Ben Bailey is the host of the hit TV show Cash Cab and a longtime stand-up comedian who has performed at all the major festivals including Montreal and Chicago (Just For Laughs), the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and at clubs and theaters around the world. In 2019, the six-time Daytime Emmy Award®-winning series Cash Cab returned to Bravo after a successful special run on the Discovery Channel in 2017, once again taking unsuspecting passengers on the ride of their life through the streets of New York City. During the 2017 incarnation of the show, passengers were joined by guest celebrities including Matthew Perry, Brooke Shields, Scott Bakula, Gilbert Gottfried, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman. Ben has starred in two specials for Comedy Central; his most recent, Road Rage and Accidental Ornithology, is currently streaming on Netflix. He has also hosted several other series including Who’s Still Standing, Best in The Business” and After the Catch, and appeared in numerous other TV shows, from 30 Rock and Parenthood to Law and Order and One life to Live. He can also be heard on his popular podcast Tall But True.
Most of us are sequestered in our homes, doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes some of our favorite artists, so we’re asking them to tell us about one thing — a book, a movie, a record, whatever — that’s helping them get through this difficult time.
I’m trying to maintain some kind of routine, which I think is important. Being a comedian, I have a crazy schedule – stuff is up in the air all the time – so this is not a new problem for me. Right now, I’m trying to get some exercise, eat well, be creative, and have a project to work on, even though I don’t have a place to go.
For the past couple months, I’ve been doing a live streaming show called Working from Home, on Wednesdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. Eastern. (The tagline is, “Once a week on Wednesdays and Sundays.”) I started doing it as a way to get by; my whole tour got postponed, so I’m not able to go out and do shows. It might be November before I’m on the road again, so doing the streaming show has been a huge help. For one thing, it adds structure to the week. I’ve got to be ready to do the show on Wednesday, and again on Sunday. And it’s a creative outlet. I get to write between shows and I do a brand new set each time.
There’s some little segments that I do on the show with my girlfriend, who is basically the co-host and producer. The show is an hour and usually about 75 percent of it is me just riffing. (The audience isn’t in the room, so if my set is terrible, I can’t hear them booing!) I’m doing this alone in my basement twice a week, I enjoy it and I actually come up with some pretty good material, which is great. And it’s really what’s keeping me sane through this whole thing.
I’ve been doing stand-up for 25 years now and I’m at a point where I’m so connected to the way I write, so in tune with it, I feel like I can write about almost anything. Every day, I think of weird, random things that don’t really come from me interacting with people. Quarantine has made me realize that I’m pretty reclusive. I have my friends that I hang out with, but I spend a lot of time by myself just looking at stuff from the outside, so to speak.
My girlfriend and I have been watching John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. It’s funny how if you want to get real news, you have to watch a comedy show. He’s been doing his show from home for months, too. It’s always entertaining and very informative, although sometimes it leaves me feeling like, “Oh my God, we are fucked.”
What we usually do is watch Last Week Tonight and then after that we’ll watch something that’s just plain silliness. Laughter is the best medicine, right? Recently, we’ve been watching a British TV show called Blandings, which is like Downton Abbey, except everyone is crazy and an alcoholic. It’s hilarious and is based on a series of novels by P.G. Wodehouse, which I didn’t know about until we stumbled on the show. The lead actor in Blandings is Timothy Spall, who I got to do a scene with in this crazy, awesome Epix show called Perpetual Grace, LTD. I just did one scene with him, but we were sitting around all day together – in New Mexico, out in the middle of nowhere – waiting until it was our scene, which they shot last. He was a really nice guy, very down to earth, and just asked me questions about Cash Cab.
I think the first and most important thing we can do now is take things slow. Watch the numbers, continue to have people get tested and not rush anything. The last thing we want to do is get back to normal too soon, have a resurgence and then everything has to shut down again. It’s gonna feel like it’s taking forever, but that’s definitely the better way to go, in my opinion.
I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed how quiet it’s been. I live out in the ’burbs near a road that’s usually pretty loud, but I haven’t been able to hear it at all. It made me realize we don’t need to jump in the car and go drive somewhere every 10 minutes, there’s lots of things we actually don’t have to do. I hope we can learn from this. That it’s OK to not do much for a while, that we can just be a person. It feels like everybody’s in a race all the time, but that race has stopped for now. Maybe we can slow things down, and keep things a little slower. I hope we can all be a little more patient and less hurried, less desperate to get to whatever the next thing is. It’s good to be able to just sit on the couch. To be alone with yourself.
Hang in there, everybody.