The Host of 'Cash Cab' Reveals His Craziest Stories From Life in the Cab

cash cab host ben bailey
Ben Bailey, from Discovery's 'Cash Cab' | Discovery Channel
Ben Bailey, from Discovery's 'Cash Cab' | Discovery Channel

A few years ago, comedian Ben Bailey would have waxed nostalgic over Cash Cab. Hosting the on-the-move game show was a fun gig, but he thought it was in his rearview.

Today? New Yorkers are trying to flag him down again. As it did with Will & GraceWhose Line Is It Anyway?, and X-Files, the current era of television found room for a Cash Cab revival, putting Bailey back behind the wheel. While there are new visual clues, "social media shout-outs," and the occasional celebrity helper -- Matthew Perry and Gilbert Gottfried among them -- Cash Cab 2017 delivers more of what made the original work. It still thrums with that anxious, rushed pace, and you'll quickly recognize Bailey's resounding "Oh no!" when he stumps players. "Which I think is good," he tells Thrillist over the phone. "We didn't want to change it too much. We wanted to give people the same thing they liked before."

Ahead of Cash Cab's Monday night return, we asked Bailey to give his own "Cash Cab Confession" -- i.e., recall the craziest highlights from seasons past. (Fortunately, someone has yet to puke in his taxi.)


That time Bailey almost hit a bicyclist 

"I've never been in any kind of accident in the Cash Cab, on or off camera. Definitely some close calls, though [laughs]. One time, a while ago, I was pulling up to 10th Avenue, the light changed, and everybody started to take off. It turned green for us, but as we were pulling up, I see a guy on a BMX bike carrying a bag of food to be delivered. I was like, Oh, he's cutting it too close, but he's going for it. He doesn't slow down. He starts pedaling faster. But we're already starting to go. It's all happening so quickly that I'm still going even though I'm like, This guy's coming on a bike! He makes it past me and then gets hit by the cab next to me. The front corner of the cab hits the middle of his bike and throws his bike to the ground, sending him and the bag of Chinese food flying. But he just gets up, picks up the bag, and jumps back on his bike and keeps riding like nothing happened. It was unbelievable." 

The superfan who jumped on his back and didn't let go

"A lot of Cash Cab fans will come see my stand-up shows, so I'll do a meet-and-greet thing afterward. That's usually when the craziest stuff happens. I once had a woman jump on my back. I was signing a picture for her and she just started holding onto my shoulders and my neck. Like a totally unprompted piggyback ride.

"I'm pretty tall, and she was pretty small, so when I stood up, she kept hanging on. I was like, Hello? What are you doing? And I kind of turned around in a circle, but I couldn't see her -- I felt like a dog chasing my tail. I come around and eventually, I see a guy standing there, who I realize must be her husband. He just looked at me like, I don't know what to do. He was no help at all. So I walked over to the bouncer and sort of backed up in front of him, so he could slowly lift her off me and put her back on the ground. The weirdest part was that she didn't say anything the entire time."

His good friend's impromptu ride

"Usually, if we have a celebrity guest, we know ahead of time. [But] Artie Lange got in one time, and that wasn't planned. I know him [from stand-up]. So as I was driving around, I saw him on the corner, pulled up, opened the door, and was like, 'Get in!' He was at a movie with his uncle and his cousin or something. They got in and they played, and they won. They did really well, actually, and won $2,800 or something. Not bad, right?"

That time he had a famous writer on the phone

"I had Kurt Vonnegut's daughter in the cab once. She called him for her mobile shout-out -- obviously, this was before he died. He picks up and goes, 'Oh, hey, you got a package delivered here for you today.' [Laughs.]. And she's like, 'Daaaad, I'm on TV.' I remember that one because I was a big Vonnegut fan. I'd read all his books. His daughter, by the way, hadn't read any of his books. Not a single one. Anyway, the question was insanely easy. It was something like, 'While the speedometer in a car tells you how fast you're going, which gauge tells you how far you've gone?' She didn't know it. And neither did her friend, some guy. In my head, I was like, Neither one of you guys knows what an odometer is?! So she called her dad, Kurt Vonnegut, to ask him if he knew what an odometer was."

Matthew Perry on the new 'Cash Cab' | Discovery

The woman who really didn't want to be in the Cash Cab

"I've had a couple people who burst into tears in the cab when I've told them what was going on. It was hard to tell [if they were happy tears]. One time someone seemed to have some sort of a panic attack, and then another time, this one woman was having an awful day -- she just wanted to get in the cab and get where she needed to go. I was like, 'Why are you crying in the Cash Cab? This is supposed to be fun, man!'

"No one knows that they're getting into the Cash Cab. I always worry because when people talk about [the screening process] it seems like some people interpret what's printed as saying that the games are set up and that the whole thing is rigged, which it totally is not. [Editor's note: Cash Cab screens some contestants beforehand, but it also picks up some contestants off the side of the road at random.] This one woman was just having such a bad day. Apparently, one cab driver took her on a run-around and made her late for a job interview that she had flown in from Texas for. So she was late for the interview because of that cab ride, and then came back out and hailed a cab and happened to get me. I was like, Why don't we give her a minute, give her a bottle of water, let her take this all in, and see if she wants to do it. I think she ended up playing, but when she initially got in, she just fell apart and was like, What is going on today?!"

The poorest sport

"I had a guy once who was so drunk he wouldn't get out of the cab. He refused to leave. I don't know what he wanted me to do, but it was because he was so upset he lost. He was being a poor sport. So he buckled himself into as many seatbelts as he could [laughs]. He was holding on with his arms and legs, spread out. He was like, 'I'm not getting out!' And I was like, 'All right. You can stay -- but I'm leaving!' So I got out."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. Find him on Twitter: @srkfitzgerald.