When Keith Lowell Jensen gave money to panhandlers, the people with him often would react with cynicism and/or amazement, he says.
Why was Jensen, a Sacramento comedian, writer and filmmaker, giving cash to people who probably cleared more money per day than he did?
It was, at best, a dubious argument. But Jensen found the idea of the affluent panhandler so prevalent that he decided to hit the streets of Sacramento to see just how much money could be made.
"Everyone seems to have a dad who heard about - or is (otherwise) one step removed from - the guy who makes $500 a day," Jensen says.
For his experiment, Jensen pulled out all the stops, using cardboard signs with clever slogans and donning a banana suit to attract more attention and change. The results can be seen in his film "Why Lie? I Need a Drink," which plays at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Crest Theatre.
As a comedian who "wants to be funny, but relevant," Jensen sought to mix an absurdist approach with social commentary. Along with documenting his attempts to panhandle, "Why Lie" features interviews with homeless people discussing their experiences.
"There are times when someone was telling their story, and we got really interested in it, and we dropped the humor altogether," Jensen says.
And no, Jensen didn't get rich from panhandling, but he did collect some cash as part of his experiment. If he was dressed in costume and the donor was in on the gag, Jensen might spend the money on tape stock for his film project. But if he received money while dressed in regular clothes, he would pass it along to a homeless person in need, as the giver had intended.
Tickets for "Why Lie? I Need a Drink" are $12 at the door, $10 in advance and are available at the Crest by calling (800) 225-2277 or through Tickets.com.