Improv Everywhere 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 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 Charlie Todd actually teaches and performs improv for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC. 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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.