For the lucky passengers who take a ride in Cash Cab, the meter is running in reverse. To win money on the Discovery Channel game show based in a taxi, all they have to do is answer questions written by Greg Volk, an Emmy-winning NC State alum.
Any event, person, or place can be shaped into a question, so Volk keeps a notebook by his side. “Even checking my e-mail gets me wondering. How long is the average e-mail? What percentage of people has never sent an e-mail? Who is considered to have sent the first e-mail? This is my life.”
Volk’s career trajectory has taken some interesting turns. The Gastonia, N.C., native came to NC State to study engineering. After finding himself drawn to communication classes like English and screenwriting, Volk changed career paths, majoring in multidisciplinary studies.
The former Technician staff writer argued for the value of a broad education in an editorial. “There’s a very real value to getting a humanities education alongside so many technical and engineering students,” he wrote.
Taste of the Big Apple
Two semesters before Volk graduated, he moved to New York City for a semester-long internship with The Late Show with David Letterman that opened his eyes to the possibilities of television writing. His first job was writing monologue jokes for Letterman on a freelance basis.
Volk spent four years writing jokes from a cramped apartment before landing a job with VH1, where he wrote for several shows, including Best Week Ever. One of his co-writers who had worked for Cash Cab encouraged Volk to give it a try.
Stump the Contestant
For the past four seasons of Cash Cab, Volk has drawn on much of the information from classes in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. One of his favorite questions: In its Polish translation, what classic novel’s title literally means “Romper in the Grain”? The answer: Catcher in the Rye.
And although his questions often stump contestants, Volk enjoys watching players get it right and win.
As for earning Emmy awards in 2009 and 2010 for his writing, Volk was caught completely unprepared. “It was a dream I never realized I had until it came true.”
In addition to writing for Cash Cab, Volk is exploring a newfound interest in history as a factoid writer for cable’s top-rated unscripted show, the History Channel’s Pawn Stars.
For students looking to move to New York or Los Angeles to write television dramas or movie scripts, Volk has this advice: “Start doing what you want to get paid for now, and write like you’re going to get paid for it.”
And if your travels take you to New York, stay sharp. You never know if the next taxi you get in will be the Cash Cab, fueled by Volk’s questions.