After driving the "Cash Cab" around New York City, Ben Bailey goes home to New Jersey, where he lives "as green as I can be. I have solar-powered blinds on my windows and skylights. I have radiant heat in my house, low-flow toilets. All my appliances are EnergyStar-approved. I built an addition on my house with efficient insulating concrete forms. I switched from oil to natural gas because it's a lot cleaner and a lot more plentiful. I want to put a big rain collection tank in."
Bailey would also like to see his taxi replaced with an eco-friendly one, in accordance with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to green the city's fleet. "Maybe we could get one of the car companies to sponsor and build us a kickass hybrid taxi. The electrics they have now are too small, otherwise they'd be great," says the nearly 6'6" Bailey, thinking both about room for the passengers and himself. Even with the seat pushed back all the way, "Twelve hours of driving is not the best for anybody's back," he notes. While he's on shooting hiatus ("Cab" repeats currently air on Discovery), Bailey's body gets a break while he pursues the other side of his career: standup comedy. His special "Ben Bailey: Road Rage" premieres on Comedy Central on May 21.
"I was kind of a smartass from a very young age. It was my attention-getting mechanism," says Bailey, who has been doing standup since late '93, "but 'Cash Cab' came along and confused the whole thing," he says, explaining that fame added expectations about him and his material. "I had to develop a new act that incorporated the stuff that they wanted to see, the 'Cash Cab' stuff." So "Road Rage," reflecting material he's developed over two years, incorporates the latter along with riffs on his height, Google, owls and more concepts that "pop into my head, out of nowhere."
He sees the special, taped in New York City, as "an opportunity to show the people that know me from 'Cash Cab' that this is what I do, and I think they'll be pleasantly surprised," says Bailey, who finds "something addictive" about making "a room full of people laugh and go crazy." He plans to resume touring in mid-June, with shows lined up through fall (find dates at therealbenbailey.com). "Road Rage" will be out on DVD May 31, including 16 extra minutes of act material and a music video of a song Bailey wrote called "The Cash Cab Blues." He plays guitar, drums and piano, and wants to pursue more of that in addition to acting. "I've done a fair amount and I'd like to do more."
The title "Road Rage" is appropriate, he says, admitting that traffic "does get to me, but not like it used to." He's realized, "I'm just driving in circles, so what does it matter how fast I go? But it does get frustrating. And other people get to you. It gets exhausting," says Bailey, who has taped 400 episodes to date of "Cash Cab," which marks its sixth year on the air in August. Nevertheless, he's signed on for another three years behind the wheel. More recognizable now due to the show's popularity, he tries to disguise his voice when passengers get in, "but it doesn't really work," he says.
Answering a few burning questions, Bailey reveals that each seven-minute game typically takes 90 minutes to shoot, which is why he never picks up airport-bound passengers ("We can't play on a schedule, if someone has a plane to catch"), that the biggest win so far was $6,200, and that he knows "about three-quarters of the answers" before he hears them through his earpiece. Now that "Cash Cab" has been reproduced in 28 other countries, there are Bailey doppelgangers quizzing passengers everywhere from Taiwan to Tel Aviv. "They used my show to market it, so a lot of places have a host that looks like me," laughs Bailey. "I wish we could have an international 'Cash Cab' conference."