Review: Patrick Combs, Soho Theatre

The docucomedy genre is part of the comedy landscape these days. If Dave Gorman pioneered it with shows such as A Better World, Are You Dave Gorman? and Googlewhack Adventure the format has spread and become a familiar style. It is typified by monologues that tell a personal story, often use powerpoint presentation and end with a dramatic emotional flourish. There are very few props, but this is about as near as stand-up comedy gets to theatre, taking the audience on a veritable journey.

Patrick Combs' show, Man 1, Bank 0, fits pretty well into the docucomedy genre even though I doubt if Combs knows of Gorman's work – it may even predate the Googlewhack man. There are no Gormanesque graphs or Venn Diagrams here, this is just a rollicking yarn about how one man took on the establishment, featuring eccentric characters and unexpected twists. It is a simple but effective live show and at one point Combs talks about a movie company being interested in filming his story – I can't believe it hasn't made the big screen yet. If Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore can have hits with variations on this form why not Combs? If they made it as a comedy Jim Carrey would be perfect casting. The show runs at the Soho Theatre until March 16, details here. A version of this review first appeared in the Evening Standard here.

 

When Patrick Combs received  one of those annoying junk mail cheques in the post he did not do what normal people do and file it in the bin. The impoverished San Francisco resident put it into his account and the $95,093.33 dud cleared. The bank, however, decided that it wanted its cash back. The rollercoaster true story of the tussle is told in Man 1, Bank 0.

The title might hint at the outcome of this David v Goliath stand-off but there are still plenty of twists in the telling. While Combs is not a natural laugh-a-second stand-up gagsmith (he works as a motivational speaker when not touring this show) it is hard not to get drawn into his energetically delivered monologue. Nor is it hard to take his side when the bank sends the heavies in.

If you like Dave Gorman’s docu-comedies, you will enjoy this. The accidental people’s hero takes similar delight is leading the audience down unlikely narrative paths, involving movie deals and sex change dogs alongside doddery experts in fiscal law.

Powerpoint presentation helps to illustrate events but is kept to a minimum. Instead Combs uses the knowingly corny filmic cliché of ripped calendar pages to illustrate the passage of time, while various slogan-bearing T-shirts convey his mood swings.

This escapade turns out to have happened more than a decade ago, yet that hardly matters. Maybe it even helps. Past audiences may have had some sympathy for the corporate fall guys. Not any more, judging by Soho’s cheers. At 75 minutes this slightly overextends its credit but anyone who has ever been in the red will love it. You can bank on that.

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