A few weeks ago, we posted on comedian Mark Malkoff and his attempt to give out free cab rides to New Yorkers. Malkoff ended up driving around in that cab for 14 hours, and he filmed the entire day. “You can imagine how long of a shower I needed,” he said. In addition to regular old cab rides (one of which lasted for over an hour), Malkoff managed to sunbathe along the West Side Highway, dress people up in dinosaur outfits, fill a cab with popcorn, and stop for some Shake Shack. Runnin’ Scared talked to Malkoff to see how the experiment went.
What has the response to the project been like?
The response has been tremendous. Some people did get upset that I wasn’t able to pick them up. In the morning I had basically nine requests alone to pick people up from airports, and I just couldn’t do it. I think I want to turn this into an annual event, and each year I could add another cab. So maybe by like 2026 or something I could send a cab to JFK and Newark and LaGuardia.
And the response to the video itself?
I’ve gotten a really nice response to the video. A lot of my friends don’t live in New York, so it was great to share this with people from out of town.
I saw on Twitter that some people were upset that you couldn’t pick them up.
Yeah, some people were upset. But most people were cool about it. I mean, it’s a comedy video. I was just trying to make people happy.
I live in Queens, and I really feel that New York City is all five boroughs, so I felt bad that we couldn’t really get out there. We were mostly in Manhattan, and we did make it to Brooklyn, but there was crazy traffic that day. I had a guy tweeting me a lot from Bay Ridge and I wanted to get him, but the distance was just too far. I was disappointed that I couldn’t get to everyone, and I put up apologies on Facebook and Twitter.
Did anything happen that day that was unexpected or surprised you?
There was some unexpected stuff. There was this one woman, Lisa Birnbach, who wrote the Preppy Handbook, and until she got out of the cab I had no idea she was. It was funny because the basis of this was about the economy, to give rides to people that couldn’t really afford cabs, but it was still a really great time. She was probably my favorite passenger.
Sunbathing on the West Side Highway was really amazing. I mean, I’ve been a New Yorker for more than 10 years and I was blown away. People were really staring at us, and to make jaded New Yorkers stop and stare like that was really exciting.
With these videos I do, I don’t really know what’s going to happen until I do it. And what better backdrop than New York City, with all of these interesting people?
Did the project go differently than you thought it would?
I wanted to go longer, and I wanted to get the meter up more. I wanted the car to be like the car from Back to the Future. If it could fly we could probably get the meter up pretty high.
Did anyone offer to pay you?
They didn’t offer to pay me but they did offer tips for the cab driver. And I really debated bringing a tip jar for him!
Did you actually pay for the cab out of pocket?
We had a deal that I’m not supposed to go into. But it definitely wasn’t the cheapest. [The meter had racked up $468.10 by the end of the day.]
I saw on Twitter you really wanted a hairstylist to give you a haircut in the cab. Did that end up happening?
No, and I’m really bummed because I’m about half an inch away from a mullet. Next year for free cab day I definitely want a hair stylist, maybe a nail person, maybe a fashion designer or something to help me with my wardrobe.
What was your favorite part of the day?
I liked the popcorn probably the best, because that was really surreal. To get jaded New Yorkers to whip out their phones to take pictures of this cab filled with popcorn, that was really awesome.
You got Shake Shack, right?
I wanted to fill up the trunk with frozen custard, but I thought it would probably get too messy.
Was it difficult to get to everyone?
I decided who to pick up based on traffic flow. I mean one of the rides took like an hour, from the Upper East Side to Chelsea. Some of them were really quick, and on some of them I got to know the people more than I imagined.
Do you feel the project was successful?
If there were smiles on people’s face and I saved them money in an economically troubling time, I would say yes. The driver and I were happy with it. I think next year maybe through social media we could map this out more. If it was more planned out I think I could give more rides.