PATRICK Combs - motivational speaker turned theatre performer - has a remarkable story to tell, one that has sustained nearly seven years of sell-out shows across the USA. At a time when banks are headline news in this country, he has come to Ireland to tell his tale of bureaucracy gone mad.
It is a bizarre tale that has been degraded in some quarters as a mere “prank”, yet lauded in others as “storytelling at its best on stage” - but Combs, a likeable, laid-back character originally from Oregon, prefers to call his stage show, ‘Man 1 Bank 0’, a “documentary comedy”.
“I tell the true story of how I put a junk mail cheque into a bank as a joke - 100 percent being certain that it could never be cashed because it was fake and had the word sample on it, and I drew a smiley face on the back of the cheque, I thought that made it really clear - this was not my legal signature,” explains Patrick.
The amount on the junk mail cheque? A cool $95,000 - what Combs calls a “gargantuan amount of money”.
“The bank didn’t get the joke, instead they cashed the cheque,” he explains. “They didn’t realise for a month, but what really triggered it was that I drew it all down in cash, and locked it in a safe deposit box, in the bank itself. About three days later they called and they were yelling and screaming,” he laughs.
The show tells the tale of what happened after Combs cashed the cheque, a period he refers to as a “six month rollercoaster ride”.
“They threatened me with accidental death and dismemberment - that is on correspondence that I show off (in the show), I have the letters,” explains Patrick.
“I started following this trail of legal clues and ended up talking to the number one legal expert in the US on bank cheque law. The story takes people through all these legal battles and I end up finding out that the money is legally mine, but the bank doesn’t care at all, they are out to do anything necessary to get their money back.”
The story is a smash hit, playing sell out dates across America, with recognition from HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, a far cry from Combs roots, which he gleefully describes as “pulling myself up by my bootstraps”.
“I have always been a self-starter, nobody would give me a job so I decided to make one, I was good at running my mouth so I started off by speaking to people and writing books, to help people figure out what they want to do with their life. I lived through this experience and decided to turn it into a show, and that is what I am still doing.”
Man 1 Bank 0 runs in the Belltable next Monday and Tuesday.