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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | 'Cash Me If You Can' Is A True To Life David And Goliath Story

By Paula Citron on December 14, 2019

Cash Me If You Can
Patrick Combs in Cash Me If You Can, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Horse and Hound Productions)

Horse and Hound Productions/Cash Me If You Can, written, directed and performed by Patrick Combs, Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre (Berkeley Street Theatre), Dec. 10 to Dec. 21. Tickets available at canadianstage.com.

It’s hard to believe that one man’s fight with a bank can keep you entertained for two hours, but Patrick Combs’ Cash Me If You Can is an absolute delight. The ins and outs of the David (Combs) and Goliath (big bank) battle make for lots of laughs, aided and abetted by Combs himself, a charming and amiable storyteller who exudes warmth up the whazoo. It’s like spending time with a good friend.

The genesis of Cash Me If You Can begins in 1995 when the then twenty-nine-year-old Combs, who lives in San Francisco, rightly or wrongly, decides to play a joke on his bank. (As Combs points out, the initials of First Interstate Bank of California are the perfectly named FICAL, so the show is about FICAL matters.) He deposits into his bank’s ATM one of those fake cheques that come as a shill for a get-rich-quick sales system, and endorses the back, not with his signature, but with a smiley face. Lo and behold, the cheque clears and Combs, who is drowning in $45,000 credit card debt, is suddenly $95,095.33 richer. In his shock, Combs keeps phoning the automated phone number that tells him what his bank balance is, and that’s how he spends the first few days of his windfall.

When Combs finally gets a grip on himself, he begins to explore what his rights are as a bank customer, and so his hilarious journey begins. In a San Francisco law library, he is overwhelmed by a four thousand-page book on the laws regarding cheques, but mercifully, he finds a nutshell version. Combs discovers that the bank has to notify him within twenty-four hours that the cheque has bounced, but because FICAL has missed the deadline, the money is presumably his. (Combs also moves from a Nirvana T-shirt to one that says “Kiss Me, I’m Loaded.) When his very conservative corporate brother tells him to get the money in cash, Combs obtains a cashier’s cheque for the exact amount of the phony one, which he puts in a safety deposit box. His continuing adventure is filled with very funny and often astonishing encounters with a bizarre array of people, including Henry Bailey, one of the authors of that very weighty tome on cheque law.

Combs’ media circus begins when he becomes fearful about what the bank might do to him, and thinks he should draw attention to himself. After all, his mother told him that the bank will kill him. He phones the Wall Street Journal (a very funny segment), and when the story finally appears on the front page, no less, every television news show and every talk show clog up his answering machine, making Combs an instant celebrity. He also becomes an internet star, courtesy of his nineteen-year-old media-savvy neighbour. The downside of the emails he gets are the ones from lawyers telling him he could be prosecuted for fraud, larceny, bank robbery or worse. At a certain point, Combs’ focus shifts from what should he do about the money, to his anger at the bank for treating him like a criminal, and that is when the battle between David and Goliath becomes epic.

This one-man show came about because his friends told him he had a real story to tell, and that he certainly has. Combs is not an actor, as we are told at the beginning, yet he holds the stage with the sheer force of his enthusiasm and good humour. (His day job is being a motivational speaker. Cash Me If You Can is his night job.) He has performed the show over four hundred times around the world, including comedy festivals like Montreal’s very prestigious Just For Laughs. His presentation is very simple. On one side of the stage is a living room set, while the back wall is dominated by a large screen for the slide presentation that contains such diverse pictures as his house and his beat-up car, and all the documents pertaining to the case. Combs has also incorporated clever musical bridges that are themselves quite funny.

One small very amusing tidbit. Combs is now asked to be a keynote speaker by banks on the subject of customer service. Here’s the kicker — he charges them $9095.33 per appearance, as an homage to his battle royal.

If you are looking for a respite from the craziness of the season, Cash Me If You Can (and what a clever title that is), is the perfect antidote. It is two very funny hours well spent.

#LUDWIGVAN

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Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
Follow me
Follow me

Paula Citron

Paula Citron is a Toronto-based freelance arts journalist and broadcaster who hosts her own website, paulacitron.ca. For over 25 years, she was senior dance writer for The Globe and Mail, associate editor of Opera Canada magazine, arts reviewer for Classical 96.3 FM, and dance previews contributor to Toronto Life magazine. She has been a guest lecturer for various cultural groups and universities, particularly on the role of the critic/reviewer, and has been a panellist on COC podcasts. Before assuming a full-time journalism career, Ms. Citron was a member of the drama department of the Claude Watson School for the Arts.
Paula Citron
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