“So You Think You Can Pong”: 13.Jan.2010 – New York
826NYC, otherwise known as the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co, is a non-profit center that encourages children to develop their creative writing skills. It is also a brainchild of Dave Eggers, acclaimed author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, What is the What, and, most recently, the screenplay and novelized versions of Where the Wild Things Are. As it happens, Eggers also happens to frequent a celebrity circle, which allows him to bring talented comedians (John Oliver, Eugene Mirman), musicians (David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens) or actors to 826 benefits as was the case of the present Ping-Pong charity event. SPiN New York, an extremely chic table tennis club in Manhattan was the latest benefit venue where Eggers, along with author Sarah Vowell, the Times crosswords editor Will Shortz and actors, David Schwimmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Catherine Keener, and Mike Meyers, played some ping pong. And I don’t want to forget New York Ranger Sean Avery or chef Mario Batali either. For those Regular Joes, you could raise money for a chance to play against a celebrity or make a smaller contribution to come in and watch.
Jason Jones from The Daily Show was the host and started the evening by auctioning Keener off to a lady who donated $150 for the opportunity to play against her. After some competitive rounds between other attendees, a couple of two on two celeb matches went down. At center court, Batali and Shortz played Sarsgaard and Vowel followed by The Daves, Eggers and Schwimmer, versus Keener and Avery. The score required to win seemed to increase sporadically, which really was for the benefit of the audience. But it all led up to the matchup between Mike Meyers and Wally Green (a pro player and probably SPiN regular). Garbed in a red jumpsuit Meyers entered with Canadian entourage in tow, placing a picture of the Queen of England on the table while he readied himself. Of course, Meyers had the disadvantage of not being on home turf, but Green also handicapped himself by playing with his cellphone and not a paddle. Meyers held his own, keeping a competitive edge against Green all the way to 21 (at least I thought Meyers won, I could be wrong there was too much chaos).
Immediately following, more celebrity auctions, or rather purchases, took place. Instead of play time, certain price points would get you a unique celebrity opportunity. For $50, Meyers would leave you a voicemail in a Shrek or Fat Bastard voice; $20 would get Eggers to sketch your caricature on a napkin; and at $10, you earned the privilege to be slapped by Keener in the face. Meyers was mobbed, Eggers had a small line and Keener’s first buyer donated $100. Keener’s eyes twinkled with mirth as she doled out those ten slaps, then doling out more; the latter was clearly the most popular way people chose to contribute. Two hours at SPiN went by too quick; quick enough to almost forget that the night was not entirely about celebrity. But when you realized why your face smarted it meant more children will benefit from the 826 resources.