'Richard Hammond's Crash Course' Recap: 'Comedian/Taxi Driver' (2.02)
The second episode of Richard Hammond's Crash Course packs two occupations into one hour - stand-up comedian and New York City taxi driver. Either of these jobs would be challenging enough for their own episode, but when you put them together and add in the fact that Richard is facing one of his biggest fears, this is one of the better 'crash courses' that he's embarked upon.
The show neatly ties the two jobs together with the premise that most stand-up comedians work other jobs in order to support themselves, so Richard will have to earn his keep driving a city taxi while also preparing for his comedy act in the evenings. That would be a tall order for anyone to learn, but as Richard explains, stand-up comedy is a "recurring nightmare" of his.
His guide for the comedy portion of the show is comedian/writer Jim Mendrinos, who meets him at New York City's famed Gotham Comedy Club. Gotham's stage has been graced by the likes of Lenny Bruce, Lewis Black, Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K., just to name a few. Jim doesn't quite understand how Richard can fear the stage and not fear death, but he sits him down and instructs him to write down things that he wants to talk about, and the two of them will work on making those things funnier. As Jim explains the preparatory process, Richard's voiceover is hilariously, perfectly deadpan, remarking on how drunk New Yorkers are not known for being attentive and polite.
After being mortified by an empty notebook page needing him to fill it with material, Richard insists to Jim that he's not funny, a statement that his legion of fans would respectfully disagree with (check out our recent interview and you'll see his sense of humor), and Jim retorts that he'll be on stage if Jim has to be up there with him - and put him on a leash to keep him from running away. Before there can be too much banter about that, however, Richard is off to Queens in order to get started at his other job.
You'd think being a cabbie would be easy for a man who's spent the last decade on the world's top motoring show, but this is New York traffic we're talking about, and Richard also has to get the approval of cab fleet owner Stanley Wissak. Stanley, who doesn't seem to be aware of the premise of the show, passes Richard off to veteran cabbie John McDonagh. With Richard riding shotgun in his cab, John explains that taking out the cab and paying for his gas costs him $170 before he picks up a single fare. Add that to the thousands of other cabs he's competing against, and this is not an easy occupation.
Richard's taxi career gets off to an even worse start than his comedy act: the cab gets stuck in traffic and promptly decides to overheat, ironically behind an ice cream truck. The car quickly stops functioning entirely, leaving Richard, John and the production crew to push it to a safe place where Richard can look under the hood and declare the patient deceased. As a handy pop-up meter informs us, this means John and Richard aren't making any money whatsoever. John takes this fairly well, deciding that they'll just walk over to the iconic Katz's Deli for lunch instead.
When Richard gets back to Gotham, Jim has called in fellow comedian Eddie Brill to help him with his nonexistent act. Jim's hope is that with two different philosophies of comedy in front of him, Richard will find something that works. Instead, when Jim tries to mock-introduce Richard to the empty room, he catches Richard trying to run away.
Jim and Eddie implore Richard to come up with material, and so Richard decides to start telling them about the time he participated in the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona (which, if you want to see it for yourself, someone has posted on YouTube - it's at about the 13:00 mark). Realizing Richard's just reiterating what happened, not making it funny, Jim tells Eddie that it's probably best to start him off in a smaller group before they subject him to a full audience.