Sam Dingman was a New York City cab driver for only seven months back in 2007, but he still hasn’t run out of stories. The Taxi Tapes — his serial podcast that’s now become a live storytelling performance — is populated by crotchety potential outlaws, drunk Brits with strawberry fixations and near-collisions with Jon Stewart, but they’ve also all got something else: gravity. Though his background is in sketch comedy, The Taxi Tapes is more in the genre of personal narrative, using humor to get to a deeper truth. To Dingman, the parts of an experience we laugh at are often the most important.
City Paper: Could you say a little about how The Taxi Tapes came to be?
Sam Dingman: There’s this really cool energy around personal narrative and storytelling, and there are so many podcasts that support that kind of work that I’ve always loved listening to and been curious about, so I decided to try my hand at it. I realized, in the course of having that desire, that I had all these recordings that I had made of myself while I was driving my cab. … In the process of going back and checking in with those I was able to reconnect with my younger self through my older self’s eyes, and to start processing what that experience meant to me through the context of those stories. I started out with the podcasts because I wanted to put together these more digestible narrative moments about interesting experiences that I had had while driving the taxi. And then I thought it would be cool to put those together into a full-length stage show that tries to trace the arc of the person I was when I first got into the cab and the person I am now, and how cab driving shaped that transition.
CP: When you were recording yourself in the cab, did you have any idea you’d be one day using them as material for a show?
SD: At the time I was cab-driving, I was really focused on being an actor. And so many of the recordings that I made are me begging the universe to send me a talent agent. … But as I listened to the recordings, I noticed myself gradually letting go of these preconceived notions of what my life was supposed to be and starting to appreciate what it was a bit more. It’s weird because the initial recordings are about artistic work I wanted to do, and I’m now using revelations from the later recordings to make artistic work. It’s been very humbling listening back to them. I was really a total twerp.
CP: Did you ever have any experiences in your cab that were too weird even for The Taxi Tapes?
SD: This is sort of gross, but once a couple got into my cab at 4 o’clock in the morning and the woman started going down on the man. I had always thought it was conceivable that that would happen, but being trapped with them while it was taking place and feeling the sensation that they didn’t care if I knew it was going on. … And thank God for New York City cabs which still had a partition between the front and back seat. I’d always wondered how I would feel if that happened, and then as it was happening — this is going to sound strange — it was kind of nice. Not in the sense that I wanted to watch them or, you know, that I wanted them to ask me to join them or anything like that, but I felt very trusted.
Thu.-Fri., Nov. 15-16, 7:30 p.m., $15, Ortlieb’s Lounge, 847 N. Third St., 267-402-2055, firstpersonarts.org.