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