Ben Bailey is a man of many talents. He is a comedian. He is also a licensed cab driver. That second one doesn't sound all that impressive until you realize that he is usually hosting a game show at the time. Now that's multitasking.
Many folks will recognize Bailey as the host of Cash Cab, a trivia based game show that is conducted within the confines of a real taxicab. The concept is simple and just a bit silly. Bailey picks up real people in his cab and drives them around as they answer trivia questions. Correct answers win them cash while incorrect ones bring them closer to the 3 strike mark, at which point they get booted from the cab and have to seek alternate means of getting to their destination. Bailey brings a real spark to the show and has been rewarded with numerous Emmy nominations (including a win in 2010) for his role in it.
If you've only seen Bailey on his game show, then you're definitely missing out. He is so much more than Alex Trebek with a sweet ride. I consider him to be first and foremost a comedian. Perhaps it helps that I saw one of his earlier stand-up sets before I ever saw him driving a taxicab. First impressions matter after all. Road Rage captures an hour long set by Bailey and for the most part, it's a fairly successful one. He covers a range of topics including the difficulty of job interviews and the omniscience of Google before settling into a lengthy run about birds and the general nuisances that are owls. Throughout the act he draws upon his experiences with his game show. This ties in nicely with the finale that lays bare his mounting frustration with other drivers.
Although I have some issues with the mid-section of the show, I can't deny that Bailey knows how to open and close a set with style. His bit about a horribly botched job application form had me laughing hard within the first five minutes. After taking a detour to rail against lactose intolerant people ("always farting and complaining"), he strikes gold again with the myriad ways in which Google has been pissing him off. Everything from the auto-complete feature of searches to the mock arrogance with which typos are corrected draws fire from Bailey. He hits the mark every single time.
The bit about Google sets up a nice segue into what I consider the problematic section of Bailey's show. He spends an inordinate amount of time on the subject of birds. While some of his material in this section works as expected, a significant chunk falls flat. There is a lengthy story about an annoying owl outside his window that drags on and on before sputtering out at the end. He makes a few clever observations along the way but not enough to make the journey seem worthwhile. At least, it helps set up a morbidly funny scenario where he imagines literally killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Sure, taking 7 hours to do so seems excessive but not when you're clubbing ostriches. This leads into another soggy bit about the silliness of the English language. He comes across as George Carlin lite when he dissects popular phrases that don't make any sense.
Even though Bailey travels across shaky ground on his way to the finish line, at least he goes out with a bang. His final story about losing his mind during the filming of a Cash Cab episode is a bit surreal and completely hilarious. Suffice it to say, if anyone wants to tangle with Bailey while an episode is being filmed, he or she may get more than they bargained for. While the bit has a predictable setup, the payoff is surprising and definitely worthy of the laughs that Bailey wrings out of it.
Although I may find fault with some of Bailey's material, his delivery is consistently energetic. He isn't a terribly physical comedian but he has an imposing stage presence that works to his advantage. This coupled with an expressive face and a willingness to look quite foolish in his stories, make his act pretty entertaining.
The show was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. The stage design was pretty no-frills with a simple dark backdrop and a few brick wall accents. The image was fairly clear and free of defects. Color reproduction of blues and blacks was excellent although I noted some buzzing in the reds. Altogether the presentation was more than adequate given the nature of the material.
The audio was presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix with optional English SDH subtitles.
Given that Bailey's stage show didn't feature any major explosions or other audio-intensive activities, the stereo mix was perfectly fine. His every word came through loud and clear with audience noise mixed in at an appropriate level.
At first glance, it may look like this release has a number of extra features but they are fairly short and inconsequential. Somebody Say Hoo? (2:30) demonstrates what happens when a comedian flubs a line during the filming of a televised special. Bailey actually returns to the stage after the show to re-record part of his extended owl joke. Of course, since the audience already knows the punchline, they mess with him and he returns the favor. This is followed by a Photo Shoot (0:32) where Bailey mugs for the camera in front of a green screen and The Big Walk (0:53) which features him making the trek from dressing room to stage. Both of these extras add very little and could have easily been left out.
Lactose Intolerance (0:50) is a quick callback to an early gag about Bailey's disdain for people who complain about having this condition. It just involves Bailey drinking a tall glass of milk as he toasts those who are not lactose intolerant. The final extra is the lengthiest and oddest one. Cash Cab Blues (6:06) features Bailey and a bunch of musician friends jamming together on a semi-serious song about his stand-up career and television show. Besides being slightly amusing this extra proves that Bailey has a fairly decent singing voice.
With Road Rage, Ben Bailey has a pretty tight 30 minute set on his hands. Unfortunately it's buried in a much longer performance that struggles through a few rough patches. Although Bailey's delivery and comedic persona are consistently entertaining, there is no denying the fact that he needs stronger material to prop up the sagging mid-section of his show. As it stands, the show is a funny reminder that there is a comedian lurking inside every cab driver (or is it the other way around?). Recommended.