Is Cash Cab for Real? 7 Contestants Speak!

If you're reading this post, you probably love trivia and game shows as much of the rest of us _flossers. So chances are you've watched at least one episode of Cash Cab on Discovery Channel, right? And chances are you've wondered whether it was rigged or not.

Well, the short answer is no, it's not rigged. The more complicated answer is: eh, sometimes sorta. Mixed in with my narrative below, you'll find seven first-person accounts I scooped off the Web to give you a clear understanding of how the show, er, rolls.

First of all, the cab is a real, licensed cab. While host Ben Bailey is actually a comedian, he HAS taken and passed the New York City cabbie exam and is a licensed cab driver. The money he hands out isn't real, but if contestants win, they're sent a real check after the show airs. (This is probably done for tax purposes so the network and the IRS can track the money, legally.) After the contestants agree to be on the show, a production assistant gets in and sits shotgun. He/she helps Ben along the route, though the questions are fed into Ben's earpiece as he drives.

So what about the contestants? Well, basically about ½ of them are pre-screened and about ½ are actually randoms off the street. In fact, if you look closely at the credits at the end, you'll notice the line: "Some contestants have been pre-screened prior to their appearance on the show."

So let's tackle those contestants first. Here are a couple excerpts from first-person accounts -- actual contestants talking about their experiences, most found over on Yelp.

Contestant #1

Basically, I was interviewed in Union Square Park for a show called "Show Me New York," which would feature New Yorkers of all walks of life talking about their favorite spots in the city. Awesome, right??? I wasn't sure why that show required a trivia quiz in the interview (maybe they didn't want anyone stupid on-air?), but I aced it. After 2 weeks of emails with the producers, I got my film date. My friend and I waited for a cab, which we were told would take us to Century 21 downtown, where we were going to film our segment. Except, when the cab pulled up....the obvious happened...

...I'm episode 45 if anyone is interested.

Contestant #2

I, too, was picked up in Union Square to be in this show! Same scenario as [contestant #1] and we had to fill out this ridiculously long survey which obviously meant nothing since it was fake. Alas, we frickin lost one block away from our destination and we didn't even think to use our street shout-out! I'm telling you, it's easy to say 'that's so easy, I could have been on the show", but when you're in that cab and those lights are all over the place and Ben Bailey's staring at you to answer the question, 30 seconds is just NOT enough time! I got a stupid shirt for playing (and losing) and every time I wear it to the gym someone has to comment. They say "hey! you were on the show! did you win??". And I always answer: I'm wearing this shirt. What do you think?" Guess that's the closest I'll get to being a celebrity - I'll take it! :-)

Contestant #3

My husband and I were recruited for a "smart" tourism show to talk about our favorite places in New York. They told us to get in a cab and meet them at the destination. Lights came on and you know the rest. Unfortunately, my husband and I disagreed on an answer. I deferred to him because I thought he was an expert on the subject, and my answer came from a dirty joke. Turns out I was right and he wasn't and out on the curb we went.

My street shout-out? We happened to pick someone who started cursing out the crew like a crack addict. Ben Bailey said that had never happened before. I don't know if this ever aired.

Contestant #4

I was on the show and although we had fun it is a scam! I met a rep after responding for an on-camera role for a "travel show" and after passing a current events oral exam (20 questions) I was told that I was what they were seeking. I was then informed that I was going to receive a call that would direct me to a location where I would be expected to speak about. At that point I knew something wasn't on the up and up but I figured what the hell...nothing ventured - nothing gained. Then they threw me an even weirder curveball, I was asked to bring one to two additional people along. When I inquired why - especially after they wanted to know my depth of topical news etc., they said that more people helped the shot. Being a NYC radio talk show host and on-camera host I was getting more leary {sic} about going through with a situation that got more bizarre by the day but I did. My plan was to simply tell them NO THANKS or go scratch depending on how funky the scenario was if I decided to pull the plug. My buddy and his girlfriend accompanied me and we did very well (1 wrong answer and we gambled on the grand prize and lost : (

Yes, I was disenchanted over the misrepresentation but I had some laughs and it made for compelling content...or at least that's what others told me. Buyer...or respondents BEWARE. ;

Contestant #5

So then what about the randoms who aren't pre-screened? There are many people out there talking about how they were picked up by the Cash Can, but the best example I could find was from a redditor, who had a lot to say, answering questions from other redditors. You can read the whole thread here, but below are some excerpts:

Yes, I couldn't tell it was the Cash Cab, but there was a 10 minute period after he hit the lights where they stopped, a PA came and talked to me, told me the rules, I signed a waiver, and continued, but that's entirely cut out. I had the chance to opt out, but I don't know if they would've still driven me. My guess is no.

Contestant #6

This person was very excited to be on.

Cash Cab is REAL!!! I was on it yesterday!!! I can't say if i won or lost, but BEN ROCKS!!!

Contestant #7

Another blogger raves...

My friend Kristian and I found ourselves stepping into quite a surprise today. I won't give away the details, since I want the show to remain successful, but hot sh*t was it a fun time!

And we won! We really did. There were a few close calls, of course. In fact, we got the first fucking question wrong! I was not pleased. But, in the end, we walked away with quite the pocket full of pennies. We even won the video challenge / double-or-nothing question at the end and doubled our score! I don't know when our episode will air, but rest assured, America's favorite bald spot will be seen on the Discovery Channel before too long. We couldn't have done it without the help of my friend Brian aka Taco Bull. He was our "lifeline" and he answered a question correctly for us!

Anyone have any experience with the show? Feel free to tell us about it below!

If you liked this post and want to keep up with all my writing, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @resila. And be sure to follow @mental_floss too for the latest on all our great content and amazing facts, 140-characters at a time.

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Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Want to Live as Long as an Olympian? Become a Chess Grandmaster
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

It’s well known that physical fitness can help prolong your life, so it’s not surprising that elite athletes, like Olympians, tend to have longer lifespans than your average couch potato. But it seems that “mind sports” can help keep you alive longer, too. According to BPS Research Digest, a recent study suggests that international chess grandmasters have lifespans comparable to Olympic athletes.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the survival rates of 1208 mostly male chess grandmasters and 15,157 Olympic medalists from 28 countries, and analyzed their life expectancy at 30 years and 60 years after they attained their grandmaster titles. They found that both grandmasters and Olympic medalists exhibited significant lifespan advantages over the general population. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the relative survival rates of chess champions and athletic champions.

There are several variables that the study couldn’t take into account that may be linked to chess players’ long lifespans, though. Grandmasters often employ nutritionists and physical trainers to keep them at their best, according to the researchers, and exercise regularly. Economic and social status can also influence lifespans, and becoming a world-champion chess player likely results in a boost in both areas.

Some research has shown that keeping your mind sharp can help you in old age. Certain kinds of brain training might lower the risk of developing dementia, and one study found that board game players in particular have slightly lower rates of dementia.

If keeping the mind sharp with chess really does extend lifespans, the same effect might apply as well to elite players of other “mind sports,” like Go, poker, or competitive video games. We’ll need more research to find out.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
David Franzen, Library of Congress
You Can Thank 1950s Suburban Architecture for ‘The Floor Is Lava’
David Franzen, Library of Congress
David Franzen, Library of Congress

No one knows who, exactly, was the first kid to play "The Floor Is Lava," the simple childhood game that has only one rule: You can’t touch the floor. But as Quartz reports, a new paper contends that the game wouldn't have come about if it weren’t for the rise of American suburbs.

Published in the Social Science Research Network, the analysis by Tim Hwang of the MIT Media Laboratory argues that architecture was a vital factor in the spread of the folk game.

In the new suburban housing developments of postwar America, builders began to market the relatively new idea of the family room, an informal room designed for the social needs of the whole family. This room was separate from the formal living room and dining room, both of which were more likely to contain the inhabitants’ good furniture and fancy china. In building plans popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they were also set apart from the kitchen. One 1965 poll found that seven of 10 new houses built that year contained a family room.

And these factors, Hwang argues, are integral to playing The Floor is Lava. Family rooms provide big couches, coffee tables, and other furniture that kids can move around, climb on, and use as props for the game. Bedrooms would be too small, and formal living and dining rooms too full of potentially fragile items that Mom and Dad would be livid to find disturbed. And kitchens were seen as a mother’s domain, meaning that she would likely be there to put a stop to any shenanigans.

"What is unique about the family room space is both the quantity of space and permission that it affords to the play of The Floor is Lava,” Hwang writes.

However, this is just a hypothesis, and no one can really identify who started playing the game first. Kids in urban apartments can also theoretically jump all over their parents’ living room furniture, if allowed. During my childhood, the game typically took place on a playground rather than inside, requiring players to avoid the ground rather than the family room floor. There are games that originated elsewhere in the world that also revolve around avoiding the floor—Hwang notes examples from Kenya and the UK. But given how the spread of suburbs in the U.S. during the postwar period affected home design, it makes sense that a game might arise from the new spaces children lived in. We may never truly know how The Floor Is Lava was invented, but architecture seems like a good clue.

[h/t Quartz]

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