by Agent Todd
What happens when you ‘Yes And’ a stranger.
It was around 1 PM when I first saw him. I had just finished a job interview and was walking through Union Square on my way home via the L train. He was standing in middle of the southern area of the park in front of an uninterested crowd. The man was black and at least 50 years old. In his left hand he held a yellow pocket radio, and his right hand was clad with a fierce black glove. In front of him lay the Holy Bible. The Doors’ “Touch Me” blared out of the radio, and the man moved about with a style not unlike “Losing My Religion”-era Michael Stipe, as he shouted incoherently. I had to hear the story behind this display; I approached him.
Todd: What’s the radio for?
Man: The radio?
Man: The radio is the voice of the people.
Todd: So you see it as a symbol? It represents humanity?
Man: A symbol? The radio is the people. I like the songs. They are familiar to me.
Todd: Are you preaching? I can’t understand what you’re shouting.
Man: Preaching? I am always preaching.
Todd: Is that what the Bible is for?
Man: The Bible? No! The Bible is part of the Trinity.
Todd: And what’s that?
Man: The Trinity is (pointing to radio) the Father, (pointing to Bible) the Son, (pointing to himself), and the Holy Ghost.
Todd: So you’re the Holy Ghost?
Man: Yes. This is my park. I live here. All of these people are my people.
Todd: So you think of all of these people as your congregation?
Man: Congregation? No! We are all a congregation.
Todd: Do you like The Doors?
Man: The Doors?
Todd: The music playing.
Man: I like all music. It is the people.
My curiosity was satisfied. The man wasn’t just some crazy guy playing a radio, dancing, and mumbling about The Bible; he was a crazy guy playing a radio, dancing, and mumbling about The Bible who thought he was the Holy Ghost. I went home.
I returned to Union Square at 6 PM to meet Agent Lovejoy. We had plans to create a scene somewhere in town. As he was walking to meet me in the park, I gave him a cell phone call and told him, “When you get to the park, you don’t know me.” The man was still there, still playing the radio, and still moving and shouting.
One of the most important concepts in improvisation is that of `Yes And’. During a scene, experienced improvisers will take their partner’s statement and both agree with and add to it. Agreement is key. For example, if one player begins a scene with the line “These reports are all wrong!,” his partner may Yes And him by replying, “Sorry boss. I’ve just been so wrapped up with my divorce that I can’t seem to do anything right these days” (i.e., “YES I accept your offer of being my boss, AND I will add to the scene by revealing that my work is suffering due to my personal life”). I decided to see what kind of scene I could create if I Yes And-ed the guy in the park.
Todd: Hi. Remember me? I’ve been thinking about everything you said earlier today, and it’s really starting to make sense.
Todd: Do you need any followers? I really want to learn more from you. I could be a disciple or something.
Man: Hold this.
The man gives me a plastic knife and fork (I’m assuming he used them to eat lunch earlier in the day). I hold on to them in one hand, tightly. The man begins to walk away.
Todd: (shouting after him) What do I do with the knife and fork?
Man: (shouting as he walks away) You will understand! I will return! You will understand!
I stand by myself and follow his instructions. Those sitting in Union Square begin to stare, point, and whisper. Agent Lovejoy arrives.
Lovejoy: Excuse me sir? Why are you standing there with a knife and fork?
Todd: What? Oh…they were given to me by this guy that preaches here. He told me to wait here.
Lovejoy reveals that he is a priest of Scientology and tries to convince me to come with him and learn more. I thank him for the offer but I insist that I must wait for the preacher man to return. Two punks, seated nearby, enter the conversation.
Punk 1: Why is it so important to you to wait on him to come back?
Todd: What do you mean? He told me to.
Punk 1: But why is does it matter so much? You don’t even know that guy.
Todd: I don’t know…I guess I’m just really confused right now.
Punk 2: And you’re looking for something to ground you?
Todd: Yeah. I think that’s what we’re all looking for. After everything that’s been going on… I just feel so lost. I looked at this guy and it was clear to me that he knew exactly what he is supposed to be doing.
The man returns. I rush to meet him. I’m still clutching the knife and fork.
Todd: (yelling) I’ve been waiting! I’m still holding on!
Man: Yes. Yes. Yes, you have. Let’s go.
Todd: Yes! Let’s get out of here.
Man: Come with me. We are going places.
Todd: Yes, we are. We’re going to new places together.
Man: We are going places.
I follow him and we begin to head south. Lovejoy trails a step behind us, still trying to convince me to go with him. Despite the glaring `Don’t Walk’ sign, and the steady traffic, the man crosses 14th Street with out looking. I’m right there with him. 2 cars slam on brakes and screech to a halt as we cross the street. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Man: People must learn to deal with me!
Todd: You’re absolutely right. They must learn to deal with us! We’re here!
We continue on our walk and turns out that the `place’ we are going is a corner store where the man can buy a coffee. He opens up his backpack, revealing several bottles of prescription medicine. He over pays for the coffee by about a dollar, throwing the money at the register.
Man: Money! Money! Money! Everyone wants money! They will never say no to money. Money is nothing!
Todd: Yeah! We don’t need money! All we need is ourselves.
We walk back to the square and sit down. The two punks are still there and are now laughing out loud at us. I am still holding on to the knife and fork. The man hands me the coffee.
Man: You will take the first sip.
Todd: I don’t even drink coffee, but I’m going to take a sip, anyway!
Man: Yes, you are. Of course.
I take a sip. He smiles and takes his own sip.
Man: Now we are brothers.
Todd: We are brothers. I can feel it.
Man: We learn how to share.
Todd: We share this coffee together. People will learn to deal with us.
Man: I am waiting for my bride.
Todd: I am, too. I know she will be here soon.
Man: My bride is a woman. She is not a homo.
Todd: I know. How long have you been waiting?
Man: Many years. She will meet me here. I live here, in the park.
Todd: I’m sure our brides will find us.
Man: Drink more coffee.
Todd: Thank you.
Minister and Disciple
Punk 1: Did you know that guy?
Punk 1: So you’re just intervening?
Lovejoy: Yeah…he seemed a little lost.
Punk 2: You’ve got to protect people from the crazy people. What do you do?
Lovejoy: I’m a priest of Scientology.
Punk 1: Well, I like to intervene by throwing rocks at old people.
Lovejoy: (serious) I guess that intervenes with their life.
Hah! Well this one was interesting. Would have been a different experience, but I think I would have been paranoid that he was going to murder me in a back alley somewhere.
It feels like you don’t take life very seriously.
This is the best mission that I have read about yet. Spur of the moment, funny and interesting.
I think this one affects me more than any of the others so far (I’m going backwards in time – started with no pants 2006 and have worked my way back to this). Validating people is an incredibly important thing, and it sounds like that’s what you did here. Homeless people are systematically invalidated by our culture. There ought to be a way to make this bigger and better – keep it genuine, keep it from turning into something people look back at months later and think badly of ("Ted’s" birthday party)…
I love this. It would be, it’s a a great short story, I would love to fictionalize this, not that any major fiction would be needed! Reminds me of Ignatious P.Reilly!
"My bride is a woman. She is not a homo."
I love this, but i think you need to actually make this a proper skit. Imagine if the old man had been an agent, and you had 10 other agents that where ‘converted’ to his religion!
This reminds me of the book "Yes Man" by Danny Wallace. It’s a true story. He says Yes to any offer for 6 months or so and it’s a rewarding experience.
Haha, the coment of "My bride is a woman. She is not a homo." is hilariouse!!! You didnt even mention anything about that! He just said it randomly!! Haha. It reminds me of one of my friends who has a yonger brother (about 13) and he was dressing up in her minie skirt and clothes. When she saw him the first thing he said was, "I’m not gay" HAHA!! Does that tell you anything about them? haha….
It was sweet of you to actually go up to him and talk to him, something that many people wouldn’t do. Usually they would just ignore him and possibly laugh at him. Then to agree with him in a park full of bystanders, who are most likely wondering, "What the hell is that guy doing?" is even better. It’s just great.
i love this. its almost prophetic how simply amazing it is to sit with people on the street. This has inspired my roomie and i to buy my new street friend Loretta coffee.. black…5 sugars (‘real sugars not that commie fascist splenda bullshit’) every other sunday.
This is probably the most amazing thing ever.
Hehehe, I like this one alot it kind of makes my day. The thing is I spend alot of time hanging out with homeless people in the streets and such. Any proper 2 story strip mall has a veritable cornicopia (sp?) of knife and fork ministers in the stairwells. The incredible thing is how insightful they can be, if you don’t mind the oblique radical references to the man. It makes me wonder if you would have had a more rewarding, if less comical, experience simply talking to Man rather than following him about blindly. Great laugh though!
I can’t believe you drank the coffee. I wouldn’t have. WAY too dangerous of a mission if you ask me. Kinda scary . . .
And did you ever see him againg?
Kind of sad to tell him you were going to come back and never doing so.
I absolutely love it. Not only was this mission brilliant I think it was also inspiring. It’s not often you find something so humbling even in humour. What a great mission.. I think it was the best mission I’ve seen yet.
He’s now a honorary agent. You can’t write the stuff he says!
This is really inspiring. My favourite mission next to Surprise! Thanks!!!
Whoa, I just realized something about the title. This mission originally inspired me to not be afraid of homeless people and go volunteer at a shelter, and I just realized that that’s actually a very fitting title, that you can minister to the homeless by feeding them, hence “The Ministry of Knife and Fork”. I’m using the word “minister” as a verb here, Merriam Webster definition: To give aid or service.
It’s wonderful to see that thier are other people like me, that try to take everything they can from life. You might as well. I’d like to ask for your permission to make this into a short film. I would stay true to the story, as it needs no revision.
I hope to hear from you.
I really hope Julianna is allowed to make a video of this–it was pretty hilarious. A little sad (that man was nuts), but hilarious.
Unlike others, I think Todd was a little mean here… leading someone on who is obviously mentally unstable. It was fun until he made him believe he had a new disciple (or brother)
I think the best moment was this:
Punk 2: Youâ€™ve got to protect people from the crazy people. What do you do?
Lovejoy: Iâ€™m a priest of Scientology.
Alas! You have found my dear Alba! Thank you! The love that will ensue shall be biblical and your role will not be forgotten!
I’m sorry but you lost me somewhere there.
Awesome mate, I would wish more ppl would do stuff like that, the world would be a much better place =)