Man 1, Bank 0
nytheatre.com review by Robin Reed
July 14, 2005
Patrick Combs’s Man 1, Bank 0–perhaps against the odds—is a hoot.. Cleverly walking the line between one-man show and stand-up comedy (sprinkled with a little bit of sweet old storytelling), Combs tells a fantastic story about being young and broke (and $45K in debt). On a total goof, he deposits a junk mail check for $95,000 ($95,093.35 to be exact) into his ATM. So convinced of the fact that there is absolutely no way this is anything more than a gag, especially since the words “NON NEGOTIABLE” are boldly written across the top of the check, he signs the back with a smiley face and watches as the money machine eats up his joke.
Thus begins an adventure so unbelievable that Combs constantly reminds the audience that he is telling only the absolute truth. The check cashed! In one of my favorite lines, he says “the ATM took Monopoly money!” And it did. The next time Combs hit the ATM, his receipt told him that his bank balance was over $100K. He finds himself totally consumed by this, so much so that he calls the lovely disembodied lady voice at the bank just to hear his balance regularly.
Convinced that this can’t be real, that a simple letter in the mail can’t resolve all financial woes, he asks for advice from his mom. She tells him he’d better give the money back or “they” will come for him. At night. He calls his brother in Boston who tells him to “get it in cash.” We later learn that his brother was a millionaire during the dot-com bubble, “but only on paper.” Young Patrick then turns to the only place he can think of to learn for sure if this is for real: the Law Library. He finds a book, a GIANT book that is so entrenched in legal-ese that it might as well be written in Chinese. Flipping through this tome, he can’t even find a table of contents, let alone any answers to the legality of his situation. But clever Mr. Combs finds the authors of the book, both law professors, and sets to tracking them down.
After a very funny chain of events, he finally reaches one of the incredibly verbose authors. At home. This cantankerous old lawyer finally gets to the bottom of the issue: “Non-negotiable” means actually not negotiable. Except when written on a check! So the money is his!
Combs is so cute and charming and bursting with life and good intentions, that after the initial thoughts of “how many of these checks could be sitting in my mailbox right now?!” stopped running through my mind, I found myself on the edge of my seat and so on his side. This act, this goof, has made him a champion for anyone who has ever missed a payment on a bank-owned student loan, anyone who is constantly bombarded by credit card applications, anyone with a checking account, for that matter. Combs's story shows that the little guy can put the big guy in a compromising position!
Cashing the junk mail check gave Combs a piece of his fifteen minutes. He became a minor celebrity, appearing on the Montel Williams Show, Hard Copy, and in countless news headlines back in 1995. Most flashy top news stories fizzle out after a few months at best. But Combs has been going for over ten years now. And it seems to me that it his show is as fresh and funny now as ever, most likely due to the boundless energy behind the performer, and a few additions (new for the New York run: a short film of “Where Are They Now” clips, including the recent whereabouts of Mom, the brother and the crazy lawyer, among others). Kudos, Mr. Combs!