After five years Cash Cab is back, and Ben Bailey is behind the wheel.
The six-time Daytime Emmy Award winning series returns to The Discovery Channel on December 4th at 10pm in the East. We talked with show host Ben Bailey about the return of Cash Cab after a five year hiatus, what’s changed and what’s still the same, and the real story behind all those reports that the show would be coming back minus Ben Bailey.
Many shows come back after long breaks. Some successfully, most not. In some instances like Cash Cab, the show was initially canceled. Futurama and Family Guy returned to huge success after being cancelled. So did Mystery Science Theater, Arrested Development, Entourage and 24. Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louie, returned after their creators took extended breaks. This year classic game show revivals are everywhere (Gong Show, Love Connection, Jokers Wild to name a few), but only Cash Cab is returning with its original host.
When The Discovery Channel first announced they were bringing back everyone’s favorite transportation-based game show, rumors flew that the series was coming back without Ben, and fans of the show were not happy. Ben told me that the hype wasn’t exactly accurate. He says was never told he wouldn’t be the host of the revival season. “They just said they were bringing it back. They didn’t say whether they were bringing me back or not, as far as I remember. Then people went crazy online and were like, “What the fuck, you have to bring Ben Bailey back.” That led to someone reporting it online incorrectly and people really went nuts. “[Fans] were like, “Fuck you Discovery Channel, I’ll never watch Discovery Channel again.” There were all these threats and I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” I was flattered of course. But I was like, “they didn’t even say whether they were bringing me back or not. Give them a minute.” Bailey says he was flattered by the response. “It was awesome. It was such a great feeling to just read those things and be like, “wow, these people really like me. They want me to come back and do it.” Ben has no idea whether producers had planned from the beginning to bring him back, but he got the gig and is thankful to fans. “I’m sure that the fan response had something to do with that. If they had any doubt, it was erased when everybody spoke their minds on social media.”
The new returning Cash Cab uses the same formula that made all of us love the series in the early 2000’s. “I think the secret, if there is one, is just not changing too much,” Ben said. “I’m trying to keep that same feeling in the cab. Things that I say a million times over, all of that is the same.” There are a few changes though and most noticeable is the addition of celebrities to every episode. Although there were celeb appearances in the show’s initial run, they were for special episodes, usually competing for charities. The new season integrates celebrities in a totally different way. “They’re just surprising the contestants out of nowhere,” Ben said. “That was the most fun for me is watching these people’s heads explode when Brooke Shields or Matthew Perry or whoever it is opens the door. They’re just like, “Hey, hi.”
The celebrities are excited to be there too- the Cash Cab has the strangest effect on everyone who has ever seen the series. It’s also a win for Bailey, who didn’t make any effort to hide who his favorite celebrity guest is this season. It’s Susie Essman. “I told her ‘one of my favorite things if not my favorite part of Curb is when you just yell at Larry.’ I just love that.’ She’s like, ”that’s my favorite part, that’s Larry’s favorite part.’ I’m just like, ‘yell at me like that once when we’re in the cab today.‘ She goes, “Fuck you Ben Bailey.” Everyone wins in the Cash Cab, even the host.
Also on board for the series revival is a comedy giant behind the camera; David Steinberg directed the new season. “It’s so huge, he’s a comic legend. To meet him and hang out and work with him and produce the show together is just great. He’s such a great guy. There’s definitely some new stuff since David was there. It still feels the same, but there’s just a couple of cool things to look at.” Like a new shot that films contestants up from the floor with a huge wide angled shot of the ceiling. Bailey also credits the guys from Street Visions for the incredible camera work. “They’re the guys on any show ithat wants to hide cameras, especially in a vehicle. They do a great job.”
When he’s not driving a game show around New York City, Bailey is performing in clubs and touring as a national headliner. You can see him perform live at a Theater or Comedy Club in your area– next weekend he’ll be headlining Carolines in New York City– and in his latest Stand Up Special Ben Bailey Live & Uncensored. It was recorded in 2016 at Chicago’s beautiful Up Comedy Club, which is part of the infamous Second City theater complex. You can order Live and Uncensored on Bailey’s website. He can also be heard on his popular podcast “Tall But True,” and he’s got a webisode in the works with D.C. Benny called Stakeout. “It’s just a couple of cops on a perpetual Stakeout and their banter. It’s really fun.”
Ben doesn’t know what it is about the Cash Cab that enthralls fans, excites even the biggest celebrities and draws people in so closely, but he’s thrilled by the overwhelming love from fans. I asked him what his secret is. “I don’t know,” he said. “I want to keep that a mystery, so it’s better that I don’t know. Whatever it is, don’t ever publish it,” he said. “Where some things might come back and feel weird. I feel like Cash Cab got canceled and nobody really understood why, including me. It has been five years and people have not stopped saying, “When are you going to bring the show back? When are you going to bring the show back?” I think we have a good chance, because people are excited about it.”
Watch the return of Cash Cab on The Discover channel Monday December 4th at 10pm ET/PT.