How much do panhandlers really make? Can you possibly make a living at this? How much of a difference does a funny sign make? Will people give to a guy in a banana suit? Does every sign have to say "God Bless?" Important questions. I aim to find the answers. Give me a dollar. God Bless.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I'm a Banana... Gimme Money. God Bless

I went out panhandling today with a film crew. They hid in the bushes most of the day. I didn't want their presence affecting people reactions. It was fun seeing the responses of folks who did see the camera crew though. I think they thought it was candid camera or some simmillar "reality" show. And I guess it is, sort of.
Of course it was even more fun seeing how people reacted to me being dressed as a giant banana. I went through lots of clever banana puns, "I find your money quite a-peel-ing", "Why not SPLIT a couple of bucks with me? It would help a BUNCH" but in the end I went for a more direct approach:

Of course no one would be able to make out the long website address, but just it's presence on a carboard sign cracks me up to no end.
When I first got on the offramp folks did the usual, "I can't see, you. I can't seeee you." which is pretty funny. How do you not see a bright yellow banana. But, the next batch of folks to sit at the red light were laughing and smiling. people were really getting into it. It's funny to see somebody look at me, and not know how to react, then look at the car next to them, and upon seeing someone else laughing, they join in and have a good chuckle. Strange how so many of us need guidance even when it comes to how to respond to something silly. I guess it is conflicting though, as the sign guys normally elicit a different set of emotions. It was great to see so many peole getting a laugh, and some folks gave full on belly laughs. I love that. As a comedian, this is the best thing I've ever done.
The first woman to give me money told me it was specifically because of the "God Bless" written on my sign. I TOLD you that was important.

Of course she only gave me a quarter. Not saying much for your religion lady. I bet I could've gotten her to throw in another quarter if I'd shown her my socks.

I can't wait to try out my "Atheist. Please help. God Bless." sign.
I interviewed another carboard signer named Jackie. She claimed she could make about fifty bucks in an eight hour day, but we only saw her panhandle for about 10 minutes, and get nothing. Eight hours seems like it would just be impossible. Today I did about a half hour at one offramp and about twenty minutes at another, and it was tough. It's hot, and your legs get tired. The worse thing though, is that it's mind numbingly boring, less so when you're dressed like a banana of course.
I was amazed to find out Jackie believes in the legend of the carboard signer going home to a nice house and claims to have witnessed it. I asked her how they were getting more money than her, since her fifty bucks in eight hours would hardly afford a nice house. She said she had no idea, but they were alcoholics too. Hmmmm.
I only got a few hostile responses. One "Get a job", one "Faggot" and one little kid out the back window of a king cab pick up truck, "You're a loser. Why don't you get a real job?" His mother seemed to approve of him berating stangers. Sweet folks.
I also had a car full of guys three lanes away ask me to come get the money, but they weren't holding out any money. I told them I was too afraid. They flashed me a peace symbol and kept going. I got lots of peace symbols, and quite a few gang signs too.
I took a call on my cell phone. So I'm there, on an offramp, with my carboard sign, and I'm on talking on a cell phone. That was funny enough, but funnier still that it was my mom. She asked what I was doing and I told her the truth, "Mom, I'm on an freeway offramp begging for money." "Get off of the freeway and GO HOME!" Oh my poor suffering mother. That she didn't for a second think I might be kidding makes me so proud.

Despite my mother's urging, I wanted to keep at it longer but a cop came along and told me I had to move. I talked to the cop, on camera, and he explained that it's illegal to stand within' 150 feet of a freeway offramp. I asked what would happen if I stayed put, and he said he'd have to give me a ticket, and if he found me there a third time today he'd have to arrest me. He was actually pretty nice and I can't wait to put up the picture of him shaking hands with the banana.
I figure, between the first spot, where I was for 30 minutes and took in six bucks, and the second spot where I was for 20 minutes and took in 3 bucks, I averaged about $10.50 an hour. Only slightly less than I'm making now at my day job. I have no doubt that as I get better at this I can make more doing this than I'm making working, but I still highly doubt that anyone is living in a mansion, and sleeping between silk sheets after a day on the offramp. Especially since most folks arent dressing up, etc. It'll be interesting to see if I make more when I don't do anything creative and just try to look needy and helpless.
By the way, I'm panhandling on line too. Show me that the internet community is more generous than the Christian motorist community by giving me a couple of bucks would ya? Lots of dontate buttons to your right there. God Bless! >>>>>

Note: The pictures were taken outside my house yesterday as I prepared to walk to the freeway offramp. Pictures from the offramp will be up after the guys taping me generate some stills.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


God Bless

4:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

dude, you rock!!

4:16 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Well, whatever else you can say about me, I've got better things to do with my time than to go around calling people names anonymously on line. And besides, I rock dammit! God Bless.

9:58 PM

Blogger Thomas Slatin said...

Now this is funny! Ignore previous comment. You're awesome.

5:52 AM

Anonymous TheAssassin said...

What would of been truly funny is if you had resisted arrest and had the police officer try to beat the shit out of the guy in the banana costume and arrest him :D

Can you say "Police Brutality to Bananas?"

8:46 AM

Blogger medea said...

back in college I had a classmate who would juggle and do fire poi in an intersection.

She could make rent money in one afternoon.

the envy.

9:01 AM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Yeah, those juggling, mucic playing and otherwise talented people have it easy. I've only got my good looks to get me by.

As for the cop on banana violence, hmmm, could be funny. I'll have to see if I can push some buttons.

Thanks all for props. Much appreciated. Now, can you spare a couple bucks? God bless!

10:33 AM

Anonymous Jason said...

I love you so much. Would you please move in with me so I can take care of you?



12:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea, i'm going to watch with great interest, but i'm not going to give you any money, your just going to use it on drugs ;)

2:44 PM

Anonymous Gal from Hamilton said...

About the rumours of panhandlers living in nice houses; in Hamilton Ontario our newspaper published a story (within the last year i think) about a woman who lived in a nice neighbourhood here, but commuted an hour to Toronto to panhandle. she's known as the sticker lady or something like that.

8:46 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Wow, Thanks for the nice comments and for over 2,000 visits yesterday. The link from sure helps. Very nice.

As for The Sticker Lady, I've looked into it, and it's a great story. I'll do more research and get a piece up on her soon. Thank you for the lead.

Coming soon, panhandling pop up ads, the "Atheist, please help. God Bless!" sign and pics from my panhandling trip to San Diego and LA.

9:01 AM

Anonymous ooga booga said...

cool! creative! reminds me of my youth in Los Andes, we would hop to the next town and beg for change all afternoon and buy gallons of wine in these huge glass tubs and drink all night... then Lili would wake us all up around 9, force us to clean the house and send us out to do it all over again. In those days it was called "machetear".
yes, I had a bizarre coming-of-age, what's it to ya?

9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One day three months ago, I saw a "homeless" lady I've been seeing around downtown Berkeley CA for the last 10 years walk into a nice big blue house in my nice neighborhood 3 miles N. of Downtown.
Considering the bay area housing market, I don't actually believe she bought that house from spare change, but probably had the house and went crazy or something like that.
Maybe she stared doing it as an experiment too. Although, it's clearly taken a toll on her physically, so be careful!

9:25 AM

Blogger alcazabedabra said...

What's funniest about this site is not the banana with the sign, it's the fact that you've got a couple dozen "Please donate!" buttons in the sidebar.

That's what's funny.

I'm at, btw. Please give me hits!!

God bless.

5:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is fucking awesome, good work man. The sign about being the last carboard sign buy for 2 miles was awesome.

11:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant concept, why not try some other outrageous outfits?

I'd suggest you try Moses with a scroll of the ten commandments... Maybe that will get TWO quarters... ;-)

I've always wanted to see a panhandling gorilla too. That would be awesome.

11:11 AM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

And I do have a gorrila costume! Maybe I can get a friend to be the gorilla and I'll be the banana.
Sign: Please help. Gorilla trying to eat me! God Bless

11:46 AM

Blogger Becky said...

if you really wanted to stretch religious boundaries, you could dress up as jesus and hold a sign that says "pay for your sins. i like big bills. good bless."

12:57 PM

Blogger Becky said...

of course i mean god bless and not good bless

12:58 PM

Blogger Dynomoose said...

Are you going to wear any special costume for the "Atheist: Need Help. God bless" experiment?

12:51 PM

Blogger Dynomoose said...

Listen to Becky, she is a genius!

12:51 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

"Dynomoose said...
Are you going to wear any special costume for the "Atheist: Need Help. God bless" experiment?"

Hmmm, wasn't plannig on it. Have you got some suggestions?

12:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:04 AM

Blogger whaler said...

lol, this is awesome.

5:40 AM

Anonymous Kovvy said...

Haha, I suppose a good 'atheist costume' would be something along the lines of 'consumed in hellfire.' And agony.

9:10 AM

Anonymous Kovvy said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this is hilarious.

9:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christians customarily give in special offerings taken up for the poor, food kitchens, food drives and clothing, not to mention the tithing that is already being given to pay electric, water, heat and A/C bills. This is the reason they give little to people on the road; we've already given abundantly in other areas for these same people.

10:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've been farked.

12:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

not farked

duke sucks?

fark sucks!

3:56 PM

Anonymous English Robert said...

The millionaire panhandler is a 'very' old urban myth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used it in 'Sherlock Holmes and the man with the twisted lip' in 1892; he'd collected 112 pennies and 76 halfpennies in a single day which was enough to buy a copy of the ICBINC video back then.

3:05 AM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Hey English Robert. How are you? Great to hear from you.
Yeah, videos were cheap back then. It was when they were invented that they started to get expensive eh? Say hello to the queen for me would ya? I hope your family is doing well.

11:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Winnipeg Canada, a city of 760,000 people and it's amazing how many people know of the "toonie" lady. She's the insane woman who can break into uncontrollable sobbing in the blink of an eye, crying out "All I need is a toonie....(sob)...won't someone please give me a toonie." For those of you that are unfamiliar with canadian currency, "toonie" is the nickname given to our two dollar coin, named after the "looney" or one dollar coin. Anywho, she seems to do quit well, if she doesn't get money she should at least get a daytime Emmy award.

1:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to get a DOG, I'm telling ya at my local OFF RAMP, saw a guy with a dog and he must have gotten 10 people to give him money in these then 2 minutes. A matter a fact that's why I was LATE to work that SON-OF-A-BANANA! He was holding up traffic! Get a dog, GOD BLESS!!

6:00 AM

Blogger Michael Heroin said...

Anonymous said...

"Christians customarily give in special offerings taken up for the poor, food kitchens, food drives and clothing, not to mention the tithing that is already being given to pay electric, water, heat and A/C bills. This is the reason they give little to people on the road; we've already given abundantly in other areas for these same people."

Like hell do I give to any of that crap! And I sing canto's for my church choire! How about instead of "Atheist, please help, God bless" You go for "Blasphemer" and dress as Jesus...

It occurs to me that, spiritually speaking, I walk the fine line between being a strong Catholic and a debauchery sodden Sinner and will probably burn in some kind of ironic hell for all eternity...

1:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there. I think the banana idea was great, and I know if someone around here did that they would get tons of laughs, and probably quite a bit of spare change. But with all the religious stuff... that's too far. it loses its appeal.

5:34 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

I don't sensor my comments, people can right what they will so long as it's remotely on topic. Some folks are religious, what am I to do?

As for me, I am an atheist.

If you're refering to the god bless on my signs, your just missing the joke, and I hate to explain a joke for that is such a quick way to kill it.

8:21 PM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Oh, I haven't looked at this post in a while, I guess there's the socks too.
They were a gift.
I thought they went well with the God Bless.

8:22 PM

Blogger Da Gal said...

Love the banana outfit and the socks. Can't wait to see more.. I will definitely have to come back. And I concur.. you do Rock!

11:07 AM

Blogger thepanhandler said...

Awww, thanks. Glad to be rockin'.
I hope to hear from you again, oh, and also, GIVE ME TWO DOLLARS!
God Bless or something

4:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If I were Jesus, you'd give me money"

God Bless what the sign should say.

10:55 AM

Anonymous buckwild said...

hey man that gorilla and banana stuff would make you a lot i think but where do you fly a sign i make 50-80 in an hour whats up with that my sign reads broke and hungry too pokite to steal please help god bless people love it

1:40 PM

Anonymous buckwild said...

i mean to polite to steal

1:41 PM

Anonymous Panhandler said...

You sign might could read; "Need money for punctuation and capital letters. God Bless".
Just joshin' ya. I'm really one to talk, yeah?

11:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous rules the internets. In the long run you shall be rewarded for your unrivaled cunning and surprisingly amazing wit. Keep on keepin' on my main man.

"go as "Blasphemer" and dress as Jesus..."

I'd highly recommend doing that.

Signed yours truly,


7:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you begging in a banana suit? Are you on the dole?

5:48 PM

Blogger KLJ said...

On The Dole. HA HA. I read that twice before I got it. Nice

8:56 AM

Blogger Andy Landen said...

You are a comedian. Don't just rely on your good looks. Tell jokes with signs; one line per sign. Try religious jokes and Christian jokes and Muslim jokes to name a few and see how people respond .. like Dimitri (comedian).

8:52 AM

Anonymous Dues said...

I wonder if that would work with girls. "I'm a Banana... Have sex with me"

10:56 AM


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