In 2001 Charlie Todd, an actor/comedian, decided to do something about the fact that he couldn’t land a gig and came up with the idea of Improv Everywhere. The idea of Improv Everywhere was to bring together friends, which have now extended to thousands of “undercover agents,” to create funny moments in various public spaces.
These various subversive pranks have gained the attention of marketers for their viral hilariousness, but also attracted an international crowd of fans who have spawned their own grassroots Improv Everywhere movements. Our favorites are the No Pants! Subway Rides in New York City where a group of “agents” ride the subways without pants for the day. Another favorite was the Grand Central Freeze where thousands in-the-know (a.k.a. undercover agents), dressed in various outfits representative of the types of people going through Grand Central on any given day, ranging from business people to tourists to NYC hipsters. At the exact, synchronized moment, hundreds of these agents froze mid-stride in Grand Central. The reaction of others walking through the station to these frozen people was hysterical as they wondered what on earth had happened. Just as quickly as it started, 2 minutes later people started moving again. Other Improv Everywhere pranks include the day they supplied 80 extra employees to a nearby Best Buy; or the time-loop scene in a Starbucks.
Inevitably, someone discretely films the reaction of others not in on the prank, which then gets posted on the ImprovEverywhere site, YouTube, and then things spiral from there.
Last weekend while many people were celebrating Summer Solstice, on Roosevelt Island in New York, the 6th Mp3 Experiment took place with literally thousands of undercover agents participating. Each was plugged into their own Mp3 device and for 5 minutes, did a series of stunts based on synchronized instructions, like jumping up and down like popcorn, or following innocent bystanders in single lines, creating mayhem and fun in a public space.
The movement has created such a stir that the “Today” show featured Chris and his new book “Causing a Scene: Extraordinary Pranks in Ordinary Places by Improv Everywhere” just last week.
Check out the Mp3 Experiment 6 from Improv Everywhere here.