The Real Reason Andy Kaufman Was 'Fired' From Taxi

Andy Kaufman was perhaps the greatest trickster in the history of comedy. The late "song and dance man" — a title he insisted upon whenever someone tried to label him a comedian — dedicated his career to eliciting as much shock as one reasonably could. Fans will easily recall his infamous wrestling matches against 400 different women before stunned crowds, mercilessly throwing his opponents around the ring and casting chivalry to the wayside without a second thought (via Groovy History). According to Culture Sonar, the "Taxi" star would often pay bystanders and different people in the entertainment industry to participate in public pranks that seemed uncomfortably real at the time, cementing his reputation as one of the most ambitious, unique, and uncompromising entities in showmanship.

Speaking of "Taxi" (a sitcom that aired from 1978-1983), Kaufman's seemingly invaluable presence on the program was sadly cut short in a debacle that involved his co-conspirator and alleged alter-ego, one Tony Clifton. There's still a lot of talk floating around that the two were in fact the same person, but regardless, his untimely termination from the cast can be traced back to a series of incidents that took place on set involving Clifton and his often unsavory behaviors (per Culture Sonar).  

Kaufman and Clifton on Taxi

According to Showbiz CheatSheet, Andy Kaufman landed his first ever recurring role when he was hired for "Taxi." It was an exciting time for the up-and-coming star who exhibited a fresh comedic angle, and despite his initial reluctance to climb aboard, his manager managed to convince him to take the gig. However, Kaufman had terms of his own: Tony Clifton had to be a part of it as well. The show's producer's acquiesced and agreed to let Clifton appear in one episode as the brother of Louie (Danny Devito's character), as Culture Sonar reports.

However, what first looked to be an amusing extension of Kaufman's eccentric talents proved fatal for his slot on the show. According to Culture Sonar, Clifton became a liability the moment he stepped on set, and before long, show runners decided that he had to be discharged. Because he and Kaufman were something of a package deal, the latter inevitably followed suit. 

Tony Clifton got Andy Kaufman fired

During an initial rehearsal, Tony Clifton started causing problems and the producers decided to remove him from the cast along with Kaufman. With a little bit of convincing, Kaufman was able to persuade them to only fire Clifton; the two had never been seen together, so people were still somewhat skeptical as to whether or not they weren't the same person. As Culture Sonar reports, Clifton showed up on set the next day and was met with the unfortunate news, and after causing a gratuitous scene before the entire cast and crew, he had to be walked out by several men. 

Andy Kaufman reported to work the next day, but it was sadly the last time he'd ever appear on set. The show's producer's decided that the whole escapade was more than they could responsibly bear, so he was likewise removed from the cast of "Taxi" after four seasons (per Culture Sonar). They still weren't entirely convinced that Tony Clifton wasn't just an alter-ego Kaufman took on by means of playing into his notorious gimmicks. And some people wonder about it to this day — was Clifton just Kaufman?