“Cash Cab” has been a driving force in Ben Bailey’s career, but he loves returning to the spot where his showbiz journey began: the comedy stage.
The 47-year-old New Jersey native got his start as a comedian when he was 21. He moved to Los Angeles and worked at a comedy club before packing up and heading to New York to perform stand-up.
“There were a lot of challenges starting off,” he says. “I never saw it becoming a job when I was younger. But the first time I stepped on stage, I knew.”
Bailey says he originally wanted to work in movies and if he hadn’t made it as an entertainer, he’d probably be a carpenter. Or an artist. “Something creative,” he says.
When he’s not on the road doing stand-up, you might find him on the street. Or, rather, he might find you. As host and executive producer of game-show-on-the-go “Cash Cab,” Bailey turns unsuspecting New York City taxi passengers into contestants answering trivia questions for cash prizes.
The Discovery Channel rebooted the show last year after it originally ran from 2005 to 2012.
“It feels great to have it back and it’s been awesome,” Bailey said. “The reception we got from people on the street in New York was amazing.”
Bailey performs Friday at Green Valley Ranch Resort.
Review-Journal: You’ve performed here in Vegas a few times and a few episodes of “Cash Cab” were recorded in Las Vegas. What’s your favorite thing to do when you come to town?
Bailey: That’s a tough question for me, because I’m not a gambler and I don’t really go to shows. I do always try to find a new, awesome golf course to play. I played the course at the Wynn last time I was there. Another time I played at Shadow Creek. It’s this awesome course like 45 minutes from Vegas. It’s amazing. I like to find a cool little bar to have a drink at, too. And walk around.
What can fans expect to see at your show?
My new hour of stand-up material that’s ready to become a new special. Pretty clean and very funny.
Most of your performances are pretty clean — minimal profanity.
I swear when I talk, so sometimes I swear on stage, but not a lot. Definitely not word after word. Stand-up is as much about the writing as it is the jokes. I love the writing aspect of it. If you sit down and you write something and you try to make it quality writing, it’s not going to have (expletive) in it every other word. Probably won’t be in there at all.
What’s your creative process before writing?
I don’t have any ritual to get me there, but usually — either my jokes and ideas are flowing or they’re not. If I’m in a bad mood or stressed out, it’s definitely not happening. Other than that, it’s kind of happening all the time. I just have to write down the ideas as they come in. Or they’re gone. From there, I choose which ideas I think are good and then I work on them and expand them, make them into something.
“Cash Cab” has been airing since 2005 on and off. How does it feel to be back? How do you keep it interesting?
The reception we got from people on the street in New York was amazing. Everyone is so excited to have us back — that alone was worth it. The games are a lot longer now. We have a couple different camera angles. We have social media shoutout. We spend a little more time trying to get to know the contestants.
Are you a trivia person yourself?
Yeah, I am. I am a bit of a trivia nerd. I always watched “Jeopardy” at my house when I was younger.
What’s one of your most memorable experiences or reactions from passengers in the cab?
This time around, a guy got so excited that he started throwing himself up over the top of the seat. This huge enormous man was doing dolphin dives over the seats. He and his wife at one point when they were celebrating they were so excited that she head-butted him in the nose and we had to pull over because we thought he might’ve broken his nose. But he was OK.
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