Jim Ignatowski

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Jim Ignatowski
Portrayed by Christopher Lloyd
Information
Occupation Taxi driver

The Reverend Jim "Iggy" Ignatowski, played by Christopher Lloyd, was a fictional character in the 1970s television series Taxi. A gentle soul, Jim was, in his own words, "the living embodiment of the sixties". His most noticeable character trait was his extreme "spaced-out" behavior as a result of extensive 1960s drug use.

Background[edit]

Ignatowski was born James Caldwell. He claimed to have been born in Spokane, Washington, although his often-unreliable memory makes this quite open to question. However, he was definitely raised in Boston, Massachusetts as one of three children in a very well-to-do family.

Jim's mother died when he was quite young, leaving Jim's father (later played by Victor Buono) to raise the family. (Jim states while applying for his hack license that his father's name was Ignatowski - another example of his faulty memory.) Being busy with his thriving urology practices, Dr. Caldwell left much of this task to various family servants. This seemed to affect all the Caldwell children in some way: Jim was an extremely uptight and humorless person before he became a drop-out; his brother Tom remained humorless and somewhat mean-spirited throughout his adulthood; and his sister Lila exhibited marked nymphomania.

Jim was his father's favorite child. An excellent student, he attended Harvard. Then, after a party attended by his roommate Gordon Fog (played by Tom Hanks), his girlfriend Heather introduced him to "funny brownies" - containing marijuana - and convinced him to partake.[1] After ingesting these brownies, the transformation within Jim was virtually instantaneous. His term paper on "Plutarch's Lives" was forgotten—in fact, by his second semester at Harvard, he was writing his term papers in fingerpaint. ("The typewriter seemed so impersonal", he explained.) Jim would become part of the counterculture, and was ordained as a minister with the Church of the Peaceful ("investigated and cleared of all charges"). Around this time, Jim changed his last name to Ignatowski, believing it was "Starchild" spelled backwards.

Whether it is ever completely recognized or not by his friends or family, Jim is a super genius with a childlike mind and a huge heart. This unseen aspect is commonly mistaken by the other characters as Jim having nothing more than burned out brain cells due to his long-term experiences of a drug induced lifestyle.

Jim was thrown out of the Democratic Convention in Chicago for stealing decorations, and attended Woodstock ("500,000 people...lucky for them I went or it would have only been 499,999"). He said he kept finding God everywhere--"he kept ditching me". He also spent a year of his life making a macrame couch, and was once traded from his commune to another commune for two goats and an unspecified Donovan album. Jim once claimed that instead of finding Nirvana or God through his 1960s experiences he has only been left with recurring flashback visions of the original Mouseketeers (especially Cubby) hatching out of seedpods.

On the show[edit]

Reverend Jim's first introduction to the crew at the Sunshine Cab Company was a guest appearance in a Season 1 episode, when he presided over a "paper marriage" between Latka Gravas, the cab company's immigrant mechanic (played by Andy Kaufman) and a prostitute, so Latka could stay in the United States. Jim appeared again in an early second season episode. He became a regular beginning with the tenth episode of the second season. As the series progressed, the "Reverend" aspect of the character was less frequently referred to.

Jim was an endless treasure trove of eccentricities, most of which could be traced to after-effects of his 1960s drug intake. He lived in a condemned building; bought a racehorse he renamed Gary (to erase his "slave name") and kept him in his living room; spent a considerable period of time trying to become the "perfect" cabbie only to spend all his earnings on a wall of TVs; and dismantled his van to build a castle for Elaine Nardo (played by Marilu Henner). He screamed in his sleep, and thought weekends were nine days long because "we switched to the metric system." His drug expertise also allowed him to identify the coca leaves (from which cocaine is made) in Latka's cookies -- "Southern Peru, '74, before the rains"—much like a wine taster describing a vintage. His heroes were St. Thomas Aquinas, Mahatma Gandhi, Alan Alda, and Louie De Palma (played by Danny DeVito), who ironically treated him quite poorly and took advantage of him at every opportunity. Jim also admitted to being a fan of the original Star Trek series, although he strongly believed that the leader of the Romulans was portrayed incorrectly. His dream date, arranged by his co-worker Latka and Latka's wife Simka, was with Marcia Wallace. Jim was obsessed with her role on The Bob Newhart Show, so much so that he wrote lyrics for the opening theme that started "Here comes Bob and Carol... "

At one point, his last known address was a 1963 Volkswagen. As such, when his father died and left him $3.5 million, his family stepped in to keep him from receiving his inheritance. Ultimately, he was able to get his money, and (in the series' last original episode) wound up buying the cabbies' favorite hangout, Mario's, and renaming it Jim's Mario's. Jim also received a cassette in his father's will. It contained Stevie Wonder singing "You Are the Sunshine of My Life".

Reception[edit]

In 1999 TV Guide ranked him number 32 on its '50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time' list.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Taxi Video - The Road Not Taken, Part 1". Taxi, The Road Not Taken, Part 1. CBS. Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  2. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 191. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.