SALT LAKE CITY — Although comedian Ben Bailey has been performing stand-up comedy for years, the start of his career surprised him.
"I kind of stumbled into it," Bailey told the Deseret News. Bailey, who will be in Utah Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25-26, wasn't trying to become a standup comedian when he got a job answering phones at a comedy club in Los Angeles — but that's exactly what happened.
"I’d only been answering the phones for not even a week. I was telling the story of how I ended up moving out (to Los Angeles)," he said. "I had an audience by the end … Some guy asked, 'How long have you been doing standup?' I said, 'Oh, I just started.' I did my first show and it was kind of all over from there. I got a laugh from the first thing I said, and I was hooked.”
Since then, Bailey has had a successful and unexpected comedy career. He is perhaps best known for "Cash Cab," a game show he hosts on the Discovery Channel. "Cash Cab" is a trivia show where contestants play in the back of a New York City taxi with Bailey as the host and driver. The show first aired from 2005 to 2012 and was brought back to the Discovery Channel in 2017.
"Cash Cab" gives Bailey the chance to take a break from the pressures of standup — although he enjoys both. "It’s completely different; it’s nice to be quick on my feet when I’m doing the show … but standup is a whole different animal," he said.
Although “Cash Cab” was a big change from standup, Bailey said it was a good fit for him right from the start. Not only did hosting use his humor and quick wit, but it was not the first time he worked as a driver. "As soon as I got my driver’s license, I started driving to make money," Bailey said.
It took five auditions for the Discovery Channel to cast Bailey. According to the comedian there was a lot of competition for the job. "I auditioned for the show along with most other comedians in the country," Bailey said. "It just went really well for me. It just seemed to fall together."
The show has been back on the Discovery Channel for two years now. "Everybody still wanted us to make it," Bailey said. "They never stopped asking us to start again … It seemed like the thing to do was bring back an old show that everybody loved." Apart from updating how contestants call for trivia help from phone to social media, Bailey said the show’s format is the same one people know and love.
The show has given Bailey plenty of great stories, but one of his favorites came while he and the film crew were shooting b-roll in Times Square.
"Somebody spotted me and yelled ‘Cash Cab!’," he remembered. "The whole of Time Square just erupted and everyone was cheering and clapping for me. I put my hand out the window and waved. Everybody cheered. That was probably one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.”Comment on this story
Bailey has many other projects apart from stand-up comedy and his popular TV show. He's starred in Comedy Central specials, one of which, "Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology," appeared on Netflix, and Bailey has his own storytelling podcast, "Tall But True." He co-hosts the podcast with fellow comedian D.C. Benny. On each episode they bring on other comedians, actors or just friends with great stories.
Whether it's stand-up comedy, "Cash Cab" or his podcast, Bailey said he loves how comedy surprises people.
"It’s funny, I never know what’s going to make me laugh. That’s kind of the fun of it.”
If you go …
What: Ben Bailey Live
When: Jan. 25-26, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Where: Wiseguys Comedy Club, 3763 West Center Park Drive, West Jordan
How much: $20