Ben Bailey Talks 'Cash Cab,' Takes Our Valentine's Day Quiz
by Jean Bentley, posted Feb 14th 2011 4:00PM
The comedian, of course, is the host of the Discovery Channel's popular 'Cash Cab' quiz show. In honor of 'Cash Cab''s fifth-season premiere tonight (6PM ET, Discovery), we called Bailey up to chat about how, exactly, you get on the show (he insisted that nothing but luck is involved), 'Cash Cab' strategy and getting pulled over.
We also gave the host, who has a new Comedy Central stand-up special set to air in March or April, a Valentine's Day–themed quiz of his own. Find out how he did, along with his favorite 'Cash Cab' moment and absolutely zero information about how to get on the show, after the jump.
TV Squad: First things first -- how the heck do you get on 'Cash Cab'?
Ben Bailey: You've just gotta be lucky. You've got to be in the right place at the right time.
Any specific time of day?
No, no. You've got to be in the right place at the right time, but nobody knows where or when that is. [Laughs]
Any hints, tips?
Nope, not really. If I say somewhere, then people are literally going to go there and wait for me. [Laughs]
Let's talk about the show. Have you ever turned away a fare?
Only once. I didn't turn them away, I pulled over and told them to get out. They were just making fun of the show and talking about how stupid they thought it was, and not answering, like they were too cool for the game. And they were like "Can we just get out" and I was like "You bet" and I pulled over. "OK, here you go. Out you go."
Has there been a really easy question you can't believe someone has gotten wrong?
Yeah, there's been tons of those. I think the all-time worst answer I ever got was from the very first season of the show. The question was: In the 'Star Wars' films, what peacekeeping organization has the ranks of Padawan and Knight? The answer, of course, is Jedi. The answer I got was Space Invaders.
People are really divided about whether to go for the double or nothing or just walk. What do you think?
It really depends on the situation. I think it depends on how much money you have. If there's four people in the cab and they have $500, then I would go for it because you're splitting it four ways anyway. You don't have a lot to lose. Also, if you've nailed all the questions along the way, you've got a good shot at knowing the answer to the video bonus. But I don't know, it's really very hard to predict. Either you know it or you don't, you know? You just have to think about how you're going to feel afterwards one way or the other.
How did you end up getting this gig?
I auditioned for it. I'm a standup comedian. I have a new special coming out in March or April on Comedy Central called 'Road Rage and Accidental Ornothology.'
So you're still doing standup?
Oh yeah, every week. I'm constantly doing standup still. Anyway, they decided they wanted a comedian to host the show I guess, so they brought in comedians from all over the country. Five auditions, a major background check and taxi school later, I got the gig.
Was it difficult to get your hack license?
It wasn't that bad for me because I knew the city pretty well already. I used to be a limousine driver. When I was starting out as a comedian I was driving limos to pay the bills. Plus I'd been driving around the city for more than 10 years doing standup all the time, and I lived there. I've always been a driver. Basically, since I got my license I've made my living as a driver -- funny that I have a TV show and I still am making my living as a driver. [Laughs]
What part of the city do you hate driving through?
Midtown. Everybody hates driving through Midtown. It's a traffic nightmare.
Is it difficult to multi-task when you're driving?
Funny you should ask me that, because I'm sending an email and driving my own truck right now while I'm doing this interview with you. [Laughs] I'm used to it. I'm sure what I'm doing is illegal on some level, but until they write a law about hosting a game show while you drive, I'm safe.
I got pulled over talking on my phone once, and the cop goes "Yeah, I'm going to need your license, registration -- oh, it's you! I've got you for talking on your phone, but I guess you can probably handle it." [Laughs] He goes "Get outta here."
Have you gotten pulled over while filming?
Yes I have. I've never gotten a ticket but I have been pulled over.
Do you have a favorite moment after hosting the show for five years?
One night we were shooting B roll, and we got stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of Times Square. It's, like, Friday night at 8 o'clock. The streets are packed with cars and the sidewalks are just wall-to-wall people. Nobody's moving anywhere, they're all just standing around. It's so crowded.
The camera guy is in the back of a minivan in front of me with the hatch up, and he's shooting me driving. We're hardly moving, and I see this kid in the crowd spot the camera and the camera guy. Then I see him look to where the camera's looking to see what he's filming, and then I watch him follow the line of the camera to me and then see me. His eyes light up and he screams "'CASH CAB'" at the top of his lungs. It spreads through Times Square like a shockwave. The next minute everyone's cheering and taking pictures and going crazy, and I'm just sitting there like "Oh my god, this is unbelievable." I put my hand out the window and put my fist up in the air and pumped my fist, and there was just a huge roar from the crowd. It was awesome.
That's a nice superstar moment.
Yeah, it doesn't happen to everybody. This is really a special thing. It's really cool.
Do you get recognized at the grocery store?
It is to the point where I get recognized everywhere I go. I'm not trying to sound full of myself, but everywhere. People recognize me driving on the road now. People driving by in their car will slow down and come back and they're all pointing at me and smiling. We're on the highway!
Do you ever take the subway?
I haven't taken the subway in a long time. But I have gotten pretty good at hiding in plain sight. It's amazing if I put on a hat, I just let my facial hair grow for a few days, keep my head down and I can hide pretty well right in front of you.
How do you think you would do as a contestant?
Well, who would be hosting?
OK fine, let's say you went to Chicago and you hailed the Cash Cab.
I would kick some serious ass. [Laughs] I don't know. Honestly, I'd like to think I'd do well but you never know what the questions are going to be. It's kind of the luck of the draw. You get lucky like 'Slumdog Millionaire' and you just happen to know the answer to everything, or you get hosed and you don't know anything and you look like a total idiot.
Since the show premieres on Valentine's Day, I have three silly Valentine's trivia questions for you. The first one: How many valentines are sent each year? You have four choices: 500 million, 1 billion, 2 billion or 10 billion.
In the U.S.?
All right, there are 300 million people in the United States or thereabouts ... 500 million?
Ah, this is my fault -- it's actually worldwide. It's 1 billion.
Crap. I'm going to have to get out of my own car if I miss two more!
Second one: In which of Shakespeare's plays does he refer to Valentine's Day? Your choices are 'Antony & Cleopatra,' 'Twelfth Night,' 'Romeo & Juliet' and 'Hamlet.'
Oh, wow, a Shakespeare question ... Hamlet?
Final question: What percentage of roses purchased on Valentine's Day are red? Your choices are 69 percent, 78 percent, 86 percent or 94 percent.
I'm going to say 86 percent.
It is actually 69 percent.
This is all from the Internet, so take it with a grain of salt.
So none of this could be right. [Laughs]
Interestingly enough, 6 percent of roses sold on Valentine's Day are pink, 6 percent are peach or salmon, 5 percent are yellow and 4 percent are white.
See, I forgot about all those other colors.
Well that's because roses are red!
Roses are red, violets are blue.
Thanks for playing along.
It was fun anyway, and I only have two strikes.