It took several weeks before Ben Bailey was awarded the role of gameshow host on “Cash Cab.” At one point during the audition process, he had the show’s executive producers in the back seat as he drove up onto the curb while he was pulling out of a parking lot. “Can we start again now that we’re actually on the road?” the comedian quipped. The EPs replied with a laugh; and the rest, as we know, is history.
It was over a decade ago when the stand-up comedian and New Jersey native suddenly found himself with a taxi license and his very own show. While the former limo driver may have been just right for the part, it was never anything Bailey had ever imagined himself doing.
“It’s funny, I had a show, a sitcom, written about being a limo driver and I worked really hard at it,” he recalled during the interview. “I would always say positive thinking is a powerful thing. And I would constantly remind myself, ‘this is a very tough thing I’m doing, trying to do stand-up, I’m going to get my show that’s about me being a driver and it’s going to be great.’ So, I had that in my head literally for years and then ‘Cash Cab’ comes along.” Bailey chuckled, “Not exactly what I had in mind.”
As the comedian points out in his Comedy Central special, "Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology," he and “Cash Cab” have become quite synonymous over time. The popular gameshow is slated to return to the Discovery Channel on Dec. 4, and it’s impossible to imagine anyone else we would want taking over the streets of New York for our televised enjoyment. “I was super psyched,” Bailey said of the show’s revival. “I signed my new deal on the hood of the cab and then I got in and we started shooting. Like the day of; so it came down to the wire.”
While “Cash Cab” fans are thrilled to have the Emmy Award-winner back behind the wheel, Bailey says it can sometimes be hard to separate the gameshow host from the comedian. Aside from his many TV appearances, the comic tours as a national headliner, has a popular podcast, owns his own production company and doubles as a musician.
His production company, Triple B Productions, has created gems like “B.W.A.M.” (Badly Written Action Man), which features Bailey as an action movie hero whose lines are (as the title would suggest) just terribly written. There’s also a short film that the comic wrote and directed called “Meet Me At Ray’s.” It stars Bailey alongside his good friend and fellow comedian, Judah Friedlander. “Tall But True,” his podcast, is all about storytelling. He and comic D.C. Benny invite guests to come on and share their own wild tales; everyone from Lou Diamond Phillips to Bill Burr to Ray Romano.
Bailey’s expertise in wild tales obviously doesn’t stop there. As the host of “Cash Cab,” the comedian has certainly seen his share of “challenging” moments. “I had one guy who didn’t respond at all, he just opened the door and got out. He didn’t say a word, he didn’t make a noise. He had this big printer, fax or copier thing. He loaded it in the back seat behind me, walked around to the passenger side, sat down, shut the door and told me where he was going. I hit the lights and the music and said, ‘You’re in the ‘Cash Cab’’ and without a word he just opened the door, got out, closed it, walked around, got out his printer thing, closed that door and then left.”
Although most reactions don’t usually elicit that response, the comic admits he has had a few surprising moments in the cab over the years. With the show’s reprisal, it’s likely there’s even more to come.
In its new season, viewers can expect to see the return of the fan-favorite “Red Light Challenge,” while other changes have been made to give the show a proper update. Social media shout outs have been added to the “Cash Cab” repertoire, as has the addition of an unexpected celebrity guest who will join the ride in order to help passengers rack up some cash.
The celebrity line-up this season includes Matthew Perry, Brooke Shields, Scott Bakula, Gilbert Gottfried, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman. Contestants should appreciate the extra help, as Bailey acknowledged that the questions can be so tough that even he sometimes gets stumped.
So, what’s harder - comedy or driving a cab in New York City? “Comedy,” Bailey claims. “But that doesn’t mean driving a cab in New York is easy.”
Be sure to check out the comedian’s latest special, “Ben Bailey Live & Uncensored,” which is available through his website.
You can also catch Ben in Hartford Dec. 8 and 9, at the Hartford Funny Bone. He’ll be at Carolines in New York from Dec. 14-16. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, you can check him out at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pa. on December 29.
The return of Ben Bailey as host of “Cash Cab” is happening on Monday, Dec. 4 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Tune in to Discovery Channel to see the man in action.