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Journeyman comedian Ben Bailey reflects on career before Peoria show

Photo via Ben Bailey

Known best for his hosting role on the game show “Cash Cab” comedian Ben Bailey is stopping at the Jukebox Comedy Club on Farmington Road this weekend.

Bailey didn’t grow up in a single town, but rather hopped around from Kentucky, Michigan and back to Kentucky before finally landing in New Jersey. Early in life, Bailey became the source of comic relief for his family, which made him realize his desire to make people laugh.

“We had some rough times with people fighting and unrest at the house,” Bailey said. “The dinner table was not a peaceful place to be for quite a while. I was the youngest, so I was not totally involved in what was going on. So, I tried to lighten the mood by making everybody laugh.”

After creating years of laughter in his own home, Bailey packed his bags and left town in the middle of the night for California with a backpack full of clothes and a blanket. His goal was to star in movies but to get there, he had to work.

Once he arrived in L.A. with his blanket in tow, Bailey landed a job at a comedy store which helped him continue to realize his passion for comedy.

At the store, Bailey got an inside look at the comedy business by getting tickets to watch different comedy shows after his shift. Seeing other comedians made Bailey question if he could do it as a career himself.

“I started watching and I was like ‘Man, I think I can do this. I think this is mine,’” Bailey said.

One day, Bailey was telling a story about how he moved to L.A. and a producer overheard and thought that he was a stand-up comedian. Upon being asked how long he had been in the stand-up comedy industry, Bailey lied and said that he had just started.

The producer believed him and offered him a spot on his show “Skip E. Lowe” that Saturday night. Bailey initially turned down the opportunity before calling him and saying that he would do it and everything became clear for him.

“I got a laugh with the first thing I said,” Bailey said. “And I honestly knew immediately that standup comedy was going to be my life.”

After filming two comedy specials, Bailey landed the hosting job on “Cash Cab,” a comedy game show streamed on the Discovery Channel where he drove contestants around in a taxi cab and asked them trivia questions to earn prize money.

While Bailey enjoyed his years on “Cash Cab”, it also doubled as a curse. Every fan knew him from the show and not his stand-up.

“People would come to my stand-up shows expecting me to do some sort of “Cash Cab” thing, which I don’t do,” Bailey said. “I have bits about it, mostly because people wanted them and I had to write them.”

Of course, the cursed feeling didn’t last long because Bailey later won multiple Daytime Emmys for his hosting gig. At first, he didn’t believe the congratulatory texts that he was receiving, but as more and more came flooding in, he realized that he was indeed nominated for the award along with Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak. 

“All of a sudden I have all these messages saying that [congratulations on your Emmy nomination], I’m like ‘Well they can’t all be a mistake,’” Bailey said. 

However, his run on “Cash Cab” has ended and Bailey has returned to his roots of stand-up comedy by going on tour, which he loves doing. The comedian says that there is nothing like standup because it is just him up on stage with only a microphone and a crowd. 

Bailey wants his audience to know that laughter is truly the best medicine.

“If you come to my show my job is to make you laugh until, at least for a second, you forget about all the stuff that sucks in your life or the things that stress you out,” Bailey said.

Bailey’s shows in Peoria are on March 10 at 8 p.m. and 11 at 7 and 9:15 p.m.

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