of Taxi, when Cheers debuted, I refused to watch it at first because I thought, "Oh, their just doing Taxi again!". However, when the critics raved about it, I was hooked.

Funny is funny, but sometimes, living in the specific era helps.

Andy K said...

It was alright, but it was frustrating in the stupidity. I could only watch about 20 seconds before moving on. I love to laugh and Taxi usually worked, but stupid isn't funny.

Wally said...

Someone asked, I thought, about how ppl become Casting Directors. Some info on on person's path via an interview with Casting Director, Allison Jones: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/the-nerd-hunter

Saburo said...

I haven't seen this scene in ages and I *still* laughed out loud in spite of myself. I mean, TAXI was "my time" but still.

Reverend Jim was the best.

Anonymous said...

Bob and Ray presented the concept earlier, and much more skillfully.
They both played their characters straight -
acting in the same reality, and not acknowledging the audience:
and no disability was cheaply mocked- the humor comes from Ray’s frustration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Talkers_of_America
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyI6KjpNrh0

Similarly, in It’s A Gift, the humor came not at the expense
of the disabled Mr Muckle, but rather, from the trauma of dealing with him

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Gift
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y189-69cQPs


The writers of Zootopia obviously owed a debt - unlikely paid -
to Bob and Ray

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHVDN3M_hc8

Roger Owen Green said...

I saw it at the time and it was hysterical.
If it's less so now, it's because I know it so well. And still, when Bobby started asking Jim the questions, I laughed a couple times.
The last series of jokes I knew too well, so only mildly funny. But uproarious at the time.

I'll have to try it out on my 16 y.o.

Joyce Melton said...

Chris Lloyd looks so young! Always a standout performer, his comic timing here shines. He's killing his fellow actors and the audience is laughing wildly. Amazing they aren't stepping on the lines, but the actors' skills are enough to prevent that. Hard to believe anyone who has heard a laugh track thinks that is one.

I remember when this came on. It was funny then, it's funny now. Why are drunks and stoners funny? Because they do and say the stupid stuff that occurs to all of us but we're too sober to express. Same for little kids.

Reverend Jim said the darndest things.

Linda Stuart said...

Ken,

It's Linda Stuart, Malcolm

Linda Stuart said...

Ken, It's Linda Stuart, Malcolm Stuart's daughter. Might you know why Ted Baxter did not attend Rhoda's wedding. Georgette attended, but not Ted. I am curious why that decision was made. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I've gotta vote for the "eh" crowd. It seemed slow, obvious and labored. The "slow down" part seemed straight out of vaudeville--and not headliner vaudeville. To me, the funniest part was when Jim stuck his tongue with the pencil point. That was unexpected and isn't that the essence of comedy?

-30-

Anthony Adams said...

Boy, that ran short. I felt like they were just getting up to speed. Maybe I'm just too used to the trope, but to me, Reverend Jim is not good a village idiot but rather a pure full. Jim does live in a different reality, but it's only about five degrees off from ours, and then that reality everything he says and does makes sense. I know the back story sets him up as a real bright preppie, what even the preppie was a pure fool. I laughed, I got sore. And anybody who doesn't recognize the real laughter here has probably never stood on stage. And I say that as one who's got laughs out of playing Falstaff. In The Merry Wives of Windsor. The opera by Nicolai.

WB Jax said...

I suppose tastes do change. When I first started collecting soundtracks on LP I would listen to those records constantly, especially anything by Williams, Goldsmith, Mancini or Horner. Though I still collect soundtracks (mostly expanded releases of older scores) I don't seem to have the interest in the more recent things (especially big orchestra scores such as the new "Star Wars" trilogy music).

As far as sitcoms go, a number of segments that people regard as classic, such as the famous "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" and "Chuckles Bites the Dust" eps of The Dick Van Dyke/Mary Tyler Moore shows, just don't do much for me, though, admittedly, both series have eps I love, namely, "Young Man with a Shoehorn" (the former), "Lou's First Date" (the latter), I suppose because both episodes seem to have an genuinely endearing quality to them. As for "Taxi," one of the shows I really enjoyed is the one where Tony's sister Monica takes a liking to Jim and starts dating him (Julie Kavner perfectly cast as Tony's sister). Also, and I may be in the minority here, I think the "Roseanne" pilot, which I recently saw again after a lot of years, is still very good (and remarkably quotable!)

Matt, Westwood CA said...

Linda...Georgia Engel talked about Ted’s absence from Rhoda’s wedding. Although she did not know why, Ted did not want to do it. Realizing his opting out would mean that would likely leave her out as well, she approached the producers and asked if she could be included. She said you don’t have to give me any lines, I really just want to be there. The writer’s did a nice job including her as she ended up with a couple of hilarious lines. Ironically, I think a lot of people forget the origin of her character. In her first appearance, she was introduced that she worked with Rhoda as a window dresser. Ted or no Ted, from a character standpoint it made perfect sense for her to attend.

Seymour Wales said...

I saw that when it first aired when I was about 12. Ever since then, "What does a yellow light mean" has been the most memorable line I've ever heard on TV. It cracked me up so hard.

BruceB said...

Ken, you have an intelligent following. So it really shocks me how many commenters complained about the "laugh track." Taxi had a live studio audience. Live. Real people, real laughs. Jeez!

Andy N said...

Ken, thanks for sharing that.

First time I'd seen that, and it was terrific - and what a delight to have the silliness unfold at a human pace, what many commenters here find to be too "slow".

Among the many awful developments of the 1980s, the onset of music videos with their quick 1 second cuts and the widespread adoption of that type of "squirrel!" editing in film and video production seems to have demolished a more human pace of narrative.

Today, it seems an exception to see comedy unfold at that pace, and for this 59 year old, an absolute pleasure.

Gary said...

For whatever reason, human nature I suppose, when you tell someone in advance that something is really funny, they instinctively resist and want to tell you it isn't that funny. As my kids were growing up I introduced them to all the shows I found hilarious in my youth, and they were lukewarm to most of them. It seems that the best way for someone to find something truly funny is to stumble onto it themselves, with no prior knowledge or introduction.

Anonymous said...

I managed to endure the whole thing, but it didn't raise a smile — it was like an Abbott & Costello reject, thirty years late. I'm not much younger than the episode itself so I'm not sure it's a fashion thing, just that the jokes were extremely basic and highly predictable. If you were raised on MASH, Cheers & Frasier then you expect more.

Caleb Martin said...

This scene represents exquisite craftwork by both the writers and the cast.

Doric columns also represent peak craftsmanship, but they don't excite today's homebuyers either.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

I thought the scene was funny, just not as uproarious funny the way the writers and audience seem to think. It was well done, don't get me wrong, but perhaps jokes about mentally ill cranks just don't fly as much today as they used to.

Unknown said...

My kids were born in 1995, 1997, and 1999. I showed them this about 5 years ago and they all laughed. Ever since, “slow down” has become a catch phrase in our family. Did I do something wrong?

John Schrank said...

To me, there are two main reasons this scene is funny. The first is the commitment of the actors. Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Conaway play their intentions and reactions believably and consistently, never commenting on the characters or trying to "be funny". The second is right when you think they can't possibly do it again, THEY DO

Linda said...

Might be funny to a 70 year old with a 10 year old sense of humor.

Jerry said...

Never introduce a film or scene by telling your audience that what they're about to see is a comedy classic or is one of the funniest things ever committed to film or tape. It sets such a high bar that there's little chance what they see will ever live up to their expectations, and the audience tends to come away disappointed. Much better just to roll the film of scene with no build-up.

It also encourages smart alecks who rush to their keyboards, most likely without even bothering to watch the scene, to assure you that what you just showed them is probably the least funny thing they've ever seen and you're stupid for thinking it is because they think telling you that is gonna ruin your whole day

Issa Kelly said...

I agree. I really loathe the dumb character. I think it's lazy writing and shallow characterization. They only exist for the easy joke because you can have them do and say outrageous or illogical things and just wave it away as them being dumb. Even with the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I cant stand Ted Baxter. Though I'm glad Ted Knight's lobbying to give the character more depth was later incorporated. My favorite show Frasier doesn't have a dumb character. It has people with contrasting view points which is far more interesting. But I still like that Taxi scene, though.

Mike said...

Well, Reverend Jim isn't just a dumb, shallow character, though. The series does show us his other hidden qualities, such as a certain stoner wisdom, gift for television programming, and surprising piano skills. And it does eventually shows us how he became the '60s burnout (in a great little flashback that features a young nobody actor named Tom Hanks).

WB Jax said...

Friday questions for you, Ken: How are scenes where characters talk over one another scripted? Recently saw a Frasier where this occurs between Frasier and Niles and was curious about how this would have appeared to KG/DHP on the script page. Also, why is it a word can be in the dictionary, an information resource accessible to everyone in a home or in a school, but not allowed, still, in a network teleplay. Thanks.

Storm said...

My favourite Rev. Jim line is in "Jim and the Kid": "It was THE KINKS! She could've worn the blue thing!"

What a nerd trifecta he had back in '84-'85: Kruge in "Star Trek: The Search For Spock", John Bigboote' ("BigbooTAY! TAY TAY TAY!") in "Buckaroo Banzai", and Doc Brown in "Back to the Future". I just love the bones of him.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Yet Another Chris said...

I laughed out loud at "tough choice", smiled once or twice elsewhere, and saw the "slow down" joke coming from a mile off.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

sanford: Yes, I did watch Andy Griffith, but I was a child, never particularly a fan of the show, didn't see that much of it, and find I have little desire to revisit it. You're right that village idiot characters go back further than the 1980s. But there was a period where it seemed like almost every show had one.

Mike Doran: The discomfort with mocking dementia was also a part of my reaction. Plus, I was thinking, they really shouldn't help him get a license because then he'll *drive*...

Issa Kelly: Ted was a big reason I never liked watching the MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. I just couldn't stand him.

Another personal bugaboo: a teetotal or non-druggy character is secretly plied with drugs or alcohol by one of their friends. To me that's not comedy, it's *assault*. (And I'm looking at THE BIG BANG THEORY for several examples of it.)

wg

Tim G. said...

People's recommendations for funniest scene or skit or set-up always raise the bar high for the people they are trying to enlighten. I found this Taxi skit labored and painful to watch. Interesting to read, though, what others think. An assertion that ANYBODY (meaning everyone) would find something funny is just asking for it. Then again, I am the wrong audience for this kind of stuff. Also can't endure the highly regarded Niles starts a fire scene from Frasier.

I love the old Phyllis episode where Judith Lowry's Mother Dexter is about to be surprised at a party by old friends. The old friends sneak out and stand behind Mother Dexter with expectant looks on their faces before revealing themselves. Phyllis asks Mother Dexter if she remembers the neighbor lady who stopped by every day for coffee. Mother Dexter's memory is jarred, then she describes the neighbor as a windbag who never shut up then insults her children as the stupidest morons, then classifies the whole family as dumb. Naturally offended, the old friends storm out. After they have left, Mother Dexter calmly says "I wonder whatever happened to them."

I held this scene up as one of the funniest things I had ever seen--encouraged some friends to watch and was met with "meh." Fun to recommend and see where it lands.

Brian Stanley said...

I’ve watched this clip once years ago in a highlight reel and then just read over and over again about its memorable-ness. I chuckled a lot more at the first half, probably because I wasn’t familiar with it. If I didn’t know it already, The “yellow light” joke (Vaudeville routine) would be hilarious the first time Jim repeats himself and I can understand going for one more laugh one more time, but after that the characters stop acting as “real people in a real situation” and don’t say something different so they can do the same joke two more times. Less is more.

cmarks said...

I'm curious if ABC included a portion of that scene in the show's promo. And if they did, should they have? The "bringing in more viewers" vs. "spoiling the joke" dilemma.

McAlvie said...

I remember this one, and remember laughing just as hard back then. It’s the build up that does it, you absolutely know what Jim’s response will be, so you are primed to laugh. Of course you don’t get it from just this clip, but the character had many endearing qualities and even flashes of wisdom. Thanks for sharing, Ken.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I bought Phyllis and even Georgette attending Rhoda's wedding, but having Lou and Murray there was a stretch and smacked of a Fred Silverman cross promotion. I don't blame Ted Knight for sitting it out.

mike schlesinger said...

Genuinely stupid characters are almost never funny. For me, Ted Baxter is the weak link in "Mary Tyler Moore," and he sometimes made me want to throw things at the TV. Even "dumb" characters like Stan Laurel, Lou Costello, Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges are not so much stupid as naïve and child-like, which earns them our sympathy and affection.

404 said...

what's funny to me about this scene -- besides the fact that Chris Lloyd is just amazingly good, all the time -- is that you CAN see the jokes coming from a mile away, but he still pulls them off. Predictable doesn't automatically equal deal-breaker, as far as I'm concerned. There's a lot more that goes into it.

I think it's hysterical that the "slow down" joke just kept going and going. It's funny, and then it gets played out, but they keep doing it which makes it funny again. It's like a game of comic chicken. How long do they dare stretch the scene out? And the genius of Christopher Lloyd is that you truly believe his character has no clue that he's being ridiculous. By the end, it's 100% believable to me that if they didn't cut the scene, we could come back an hour later and it would still be going on with the questions dragged out soooooooooooooooooo sllllllooooooooooowwwwwwwwwlllllly that it would be complete nonsense.

Barry Traylor said...

It has been a long time since I first saw it bit is still just as funny.

Dave H said...

Taxi is one of the few classic TV shows that I can still laugh out loud at. And the show really got into a groove when Christopher Lloyd joined and it really took off from there with me. And I never saw Jim as stupid. A little burnt out from too many drugs but not stupid.

crackblind said...

This is still one of my family's favorite TV bits. Anyone who thinks it goes on too long must hate they rake joke from The Simpsons. One of the better parts is having Elaine say the "Don't write two" punch line as the straight man.

I once used the yellow light question as part of a training for teachers about making sure what you are asking a student is clear and easy for them to understand. Less than 1/4 of the group got the reference.

PolyWogg said...

"Mental illness or narcotics addiction...that's a touch choice".

Love it.

Paul
aka PolyWogg

Nicole C said...

I'm almost 30 and I've heard of Taxi but I haven't seen it. I understand how this scene is funny but it's not my thing. "I thought this was a test" was the best part, I think.

dam said...

Hey Nicole C, what's your email

john B said...

I remember watching this as a kid when it first came out. It still makes me laugh every time I see it. A real classic and still one of the funniest bits I have ever seen on a sitcom.

I am a new reader, really enjoy the blog and went through every post on it. Thanks for being my entertainment for the last week

The insider stories are great. I worked in reality TV for a reality star that has had 3 series ( so far) Despite the differences, a lot of your stories hit home.

Thanks !