Interview: Ben Bailey’s glorious ride from stand-up comedy to ‘Cash Cab’ and beyond

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Comedian Ben Bailey
Image: Courtesy of Loshak PR

Ben Bailey landed the job as the host of “Cash Cab” in 2005. Ever since then, strangers feel the need to yell out things like “Red Light Challenge!” when they see him. Whenever Bailey hops into the back seat of a cab, drivers from all over the world like to quiz him. It’s either that or take a picture while they’re driving him around, which the comic admits, can be a little unnerving.

Before Bailey took command of his own cab on national television, he had been touring the country as a stand-up comedian, playing to packed clubs and crowded festivals. On top of his successful game show run, Bailey has made numerous appearances in TV and film and has put out two specials for Comedy Central. His most recent, “Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology,” is currently streaming on Netflix. Fans of Bailey are also familiar with his “Tall But True” podcast and are well aware of his musical talents.

Cabs are Here

Bailey got behind the wheel in 2005, when “Cash Cab” originally aired on Discovery Channel. The game show that tests the knowledge of unsuspecting New Yorkers in the back of a cab ran until 2012. The series was then resurrected again for a two-year run in 2017.

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In its third iteration, Bravo swooped in to take the reins. In October of 2019, the six-time Daytime Emmy Award-winning game show began season 14. Bravo’s rendition included a vehicle upgrade, higher stakes, and more pop culture trivia. The show also jumped from 10 episodes to over 30 this season, with new ones coming in February.

Lyft Me Up

The Burn-In: On top of “Cash Cab,” tickets recently went on sale for your 2020 tour. Without giving all of your good material away, tell us what audiences can expect from the “Ben Bailey Live Tour?” What kind of tales are you going to be getting into this time around?

Ben Bailey: It always depends on where I am, what mood I’m in, and what state my current stand-up set is in. But, audiences can expect to see new material that I haven’t done before. Nothing political. It’s all observational stuff. I write about weird things; whatever is strange, that’s funny. Like, I have a long bit about why people build birdhouses. It’s fun. It’s pretty silly. There’s wordplay. A comedy show is meant to be an escape in my mind. It’s not a place where you go and get badgered about your political point of view. I don’t have some agenda to sell, like trying to get people over to my side. It’s not like that. It’s just pure fun.

TBI: When you’re on tour, how much of what you do is off the cuff, and how much are you locked into?

BB: Well, with the current tour, there are going to be some big venues, and people are paying pretty good prices to come to my show, so it won’t be a lot of improv. I have a set worked out that’s a little over an hour. I’m probably going to be sticking to that or doing a “greatest hits” of my older and newer stuff.

TBI: Where does your inspiration come from? When you’re working on new stuff, how do you know when you’ve got that magic ingredient?

BB: I know when an idea first hits me, whether it’s a solid idea that I’m going to run with or not. I guess it’s just a feeling. It takes a little while to develop. An idea hits me, I like it, and if I try to explain it to someone right then, they look at me, and they’re like, “What on earth is funny about what you just said?” Later on, when they see it on stage, they go, “Oh, I see what you did.” But, the [ideas] just kind of fall out of the sky. It almost has nothing to do with the situation I’m in. I could be in the shower, and I could think of a joke about riding the subway or getting off an airplane. I’ve got to go put it down in my notebook before it’s too late. Then I go back, and I work on it.

TBI: So, what’s happening after the tour? Do you see another Comedy Central special or a Netflix special in your future?

BB: I’m ready to do another special. We don’t know where it’s going to land yet. But, there’s definitely a new special coming [in 2020] somewhere.

TBI: What’s the latest with your podcast, “Tall But True?”

BB: “Tall But True” is kind of on a back burner right now, between “Cash Cab” and the tour, and everything. I have about five episodes that I haven’t done anything with [yet]. I love making that. People are still listening to it, so I think there’s a good chance we’ll make some more of those in 2020.

Uber Excited

While Bailey continues with new episodes of “Cash Cab,” and sets out on his national “Ben Bailey Live Tour,” with stops across the country through 2020, he has even more on the agenda. “I’m going to be releasing stuff online again,” Bailey tells The Burn-In. “I’ve got a new web series coming out, and I’ve got another short film that’s going to come out online called, ‘Meet Me At Ray’s.’ I’m always working on stuff, making new content. It’s great now, how you can just put it right out to the fans. That’s the stuff we used to dream about it.”

You can visit Bailey’s website for upcoming show dates. The comic tells The Burn-In that he’s hopeful to add more dates to the schedule, particularly, “Something on the West Coast a little further on into the year.”

“Cash Cab” airs Sunday-Thursday nights on Bravo at 11:30/10:30c.

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Sari Cohen is a journalist based in the Greater L.A. Area. She began her career in the entertainment industry as a stand-up comedy writer/performer and over the years has developed scripts for both the stage and screen. She currently covers music and live entertainment for AXS, reviews movies for Hollywood First Look Features and writes for InLove Magazine. She also pens funny stuff for popular sites such as Cracked and Screen Rant. You can often find her at concerts or on a red carpet somewhere, talking to someone about something. From on-the-scene reporting to exclusive interviews, she tackles every topic from music, movies and television, to fashion, lifestyle and politics. You can check out more on Twitter at @ask_sari or follow her adventures on Instagram under @thesavvyscribbler.

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