You pull off the freeway headed for a job and notice a briefcase lying in the center divider of the overpass.
What do you do?
When Los Angeles comedians Todd Glass and Daniel Kinno recently found themselves in that predicament, they circled their car around, picked up the briefcase and unlocked an Irvine mystery that scared the beejebus out of them.
They recounted the experience on The Todd Glass Show podcast that had an Aug. 26 upload date on iTunes. (Their guest was Henry Phillips, the guitar-strumming comedian whose Punching the Clown I'd deemed the top don't-miss film of the 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival.) Glass, Kinno and the Irvine Police Department's Lieutentant Julia Engen later filled me in on some details.
Glass–whom you may also recognize from recent Tosh.O bits, NBC's Last Comic Standing, Louie C.K.'s FX show Louie, brutally honest sections of Jordan Brady's documentary I Am Comic and an infamous YouTube video that has the comedian going off on a heckler–was sitting in the passenger seat of the car driven by his sidekick and fellow Irvine Improv performer Kinno on Sunday evening, Aug. 21. After exiting the San Diego (405) freeway at Irvine Center Drive around 6:30 p.m., they spotted the black briefcase that may have been beaten up from having been driven over a couple of times.
As the pair tells it in the podcast, two possibilities about the briefcase's contents immediately came to mind: It's either cash or a bomb. With 50-50 odds like that, naturally, they made a U-turn. Kinno opened his car door enough to scoop up the case and throw it in the backseat and very close to Glass, who flinched as he was frightened that might cause the contents to IED him all over the Interstate.
Fear gave way to giddiness with anticipation upon arriving at the Improv at Irvine Spectrum and excitedly telling a manager there about the find. Cracking the briefcase open, they discovered no bomb, only a little currency and some very disturbing things. This is how they described the contents on the podcast: a Saudi Arabian passport, photocopies of the passport, credit cards, bank statements, hotel
receipts, many airplane ticket stubs, Saudi Arabian cash notes and an apartment
lease bearing the name of the man on the passport and a co-signer with an American name that
included her phone number.
The Improv manager called the number on the lease and reached the woman, but she said she'd never heard of the man, nor had she recently signed any lease, nor did she know why her name was on the document in the first place. It was apparently to lease a residential unit in Irvine.
“It was all classic identity-theft stuff,” Glass told me when I called him about three weeks after the podcast. In this post-9/11 world, more sinister possibilities filled the heads of the funny men. Glass was still so freaked out when I asked about it that he wanted to think more about the implications before talking further, spooked over whom he may rile up. Kinno, meanwhile, was absolutely eager to publicize the incident.
"Todd is a bit more cautious than me,” Kinno said. "He's probably right or just has more to lose since he's famous. But if some terrorist wants to come after me, I'm ready. I took a Krav Maga class and just watched The Debt, so I feel like I can handle it. Either way, I end up on Letterman the next day.”
At the Improv on the night of the briefcase discovery, the club manager contacted the Irvine police officer she knows patrols the Irvine Spectrum area. That officer and another arrived during Kinno's set.
"[The cops] only spoke to Todd, who was so nervous he told them no one touched the case or anything in it,” Kinno recalled. “Meanwhile, I had touched everything in the case. My prints are probably at the CIA right now. Can't wait to see what happens when I have to fly next time.”
When I ran the story past Engen, it took her some time to track the incident down, but she spoke with the officer who took the call and pretty much confirmed the comedians' tale–except the part about a passport being among the briefcase contents.
“We felt it needed a little punch-up for comedic stakes, I guess. Sorry,” Kinno later confessed to me. He also agreed with Engen that there were only a couple of Saudi riyals that were likely worth a couple of bucks American inside the briefcase.
After some unsuccessful attempts to reach the man whose name is all over the documents in the briefcase, the Irvine police officer finally connected with him later that night. He was informed the police department has his property. For whatever reason, he has yet to pick it up, Engen said.
“The plot thickens,” Kinno told me when I shared this latest twist.
Engen says until the briefcase is retrieved, the department considers the case “open and under investigation.” But she said no other authorities have been contacted because the property's owner, who may be a foreign student, has been contacted, and “there was nothing else suspicious about the contents.”
“I'm glad we stopped and picked it up,” Kinno confided. “Whatever it was, it's now a funny story, and who knows? Maybe even a movie down the line.”
I can see it now . . . Unconsolable Glass braying, “What's in the briefcase?” like Brad Pitt in Se7en. Can't wait to see that scene in my local cineplex. Until then, here's the YouTube: