Creator: Improv Everywhere
Yay for annoying the management!!
"We Cause Scenes." Improv Everywhere
—Improv Everywhere's motto
is the improvisational troupe founded by Charlie Todd that goes into New York City
and does really odd (and awesome
) stuff for their own amusement. Known for pulling off a fake U2
concert atop a roof top where a real one was about to be held (before being pulled away by cops), riding a subway with no pants en masse (before being pulled away by cops), and going to Best Buy dressed in blue shirts and tan khakis like employees (before being pulled away by cops
Improv Everywhere's missions provide examples of the following:
- Anticlimax: To celebrate five years after what he considered IE's first mission, Charlie Todd attempted to call one of that mission's marks (who had given him her phone number), to see if she had ever figured out it was a prank. When he dialed, a voice told him the number had been disconnected. Lampshaded in the Improv Everywhere book.
- April Fools: Each year since 2009, IE has posted a fake mission video on April 1, with the joke being on the fans of the website.
- In 2009, they claimed to have crashed a funeral
- In 2010, they supposedly rode the subway sans pants and underwear.
- In 2011, they created a "sequel" to "Star Wars Subway Car" in which an actor playing Jar Jar Binks gets beat up on a subway train.
- In 2012, they pretended to get sets of quadruplets to create an unusual "mirror scene" in public.
- In 2013, they claimed they had gotten 2,000 agents to move backwards in Times Square. In reality, the footage was of normal foot traffic, being played backwards. The only people who really moved backwards were those 'reacting in shock', who seem in the video to be walking normally.
- In 2014, They Claimed they did a Reenactment of "Spider-Man".
- Artifact Title: The "Improv" bit of their name is this, in that the first IE missions had very little planning and were in fact improv routines and techniques sprung on an unwitting public.note Nowadays the pranks involve quite a bit of planning and a lot less improv (see Non-Indicative Name below).
- Big Applesauce: The group is based in New York City and performs most of its missions there, probably because it's the only place where you could get away with the stuff they do.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: See their Best Buy operation.
- Bedsheet Ghost: Invoked in Who You Gonna Call?, a life-action re-enactment of Ghostbusters.
- Bellisario's Maxim: Something they encourage, intentionally or otherwise. Don't question the show, just enjoy it.
- The Cameo: Ann Curry has a bit part near the end of "I Love Lunch! The Musical" (see below), which was filmed for the Today Show.
- The Gregory Brothers participated in "Mall Santa Musical," Evan as the delivery man and Michael as the Christmas present.
- Candid Camera Prank: Nearly every mission is one of these, as IE usually uses hidden cameras to record the mission and capture people's reactions.
- Crowd Song: Their "spontaneous" public musicals, which they've done five of so far:
- Food Court Musical: Sixteen agents, posing as employees and customers in a mall food court, break into song about their collective need for napkins.
- Grocery Store Musical: Six agents, posing as employees and shoppers in the produce section of a grocery store, break into song about how they must "squish [their] fruit together."
- I Love Lunch!: Several agents, eating in the atrium of Trump Tower, break into song about how much they love lunch. Includes a cameo by Ann Curry.
- Gotta Share: A bunch of agents at the 2011 annual GEL conference interrupt a fake presentation with a song about their love for social media.
- Mall Santa Musical: Several agents in a shopping mall break into song about their desire to sit on Santa's lap.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Done non-maliciously in the Anton Chekhov and King Philip IV missions.
- Dirty Old Woman: When they did the "No Shirts" scene, one of the men got his back stroked by an old lady.
- Doing It for the Art: Of comedy. No one gets paid, and everyone participates just for the sake of causing random fun.
- Don't Try This at Home: The Amazing Stuntmen
- Flash Mob: Some might say this is the entire point. Charlie Todd, however, doesn't like using this description as A) Improve Everywhere was created before the term 'flash mob' came into use, B) Their 'missions' are so varied that many don't fit the usual image of a flash mob, and C) The term has been used for so many different things, some with negative connotations, that he doesn't really feel comfortable using it.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop - The Moebius: A group of agents repeat the same five-minute chain of events twelve times over one hour in a Starbucks.
- Hypno Fool: The Amazing Hypnotist and The Amazing Hypnotist Redux
- Identical Stranger: The basis for the King Philip IV prank.
- Interrupted Suicide: Suicide Jumper
- Loophole Abuse: Many of the pranks bank their success on this trope, and as such it's usually exploited by the group:
- What's wrong with forty-odd people in khakis and blue shirts just standing around in a Best Buy helping anyone who mistakes them for employees? (Besides freaking out the management, that is.)
- Technically, there's also no rule that you can't lug a desktop computer (complete with CRT monitor) into a Starbucks...
- There's also (technically) no rule that King Philip IV of Spain can't sign autographs in front of his own portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art...
- Mall Santa: Forms the basis for one of their musicals (see above).
- The Mark: Any passersby, or whoever IE decides to randomly target. Always without malicious intent, of course.
- Mirror Routine: Human Mirror: Eight sets of identical twins sit across from each other in a subway car, copying each other's movements exactly.
- Mistaken for Pregnant: In Grocery Store Musical, the woman whose character is pregnant was wearing a fake belly. Between performances, she had to stay in character when asked questions such as when she was due.
- Mistaken for Servant: Best Buy: 80 agents wearing blue polo shirts and khaki pants enter a Best Buy. The result was about as expected.
- Also occasionally happens when someone is dressed as a certain role before a prank starts. For example, the cashier and janitor in Food Court Musical had to actually perform their jobs for some time before the music started, so as to look like actual employees.
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- "Best Game Ever": A Little League kids' baseball game gets the trappings of a pro game, with a huge influx of fans in team colours waving banners with the players' names, vendors giving out food and programs, mascots, a "Jumbotron" video screen displaying the action, camera crews, CBS Sports commentator Jim Gray providing commentary and the Goodyear blimp passing overhead displaying messages for both teams.
- In the same vein, we have "The Mini Golf Open". Highlights include professional caddies, live commentary, ESPN production value (including actual ESPN commentator Jorge Andres conducting interviews), and the honest-to-God Claret Jug - the trophy that goes to the winner of the British Open - awarded to the winner.
- Imperial Stormtroopers capture Princess Leia on the New York subway.
- The Amazing Stuntmen
- New York Subway: A great many of their pranks are carried out here.
- Non-Indicative Name: They call themselves Improv Everywhere...but after the first few missions they don't do much Improv; the events are more like elaborate pranks, and are almost always planned out in detail. They also aren't as "everywhere" as they seem; despite the logo on each video showing the entire U.S., almost all official events take place in Manhattan.
- Not Wearing Pants: No Pants! Subway Ride Now done annually.
- Novelization: Of sorts. Causing a Scene, co-written by Charlie Todd, documented some of IE's more memorable missions, and included tips from agents about how readers could run similar pranks in their own cites.
- Obfuscating Stupidity:
- Most mission agents are told to pretend they don't know anything about the mission. Also, this guy
- Plus, some of the paranoid guards are ridiculous. "Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair," shouted one real worker in the Best Buy, as if "were using [their] fake uniforms to stage some type of elaborate heist." “I want every available employee out on the floor RIGHT NOW!”
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Who You Gonna Call? Apparently these ghosts like to read books, use laptops and check words in the dictionary.
- Pillow Pregnancy: The pregnant lady in the grocery store musical isn't really pregnant.
- Retraux: Parodied with the Old Timey 1997 Photo Booth.
- Rooftop Concert: Once got a cover band pretend to be U2 and play some of the band's songs on top of a Manhattan rooftop (in reference to the band's Music Video for "Where The Streets Have No Name") when the real band was scheduled to play at Madison Square Garden.
- Rule of Fun: Improv Everywhere actually distills the Rule of Fun into clean, alternative energy.
- Shirtless Scene: No Shirts: 111 male agents enter an Abercrombie & Fitch store and take off their shirts.
- This Is My Side: The Tourist Lane: Agents draw a chalk line down a sidewalk, dividing it into a "Tourist" lane and a "New Yorker" lane.
- Time Stands Still: Frozen Grand Central
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Will You Marry Me?: An agent enlists the help of strangers in a subway to hold up signs to propose to his "girlfriend" (who is actually his wife).
- Wedding Day: Surprise Wedding Reception, obviously.
- Weirdness Censor: Defying this is a recurring theme.