Reasons Why Cash Cab Is Totally Fake

Hey, remember Discovery Channel's Cash Cab, where that bald dude would drive his cab around the city, picking up random people to quiz them on basic trivia for cash (luckily, the meter wasn't running)? It sure sounded like a sweet deal, but most every facet of the show was a new kind of bait-and-switch production that left many of the contestants disappointed, frustrated, and angry. Yes, like most mind-numbing daytime TV, this bizarre little mobile quiz show was far from what it seemed. Here's why the show was beyond fake ...

It was on the Discovery Channel

Honestly, your first hint that Cash Cab was bogus should've been the channel that aired it. Discovery Channel — you know, the one channel created with every intention to educate us about science, but instead dedicates entire weeks to fake science in their shark "documentaries" — gave sold us a quiz show as totally on the up-and-up. After the Megalodon fiasco, it's clear that Discovery has long abandoned their original intent to actually educate, and instead wants to entertain and shock and titillate. This includes their game shows, clearly. If you want real trivia, watch Jeopardy. Unless you're into Nerdcore hip-hop, you loser.

Ben Bailey isn't a cabbie -- he's a stand-up comedian

Cash Cab's charismatic host, Ben Bailey, got himself a legitimate cab driver's license for the show. But before that, he had precisely squat to do with cabs. Bailey is actually a career stand-up comic, and was so famous in the early 2000s, Comedy Central gave him his own hour-long comedy special.

Everyone fell for it, because the viewing public has the memory of a goldfish, so even if they watched Bailey make jokes on TV, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll remember doing so. So to most contestants, especially in the heat of the moment, Bailey came across as just some gruff NYC cab driver with a gimmick, rather than a professional showman who was 100% playing a role.

They carefully orchestrated geo-coordinates so most people lost agonizingly

If you believe that, when you're standing on the streets of New York or Chicago, a Cash Cab is going to pick you up, you're just as likely to believe Tim Allen actually is Santa Claus. That's because the contestants on the show weren't random tourists wandering the streets. They were wannabe actors and actresses, who though they were on their way to audition for some other, totally made-up reality show. They were only told what was going on once the got into the cab.

This is important because, In order to win Cash Cab, contestants had to answer all the questions correctly before reaching their destination. And Bailey and his crew made damn sure most contestants had as a little a window as possible to successfully do this. A contestant named Rebecca played Cash Cab and struck out when she was a mere two blocks from her destination. This destination, remember, was not hers. It was carefully geo-coordinated by the show, and timed specifically for her to fail.

Jenn Tang S. was another contestant with a similar experience. Like Rebecca, Jenn was painfully close to winning when she hit her destination, something the show did on purpose. Jenn is still furious about how easy the show looks in comparison to the reality of believing that you are on your way to meet with producers to film your New York television debut, only to find a bald jerk flashing lights in your face while quizzing you on international geography.

She may not have won the fabulous cash prize, or got to star on her own reality show, but Jenn at least got a free tee-shirt out of the whole thing. Everybody needs a new dishrag now and again.

You didn't get your money if you revealed the truth about the show

If you ever spill the beans about how what the so-called luckiest cab ride ever is almost a complete farce, you get no money, regardless of how well you perform. See, contestants were forced to sign an agreement saying if they ever reveal the truth about the show, they won't get to collect any of their winnings.

Cash Cab contestant Kevin Collier revealed the details of the paperwork process in explicit detail, in this article for for According to Collier, the show doesn't even start when you first get into the cab. He recounts the experience as climbing into what seemed like an ordinary New York Yellow Cab, but upon entering, found it hollow with a grunting bald man inside. That bald man was Ben Bailey, and shortly after, Bailey made Collier turn off his cellphone, explained what was happening, and served up some paperwork for him to sign. Part of the agreement contestants must sign before the taping begins includes some sneaky details, one of which forces you to never reveal the truth about the show.

The paperwork the contestants had to sign also made them promise to act excited when Bailey handed them the money. You might think that'd be a natural, because who doesn't like money, but ...

Winners got fake cash

Contrary to what you see on TV, none of the riders actually get cash from the cab. The money you see them "win" at the end is faker than Monopoly money — only after the show, if they keep their promise to not reveal the truth about the show, they'll receive a check. So, in essence, Cash Cab could've more accurately been titled, Get a Check Eventually If You Don't Squeal, and Also, That City Lifestyle Show You Thought You Were Going To Get to Film is Not a Real Thing- Cab." The truth doesn't always roll off the tongue.

It makes sense in a fake-show-business way. Had Bailey given the contestants actual cash, what the Hell would stop them from freaking the hell out about not getting to star in the reality show they were promised? So, instead of getting cash from the cab, like the title and entire premise of the show suggests, contestants are forced to keep the big secret as collateral. We imagine they went home and told their friends that the producers wanted them to pretend that the McDonalds on Broadway was New York's best-kept secret, and they respectfully quit the show to keep their precious New York pride and street cred in check.

Interestingly, none of the Cash Cab contestants who thought that they were going to show off their favorite New York City hotspots in their very own show even freak out or bring it up for a second. That's because ...

The producers edit so much of what actually happens

Imagine for a second that you're on the show. It's likely all of your friends and family are well aware you were trying to get on television, so how might they react when you're rolling down the street with Bailey, and he stumps you with a question that makes you want to use one of your mobile shout outs? How would they react by getting that call, when they were expecting you to call hours later, boasting about your amazing reality television debut? They'd probably freak out, right? And yet, on the show, everybody reacted as casually as they'd react to finding a dime on the sidewalk. That's because the real exchange was all carefully edited out, thanks to the magic of television.

When Kevin Collier used his mobile shoutout, he called his old college buddy, who certainly freaked out, but for the worst. He wanted to know if everything was okay, if he should call his parents, was Kevin actually kidnapped, etc. Luckily, Kevin and his buddy had a secret code prepared, should either of them ever be in a "Phone-a-Friend" scenario like this. "EMERGENCY, CAN'T TALK, NEED YOU, PLEASE BE SMART," was Kevin's clever code for, "hey bro, I'm not kidnapped, and I might need you to Google something for me real quick. because there is reality television money on the line."

All that stuff got edited out, and all we say was Kevin's friend failing him by giving him a not-smart answer, and then Kevin losing. Just the way Discovery wanted it all along.