Ben Bailey sees himself as a comedian first and the host of Cash Cab second. Many of his fans, on the other hand, are bigger fans of his Cash Cab work — if they’re even aware of his 25-year stand-up comedy career.
But Bailey doesn’t seem too bitter about the series' impact on his work. He credits the Discovery Channel game show set in a taxi cab for boosting his ticket sales and says he even altered his routine to accommodate those fans.
“I used to speak slowly, deliberately,” says Bailey — who will perform May 17 and 18 at the Palm Beach Improv — on the phone from New Jersey. “After Cash Cab, I would do that and the audience would look around, like, ‘Why is he talking like that?’ They knew me from the show. I abandoned that and am now more myself onstage.”
Bailey also started including more Cash Cab material in his set early in the show’s run because he knew that's what much of the crowd wanted. In his Comedy Central special, Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology, Bailey recounts an instance in which he stepped out of the cab in a moment of road rage — make that "200 episodes of pent-up Cash Cab road rage."
Audience members can expect Bailey to regale them with a few Cash Cab stories in his latest set, but it's hardly the focus of his stand-up routine.
“I want them to forget that I’m the Cash Cab guy at my show,” Bailey says. “I want them to be taken away by my stand-up.”
Cash Cab ran from 2005 to 2012 and then returned, as many things do these days, in 2017 with Bailey once again pulling double duty as host and cab driver. Bailey admits he was hesitant to get behind the wheel again, but he’s glad he did, pointing to the positive reception. Can we expect another season of Cash Cab?
“There’s no official word,” Bailey says. “It looks like more is on the way.”
One thing he won’t do if and when the show comes back is perform stand-up on filming dates. He made that mistake before and he won’t make it again. Between trying to remember questions, driving a cab, and remaining upbeat all the time for the camera, his brain was shot by the time filming ended. But he's quick to add he’s not complaining.
Bailey wants to be in the right mind frame when he performs. He loves stand-up and knew from the moment he first took the stage that he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing it. That’s where he’s most comfortable. Just don’t ask Bailey about fellow comics because he rarely, if ever, watches other sets or comedy specials.
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“I stopped watching comedians a long time ago,” Bailey says. “I don’t want to be influenced by someone else. Early on, I would watch Dave Attell at the Comedy Cellar every Friday night for several years. It was difficult to sit there and not be influenced. I always wanted to do something that’s all me and completely unique to me.”
In addition to Cash Cab and his stand-up, Bailey says he has a couple of TV show concepts in development, including a documentary, scripted programming, and, yes, another game show. He’d also like to do more acting.
“That's how I stumbled into this crazy business,” says Bailey, who made a cameo as himself on 30 Rock and plans to film more Badly Written Action Man videos for YouTube. “I moved to L.A. to work in film. That was my dream and I ended up stumbling into stand-up comedy.”
Ben Bailey. 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, May 17, and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach; 561-833-1812; palmbeachimprov.com; Tickets cost $22 with a two-drink minimum.