Just Coincidence Or Was Kramer was Based on Reverend Jim Ignatowski?

kramer

TV trope theory reveals that you can dissect any show and find stock characters as well as situations. The big hero, the misunderstood flirt, or the guy who is “crazy awesome” show up in different incarnations decade after decade. Picking two “crazy awesome” guys from the sitcom tree, and comparing kooky trait to trait, it’s logical to conclude that Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer who arrived on the sitcom scene over a decade later, bears an uncanny resemblance to Taxi’s Jim Ignatowski.

Walk This Way

On both shows, a tall, thin, unkempt man literally bursts into view, marching to the secret tune of a drunk drummer who is apparently renting a room in his whacked out cranium. Although Jim’s crazy walk is a bit more of a side to side strut, and Kramer’s is more a jerky verticle, the crazy walk makes them the guys you notice in the ensemble.

Manchild Syndrome

Both characters are overgrown children viewing the world through innocent eyes. Both characters are astonished when things go wrong due to their irresponsibility and both are clueless of personal boundaries or private property. Kramer just barges into Jerry’s place and helps himself to whatever is in the fridge, and Jim saunters into the Taxi stand and inserts himself into whatever is going on at the moment. Like Harold Skimpole of Dickens’ Bleak House, they are too much of a child to understand most practical matters. Unlike Dickens who intended his audience to despise his juvenile moocher character, sitcom writers have made these two TV anti-heroes much more endearing.

Physical Appearance

Both men have a hairstyle that defies definition–or gravity! Seeming to stand up and out at strange angles, the odd hair care situation adds to the character’s careless attitude and lack of attention to personal grooming. Both men have a standard uniform. The denim clad Jim is the epitome of the carefree 70s and Kramer is the king of 90s fashion gone wrong, donning blazers, gabardine slacks, and button down odd print dress shirts.

Monicker Mystery

For years, no one knew Kramer’s first name, he was just Kramer. It wasn’t until later in the series that Seinfeld fans found that Kramer’s first name is “Cosmo”, a perfectly apt name for a Crazy Awesome guy, The Reverend Jim was actually born James Caldwell , but changed his name to Ignatowski, we learn–later in the series. It’s confusing as he says during his driver’s exam that his father’s name was Ignatowski. The name confusion keeps the character somewhat of an enigma in the audience’s mind. No other character on either show evolves with new revelations being added just about every episode like Jim and Kramer.

Crazy Intelligent

Jim went to Harvard and is well educated. Like Kramer, he can pull out information from thin air about just about any topic. Jim wanted to become a pharmacist, and Kramer a firefighter; however, they both do absolutely nothing to train for those professions. They both lack basic common sense and stay alive due to sheer luck and friendly intervention but are wickedly book smart. For both men, there is a Grand Canyon-wide gap between potential and self-actualization.

Drug Use

Rev. Jim is up front about the fact that he indulged in too much drug use in the past. In the 70s it was normal for TV characters to practically boast about past addictions. During the 1990s, Kramer’s drug use is implied by his behavior and poor life choices but never directly stated. There is some speculation, however, on the internet that Kramer afforded his spacious New York apartment by dealing drugs. They both have a frenetic energy and wild-eyed expression typical of chronic amphetamine users. To be fair, in Kramer’s case, it has been also speculated that he, like Jim, comes from old money wealth and lives off the proceeds of a trust fund or annuity. Kramer’s wacky mom might not be the only relative in the financial picture.

One parent

With Kramer, mom is the single parent. For Jim, it’s his dad. Both relationships between parent and child are complicated.

Poor Cool Rich Boys

Jerry said it best on Seinfeld where he spoke about his friend and neighbor not working, yet falling into money. Kramer always has plenty of dough, as does Jim to take care of basic needs. Kramer becomes famous and gets rich, and Jim comes into his inheritance toward the end of the series. Not just shy on work ethic, both characters have the distinction of doing quite well in the cutthroat urban environment of New York City, despite having no visible means of steady support.

Both Characters are Fantasy Prone

Both characters will go the extra mile to bring their fantasy to life. Kramer set up a glittering Merv Griffin set in his apartment and the Rev. Jim character gets extra laughs when he is asked about fantasies and claims he is a “down to earth” kind of guy but then a fantasy sequence ensues that is set guess where? Like Kramer– in his apartment, of course, where he is visited by a brightly lit spacecraft.

Driving Issues

Jim has issues as evidenced when he takes his driver’s test and can hardly fill out the forms, and Kramer tries to see how far he can go on an empty tank. Kramer woke up after a crash on empty with a full tank courtesy of someone. Jim has his friends help him with basic questions.

Reliance on Others

Both characters would be lost without friends. They need constant prompting and assistance with activities of basic living. Both men are kept in check by the lead character. In Jim’s case, it’s Alex Reiger, for Kramer, it’s Jerry Seinfeld. The straight men, played by Judd Hirsh and Jerry Seinfeld respectively, provide the “regular guy” voice of reason for the cool wacky guy operating in the midst of an ensemble cast.

Last but not least, both Jim Ignatowski and Cosmo Kramer play off a female character who is a big sister type. She’s hardworking, responsible and feisty–and her name just happens to be Elaine. Elaine Nardo and Elaine Bennis live in different New York worlds, but both serve the same purpose for two “crazy awesome” guys who share striking similarities.


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