Ben Bailey: Road Rage & Accidental Ornithology Review

Watching Cash Cab you’d never know Ben Bailey was one of the funniest stand-up comics out there, but then asking trivia questions of strangers doesn’t afford lots of time for the idle chitchat that would let his comic wit shine through. Or does it?  As anyone who has ever driven in New York can attest, the situation is hellish, even more so if it’s what you do on a daily basis. Thus, it’s all too appropriate that Bailey’s DVD debut would be titled Road Rage, because that’s exactly what you’d expect from a guy who spends hours in a cab driving up and down Third Avenue, except, the title is horribly misleading. Sure, Bailey touches on the fame and anger issues Cash Cab has brought him, but it’s the other 50-minutes of the routine that will have you belly-laughing harder than you’d ever have expected.

Truly Ben Bailey is the modern era’s game show host. He’s not Alex Trebek or Pat Sajak, and he makes no pretense at being like them, that’s the editor’s job. In fact, Ben Bailey is right up there with most comedians in terms of anger and profane language: he has some and he uses it, and vice versa. Here’s a warning right now, if you thought this would be a family-friendly stand-up routine based on how jovial he is on Cash Cab you’re wrong.

Bailey’s sense of humor actually catches you off guard, because, yes, you are expecting him to be very demure and lighthearted, but the man isn’t averse to making jokes about poorly thought out idioms and then taking them to very dark but very hilarious places. His piece on killing two birds with one stone, led into by a joke about a suicidal owl and a steak knife, starts out in the typical comic observation and quickly turns into one about killing ostriches to prove a point. All of this bird murder talk stems from his rage at Google’s predictive results which have more often than not led him off-topic or left him with self-esteem issues.

If there was an accurate way to pinpoint his specific shtick it would be using the audience as a sounding board for a rant which quickly takes an absurd turn. While birds are a popular subject in the routine, the idioms also play a large part and Bailey discusses the inherent impossibility of certain phrases like “every now and again”, “have your cake and eat it too”, and “beat him half to death”, the latter having a funny requirement of the scientific method to it. His dissection of language’s failings reminds me strongly of Eddie Izzard’s style of rambling wildly between topics only to reference pass punchlines so each joke gets exponentially funnier. It works for Izzard and it serves Bailey extraordinarily well here.

There were genuine tears of laughter during his ostrich bit, and it’s the hardest I’ve laughed at a stand-up comedian in years, even with a steady stream of DVDs from the likes of Whitney Cummings, Gabriel Iglesias, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, or Jim Gaffigan coming across my desk. Bailey easily deserves to known as being on par as some of the more famous in that list, but the cruel comical twist in all of this is that he hosts a TV show where the hilarity on display in this DVD will never get to shine through. While he says the day Cash Cab is canceled will be a sad day for him, I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be beneficial and finally give him a chance to feature somewhere that takes advantage of the sense of humor we see here, much like Louie has done for Louis C.K.

DVD Bonus Features

The 11 minutes of extras include Bailey attempting to repeat a joke with a line corrected despite lots of audience interruption and participation (of the funny kind), a brief photo shoot montage, Bailey talking to the camera while walking down a hallway, a PSA for or against people with lactose intolerance (it’s hard to say for sure), and finally Bailey jamming along with a band playing the “Cash Cab Blues” for the last five minutes.

"Ben Bailey: Road Rage & Accidental Ornithology" is on sale May 31, 2011 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Manny Rodriguez. Written by Ben Bailey. Starring Ben Bailey.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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