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Cabbie steers toward a comedy career

Taxi passengers hardened by brusque cabbies and often death-defying rides through clogged, pot-holed streets are taken aback when Brian David Smith gives them a gracious greeting and a few minutes of comedy. "You look good in a tuxedo," he told the male half of a yuppie couple heading for a benefit gala recently.

"I got a couple of tuxedos but I'm a little too heavy to wear them right now. I want to get back to my original weight _ you know, 8 pounds, 4 ounces."

Smith, 41, a struggling stand-up comedian and actor, bills himself as the "Comic Cabbie."

While driving from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., Smith tries out new material for an act that so far has been confined to small comedy clubs around the city.

He started attending open mike nights at comedy clubs.

"I bombed at first," he said. "With stand-up comedy, you're naked to the world. Sometimes they don't laugh and man, those weak little smiles can be deafening."

He's written screenplays, and has acted in several low-budget features. He also writes, performs and records his own music.

"Want to hear some of it?" he asks a passenger, who doesn't have much choice.

At present, Smith is breaking in a new act at the same Brooklyn club where he began 15 years ago alongside people like Billy Crystal.

"Now there he is hosting the Academy Awards and here I am still driving a cab," said Smith. "But I like the challenge of this. It's sure made cab driving a lot more fun."