Ben Folds Last Night in Town: Part One

Improv Everywhere Mission
I was expecting a visit from Agent Arnold, an old friend from my days doing improv at ComedySportz of Chapel Hill. My cell phone rang.

Charlie: Brandon!

Brandon: Charlie!

He had arrived.

Charlie: Where are you?

Brandon: I’m in Maria’s car, we’re driving around in Manhattan… I think we may be close to Times Square!

Brandon had never been to New York.

Charlie: What do you see around you?

Brandon: A whole bunch of lights and signs.

Charlie: You’re in Times Square.

The plan was to meet Brandon, along with his friends from work, Maria, Rob, and Heath, at an upscale bar in SoHo. I took the J train to the F train, walked a few blocks, and found the place with ease.

Charlie: Brandon!

Brandon: Hey, what’s up Ben Folds?

Charlie: Ben Folds?

Brandon: That shirt. That’s what who you look like!

I was wearing my newly purchased white and red plaid button down short sleeved shirt. No one had ever told me that I looked like Ben Folds, lead singer of the now-defunct Ben Folds Five, and I was pleased with the comparison. I look reasonably like Ben Folds insofar as I am youngish, white, about medium height and weight, and have dark hair, but no true fan of Folds would ever mistake me for him.

We drank a couple of pints.

Charlie: Do you really think I look like Ben Folds?

Brandon: Yeah. You’re dressed like him.

Charlie: For the rest of the night, I’m Ben Folds.

Brandon: Okay.

Brandon, Heath and I split up from the group to find a bar with less dress shirts and ties and more draft beer bargains. We settled on the Beauty Bar, a bar in the East Village that was converted from an old beauty salon. I entered first and sat at the bar by three women, all approximately my age and somewhat attractive. They pay me little attention. I order a beer and drink alone. Brandon and Heath enter. It was time to be Ben Folds.

Brandon: Excuse me, Sir. Excuse me.

Ben: Yes?

Brandon: You’re Ben Folds, right?

Ben: Yes, yes I am.

Brandon: Oh my god! I can’t believe it’s you! I’m, like, one of your biggest fans! Heath, come here, it’s Ben Folds!

Ben: Hi. Yeah, it’s me.

Brandon: I have like all of your albums. Dude, could you sign an autograph or something?

Ben: Yeah, no problem.

Brandon: Man! This is so awesome! Awesome!

Brandon hands Ben a pen and a napkin.

Ben: Whom should I make it out to?

Brandon: Brandon.

Ben signs the napkin.

Ben: There you go.

Brandon: Thank you so much. This is so cool. I like your music so much.

Ben: Thanks, it’s no trouble.

Ben turns away as Heath and Brandon walk away to order drinks. The three women immediately turn to Ben.

Woman 1: Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but we overheard. You’re Ben Folds, right?

She spoke with a British accent.

Ben: That’s right.

Woman 1: I can’t believe it. My sister is your biggest fan! I don’t want to trouble you, but is there any way you could sign something for her?

She produces a napkin.

Ben: Sure. What’s her name?

Woman 1: Samantha. It would make her so happy if I brought this back to her!

Ben: Y’all here on vacation?

Woman 2: Yeah, we’re just here visiting.

Ben: How do you like it?

Woman 1: It’s great!

Ben writes on the napkin, “To Sam: Thanx for listening. Ben Folds,” and returns it.

Woman 1: Thank you so much!

Woman 3: Would you mind if we took some pictures?

Ben: Not at all.

She produces a polaroid camera. Brandon has returned, beer in hand. The women each have a photo taken of with Ben; Brandon leans into each shot, obnoxiously.

Woman 3: Thanks! Would you mind signing them?

Ben: Not at all.

Ben signs all three photos and returns them to the women who are absolutely thrilled with what has happened.

Brandon: (drunk) Hey, you girls got to get away!

Woman 1: What?

Brandon: (louder, drunker) You girls got to get away. It’s my turn to talk to Ben Folds!

He is ignored by Ben and the women.

Brandon: I found him first! I found him first! Ben Folds you have to talk to me! I found you first!

He starts to push the girls away and gets closer to Ben.

Ben: I think you need to settle down, buddy. I already signed your autograph. There’s nothing else I can do for you.

Brandon: Ben Folds, you need to talk to me! I found you first!

Woman 1: Leave him alone, go away!

Brandon: You shut up! I found him first!

Ben: (to the women) I’m sorry. I’m going to have to go somewhere else. This kind of thing happens to me all the time.

Ben walks out of the bar and down the street half a block. A few minutes later, Brandon and Heath find me and I get out of character.

Charlie: That was so awesome!

Brandon: We rocked!

Heath: You guys are crazy. I can’t believe I didn’t start laughing at y’all.

Charlie: I can’t believe it worked that well. I never thought it would have worked that well.

Brandon: After you left, we kept annoying them.

Charlie: Really?

Brandon: Yeah, I starting falling down on them. Tripping and falling on them.

Heath: It was hilarious.

Charlie: I can’t believe they had polaroids! It was perfect. Perfect!

After a short walk to First Avenue we caught a cab back to the Waldorf Astoria, the incredibly luxurious hotel Heath and Rob had gotten through their business trip. I began to get ready for sleep. Brandon was drunk enough to want to walk to Times Square at three in the morning, and as it turned out, I was drunk enough to let Brandon convince me to go with him. Well, I wasn’t totally convinced until Brandon put me in the Boston Crab and the Walls of Jericho (both vicious wrestling holds). I tapped out of the Walls and after a ten-minute walk we were in Times Square.

Brandon: I thought this was the city that never slept.

Charlie: The lights never sleep.

Brandon: This sucks.

Charlie: I told you.

An older man came up to us with a luxury watch and began his sales pitch. He was the only other person in the city not asleep. I got into my `ignorant southerner’ character. (Which some may say simply involves me playing myself).

Watch Guy: Come on guys, $100 for the watch.

Charlie: I don’t think so.

Watch Guy: Come on!

Charlie: No, I can’t afford that.

Watch Guy: How much do you want to pay?

Charlie: That watch doesn’t even have numbers on it!

Watch Guy: That’s how they make `em. That means they’re nice.

Charlie: How in the hell can you tell the time it doesn’t have numbers?

Watch Guy: Look. It’s 3:30. You can tell. You don’t need numbers.

Charlie: I can’t figure that out.

Watch Guy: How much do you want to pay?

Charlie: Well… this watch I have on… it’s a Timex.

Watch Guy: Me too man, I got a Timex on.

Charlie: They’re great aren’t they?

Watch Guy: Yeah, man.

Charlie: So this Timex cost me about $5 and it’s got numbers on it! So that watch should be less.

Watch Guy: No! This is a luxury watch! Try it on! Come on, $80!

Watch Guy puts the watch around my wrist. It’s got one of those metal straps that clamp together. I cut him off before he can attach it.

Charlie: It doesn’t even fit! Way too big!

Watch Guy: No! You gotta attach it!

Charlie: Oh. I still don’t like it.

Watch Guy takes off the watch.

Watch Guy: $20! Come on, $20!

Charlie: Man, I told you. I got this Timex for $5 and it has numbers on it!

Watch Guy: Come on!

Charlie: No sale.

We walk away.

Brandon: Well, done.

Charlie: Yeah, my ignorant southern guy goes over well up here.

Brandon: Good thing he didn’t try to mug us.

Charlie: I guess we have to be willing to take that risk.

We walked back into an eerily empty Waldorf, and after banging on the grand piano in the lobby and singing Ben Folds songs, I followed Brandon up to the room where we had a nice night’s sleep on the floor of New York’s finest hotel.

On To Part Two


  1. Marvellous! Pretending to be a famous personage and getting away with it! Try this one on the subway some time!

  2. Sweeeeeet! That girl is going to go back home and give the pictures to her sister who probably will realise ur a fake cause she likes that person so much. Haha, i can just imagin there reactions!

    That watch person was preaty funny too. I guess in all ur missions you have to take thoughs risks though. (with police or getting muged, haha) ^.^

  3. A few summers ago me and 2 of my very best freinds who just happen to be ladies headed out for our usual Wednesday night preferred bar. We were friends from high school all back home from college for summer break. Since I was a guy and they were both single we began debating on the car ride to the bar about how to make sure none of the other guys at the bar got the wrong idea about me being a boyfriend to one or the other. At first we thought about making me to be a cousin to one of them, visiting from out of town. In all honesty when they had first made mention of the fact that they wanted to ensure I didn’t cramp their game, I was mildy annoyed. But once we began brainstorming ideas to make it happen, I quickly saw it as a chance to improv and probably would find far greater enjoyment in doing it than the hookup benefit they might garner for it being done. Very quickly “the cousin” idea evolved into a scenario where I was a foreign student from Sweden, who had arrived in America for the very first time just the evening before. The story had me staying the summer with one of the girls and then attending the same college as she the coming year. She was part of a “Cultural Exchange Program” that her college participated in and she volunteered to be an American student mentor for a foriegn students’ first year in the States.

    Instantly I saw the potential in this and decided that I spoke and understood absolutely no English save for a very few words like “Hi”, “I am Sven”, “Good”, “Ok” and “Thank You” and my use and understanding of these were even shaky at best. To further up the ante, I told the girls that they should introduce to whomever they might be chatting with. I would then with the appropriate amount of hesitation and slight stutter proceed to say “Hi I am Sven” and continuing while I started to shake their hands would say “Your ass is so sweet for me to f$@%^” to guys or something like “I am liking you to like my balls, they are hairy”… The girls would then immediately jump in and explain how they had pretended to teach me some greeting in American that I should say to people as I met them, but had obviously taught me to say ridiculous and obscene things since I wouldn’t know the difference and it would be funny. And of course it was funny, only the joke was sorta on everyone else instead of me. We came up with several rude phrases and the explaination of what each one the girls had “taught” me to think was the meaning of them. Since I didn’t know english they could explain this as I was standing right there and I would just keep on smiling thinking I am making all sorts of new American friends. I would throw out things like “Yaaa” and other quickly garbled swedish sounding words from time to time in a decent accent to keep up appearances. I was a hit at the bar. At first people would look at me in disbelief when I met them and would say one of the rehearshed “greetings” that my american mentor had just taught me. Then they would explain, and the others would laugh at what a great joke it was and they would have to introduce me to their other friends and naturally buy me a drink. I drank for free all night and I drank a lot! I was like a pinyata or some other objection of mass enjoyment at a party. They would even start trying to teach me their own “pretend meaning phrases”…

    It was insanely funny and 6 hours later I was insanely drunk. We had held up the charade all night long and just before leaving I walked over to the guy who had been taking me around all night long and introducing me to so many others. I looked at him, smiled a great big smile and said ” So Listen, thanks for all the drinks. Everyone laughed and it was tons of fun to hav pulled it off all night long

  4. Hilarious, I can’t believe those girls didn’t know that you don’t look anything like Ben Folds! You think she would have at least seen a picture on her sisters CD at some point in her life. Then again, being at a bar they were likely drunk and wouldn’t have noticed Bill Clinton walk in!

  5. Are you aware of the guy at he is a major prankster and at one point they impersonated Michael Jackson (complete with the umbrella guy) and his whole entourage to some charity event and apparently is was quite believable because it got the press involved.

  6. That reminds me of the time a friend and I had convinced people we were the BoDeans. After all, he did play guitar and I was singing, and we’d attended a few open mic nights. That plus beers, what more convincing did these girls need? We don’t at all look like brothers or anything, but a few beers seemed to hide that quite well.

  7. First half of story – slightly amusing. However, this happens every night of every week when a bunch of guys go out for beers.

    Second half of story – this just happens every time someone trying to earn a living comes across an asshole.

    More imagination needed.

  8. A friend’s friend in Tokyo (but from Australia) looked a lot like one of the guys in Britpop band Franz Ferdinand. He used to show up at all the summer rock festivals, dressed like the dude and groove on all the attention he got from Japanese teenyboppers.

    But soon he started to think he really was a star!

    He was an obnoxious asshole.