Ben Bailey pauses momentarily before cutting to the chase when asked what his fans should expect during tonight's performance in Bethlehem.
"You can expect to laugh till you shit yourself," Bailey said, followed immediately by a loud chuckle.
The comedian and former Cash Cab host will take the stage this evening at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. Bailey headlined the venue in 2013 and performed in 2012 at Moravian College in Bethlehem.
Bailey said during a recent phone interview that he expect to have another great time in the Christmas City -- as long as the vibe is not rowdy to the point of audience members coming to blows. He then recalled performing at a Philadelphia comedy club in which a full-out, 10-on-10 full brawl broke out less than a minute into his set. "I sat there and waited for it to be done, which took awhile because there was only three bouncers. I'm going, 'I haven't even started my act'," Bailey said. "At the time, Cash Cab was huge."
Bailey said he finds a good portion of Cash Cab faithful are often shocked by his off-the-cuff, not-exactly-PG approach to comedy. "Standup is a very different animal. They (fans of the show) come out and see me and go, 'What's he doing'?" Bailey said. "People see you in one realm and expect that's how you are in the other."
The New Jersey native had been performing standup for more than a decade before landing the gig as host of Cash Cab. The show -- which debuted in 2005 -- centered around Bailey driving a taxi cab throughout Manhattan, picking up passengers and, on the spot, asking them a series of trivia questions in order to win cash.
Cash Cab ran for six seasons on Discovery and landed Bailey three Daytime Emmy awards and six nominations. Cash Cab also earned Daytime Emmy Awards for "Best Game Show" in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Bailey said the attention he received as a result of the show's success changed how he approached his act. He said he developed responses Cash Cab-related words and phrases commonly shouted out from a crowd as a way to pre-emptively curtail disruptive behavior from rude patrons.
"The crowds were different. The crowds were going crazy," he said. "I just sort of rolled with it and kept doing whatever I felt I should do. I wrote some stuff about Cash Cab, which was easy because it was most of my life at that point anyway."
Bailey said he quickly realized bringing up the show during a performance was unavoidable. He said it has grown to the point where he can sense if a crowd is starting to get restless because Bailey has not shared a Cash Cab story. "It's a very specific feeling," he said. "One of the worst nights, I ended up screaming at these people because they were being assholes. Eventually I got a handle on it."
He added, "Now it's back to what it should be, which is just free-form funny. There are no rules. It's just me writing and delivering stuff that I love ... Whatever it is that hits me that's funny becomes my next (bit)."
Bailey said he often tells younger comedians that comedy is a marathon, not a sprint. He said the number of standup comedians in the world is "insane compared to what it was 10 years ago, 20 years ago." "It's changed so much since I was starting out," he said. "(I tell others) don't get caught up in the bullshit, don't get bitter."
In the age of instant, knee-jerk reaction and reliance on social media, Bailey said the business model and mentality has drastically shifted since he started out. "It used to be (considered) taboo for a comedian to self-promote. Now, you have to promote yourself or you'll be left in the dust," Bailey said. "I honestly don't know if it's harder now. It sure as hell felt pretty fucking hard back then ... Standup comedy is making something out of nothing and that's hard, regardless of your surroundings."
Bailey said he would like to be known as more than just "the Cash Cab guy." However, he is not soured on the experience. "Cash Cab was great and wonderful. I won Emmys for it," Bailey said. "The experience was phenomenal."
At the end of the day, Bailey said he ultimately wants to keep creating, performing and honing his craft. "That, to me, is success. I'm happy if I'm working," he said.
Comedian Ben Bailey performs 8 tonight at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. Tickets cost $24-$29. Information: steelstacks.org