If you think Richard Hammond had his work cut out for him as a stuntman, think again. This week on “Crash Course,” the Hamster was in New York City to find out what it takes to master two of the city’s most challenging jobs; cab driver and comedian.
First up, Richard headed to the New York City comedy hot spot, Gotham Comedy Club, where he would get tips from seasoned funnyman Jim Mendrinos on how to perform a stand-up routine for 300 New Yorkers. And Richard wasn’t even in the building five minutes before he was introduced to the stage and a microphone. Jim promised that any wussiness would not be tolerated… or in his own comical words, “We’ll beat that outta ya.”
We kind of felt for Hamster, though. The Big Apple is known as the comedy capital of the world. The thought of jumping up on the very same stage that’s seen modern comedy greats like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Whoopi Goldberg do their thing is more than intimidating! It’s downright frightening.
Jim, the man behind the ultimate guide to ruling comedy, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Comedy Writing,” wasn’t going to let Richard weasel his way out of things. Despite thinking he’s just not funny, Jim encouraged Richard to start putting his thoughts on paper, things happening in his life, all while reminding him to “breathe.” Before we knew it, Richard was off to Queens to hopefully lock down a job as a cab driver.
We’ve watched Richard drive countless vehicles on “Top Gear” for years. But getting behind the wheel of a cab in one of the busiest cities in the world isn’t exactly the same thing, especially for a guy who hates traffic more than anything.
Once introduced to his cab driving guide, John McDonagh, he and Richard were off to Manhattan in search of the most lucrative fares. Along the way, Hamster was schooled on the financial breakdown of a cab driver. The harsh reality was that $170 per shift goes toward garage fees and gas before a cabbie can collect any cash for himself — not exactly what a newbie comedian is looking to pick up some quick cash wants to hear.
As they trekked along in their Ford Crown Victoria, Richard’s training got off to a shaky start. The traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge was beyond packed, the air conditioner failed and the cab’s engine overheated. Once making it over the bridge, John and Richard surveyed the damage–yep, the cab was kaput. Not letting the situation damper their day, the two headed to one of New York City’s iconic eateries, Katz’s Deli, for their classic pastrami on rye sandwich. Yum, yum and YUM!
Jokes aren’t going to write themselves, so Richard ventured back to Gotham Comedy Club to get down to business, comedy-speaking, with Jim and his colleague Eddie Brill. Their first piece of advice for him was to “think in terms of conversation.” Being conversational, especially in a room full of strangers, isn’t exactly old hat for a Brit. Richard earnestly attempted to run through a time he ran with the bulls in Paloma, but Jim and Eddie picked up on his nervy demeanor, so it was back to the drawing board. And for Richard, it was back to the cab…
Richard quickly jumped behind the wheel for his first run through the NYC streets. Off the bat, he was in the hole $160 bucks due to fees and gas, so the challenge to recoup that was on! But seemingly upbeat, he picked up his first customer and it was off to Washington Square Park!
Shortly thereafter, he went solo, and headed uptown to drop a female patron off at 84th and 2nd. Unfortunately, Hamster forgot one tiny thing–to turn the meter on. D’oh! No money in this starving comedian’s pocket.
To cheer him up, Richard met up with his mentor, Jim Mendrinos, and chatted about some of Richard’s comedy ideas over popsicles. This touching bromance moment was exactly what Richard needed to get back on track to write some gut-busting jokes. To help him with his rehearsal, he met with comedienne Katie Hayes and some of her cohorts to see how they got the job done. Were Richard’s pre-show jitters in check? Um, not a chance.
But once in front of the mic, his pain for being in front of a small crowd was an exact match for his painful kidney stone story. And before he could say “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” he was off in his cab to pick up his next few customers.
As he drove through the busy streets of New York, thoughts of his comedy routine raced through his mind. And while he didn’t make bank as he would have hoped, John was congratulatory on his efforts! Dude survived the task and that was worth more than anything. His nerves about doing stand-up, as he would soon find out, would be worth something as well.
Before taking the stage for his big moment, Jim reminded him to “breathe” and that’s all Richard needed to hear to toughen up before the Gotham Comedy Club crowd. In true Richard fashion, he was his charming usual self, and that kidney stone story was no more a painful moment from the past, but one worth savoring. Because at the end of the day, it was about conquering his biggest fear, and Richard certainly accomplished that!
Tell us, how do you think Richard did as a comedian and as a cab driver? Share your comments below!