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Cash Cab host to peform stand-up routine

BY EVAN CLARK | FEBRUARY 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ben Bailey is good at multitasking.

The host of Discovery Channel’s game show “Cash Cab” sits behind the wheel of a yellow van in New York City traffic while grilling his passengers about anything from contemporary authors to medical breakthroughs to U.S. history. Bailey is thankful he’s still in one piece.

“We’ve done around 400 episodes of ‘Cash Cab’ now, so that’s about 1,200 games in the cab total,” he said. “Somehow, I’ve managed to drive all around New York and have yet to have gotten into an accident. That is simply a miracle.”

Bailey will perform new standup material from his recently taped new Comedy Central special “Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology” at 10 p.m. Friday in the IMU Main Lounge. Admission is free. The Campus Activities Board is sponsoring the show.

Bailey describes his humor as “surreal observational” mixed with “a little bit of crazy.” During his comedic performance today, he will also provide behind-the-scenes stories and jokes from “Cash Cab.”

“I like to tell stories that are really made-up but feel like real stories,” he said. “People can expect it to be funny. Plus there’s stuff mixed in there that is sort of tailor-made to what ‘Cash Cab’ fans want to hear.”

Bailey began his career as a professional driver after moving to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming actor — he landed a job as limousine chauffeur instead. While his aspirations for acting seemed diminished, fate seemed to fall into his lap one night during an after-hours party at a comedy club he worked at part-time.

“People were always telling me I should be a comedian,” Bailey said. “When I moved to LA, I couldn’t get a job doing anything except driving and answering phones at a comedy club. Then one night I told a crazy story in the backroom of the club where there were a bunch of comedians around, and next thing I knew, I had an audience gathered around me, laughing their heads off.”

After entertaining the crowd, one comedian invited Bailey to open a show for him and perform a set. At first, Bailey was reluctant to attempt comedy and passed up the opportunity for the opening gig. But after thinking it over, he called the comedian back and accepted his offer. And his career as a comedian began.

The New Jersey native is entering his sixth year as the host of “Cash Cab,” a job that has jump-started his comedy career and given him a new audience, including University of Iowa sophomore Thomas Bentley.

Bentley is an avid “Cash Cab” watcher and credits Bailey’s ability to crack jokes while providing intriguing trivia as the main ingredient of his “Cash Cab” addiction.

“The basic idea of the show seems pretty boring on paper,” Bentley said. “A guy driving a cab around, picking up people and asking them random trivia questions doesn’t sound that appealing. But Bailey adds some substance to the show, and I’ve become a big fan of his standup after catching all the reruns on the Discovery Channel.”

In an effort to get students prepared for Bailey’s arrival, Campus Activities Board launched its own Iowa City Cash Cab last week, picking up UI students all over campus and giving them the opportunity to win prizes for answering Hawkeye trivia questions. Campus Activities Board comedy director Audrey Shelton said the project was so successful that the organization plans to take the yellow Hawkeye Hummer cruising downtown in the near future.

“Iowa City Cash Cab was a huge success,” she said. “We asked general-knowledge questions and University of Iowa trivia questions such as, ‘In what year was the University of Iowa founded?’ and other questions about the Campus Activities Board organization. Iowa City Cash Cab will definitely be a recurring Campus Activities Board event from now on.”

Shelton hopes that Bailey’s popularity will draw a number of students looking for a break from studying.

“Iowa students and the community should come out to see [Bailey] whether they love the show, love comedy, or need a laugh after midterm exams,” Shelton said. “When we were planning out the schedule for this spring, he immediately came to mind as a standup comedian whose quick, witty banter would go over extremely well here in Iowa City.”

While “Cash Cab” has broadened Bailey’s fan base, he said he hopes that people will attend his shows with an open mind, looking forward to see “Ben Bailey’s standup comedy” and not just the host of “Cash Cab” telling some jokes on the side.

“I’ve been doing standup almost 18 years, but once ‘Cash Cab’ became a hit, it totally changed standup for me,” he said. “People started coming to see me as the ‘Cash Cab’ guy and not as a professional comedian. It’s hard to balance what the audience wants from me, but now I try to write my own jokes, as well as favorite stories of things that have happened on the show. I just want them to see that I’m a true standup comedian, and I’m not trying to cash in on my show.”


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