“You get that cashier’s cheque right now”
The sheer variety of shows available at the Soho Theatre these days means that it is unsurprising that some of them are genre-straddling and thus somewhat hard to define. Patrick Combs’ Man 1, Bank 0 is such a show, somewhere between monologue and stand-up comedy and rather incredibly, entirely based on a true story. With credit card debts mounting up and a dry sense of humour about his bank’s willingness to serve, Combs decided to deposit a random junk mail cheque that came through his letterbox and somehow, the $93,093.35 that it promised was cleared into his account.
What follows is Combs’ account of how both he and the bank dealt with it: his moral wrangling with what to do with the money and trying to find out the legalities of the issue by tracking down retired legal professors; and the bank’s heavy-handed response in trying to strong-arm the return of the money without admitting any culpability. He takes us on the many highs and lows of the journey, encouraging audience interaction where he can as the adventure keeps on rolling and showing that sometimes it is actually possible to stick it to the man.
Combs’ ‘I know, me!’ schtick is relentless but there are enough wry touches of humour – the frankness of his family’s pronouncements on his fate, the responses from the general public once the story becomes public, the impressions of the various personnel of the story, the ‘gobsmacking’ anecdote – to pull the show through the occasional moments where it feels it might become self-indulgent. And there’s also enough gravitas to the story to stop it from just being lightweight fun – the bullying nature of corporations, the lack of transparency when it comes to exactly what obligations banks have to their customers, and modern society’s attitude towards money.
The amazingness of the story aside, the show’s finest moment comes with an absolutely inspired montage of an ending which is probably worth the ticket price alone and the charm of the evening overall is undeniable. Combs (imagine a younger, leaner Jim Carrey) makes a highly personable narrator with Duracell-bunny-like levels of unflagging energy, and this cheery enthusiasm leaves one inclined to forgive the odd lapse into overly self-regarding territory and start to wonder if one oughtn’t start opening the junk mail too.