We Cause Scenes (2013) Movie Script

So Cody, do you want to start
passing out the flashlights?
Here's how I'd like you guys
to hold it.
I'd like you to hold a flashlight
with your left thumb on green,
your right thumb on red,
and your right index finger
on white.
And if you want to get fancy,
you can press them both at the
same time and it'll switch.
Uh... or you can you know, press
one quickly and press the other.
Is anyone definitely
afraid of heights?
One, two, three, on.
On my cue:
One, two, three, green.
One, two, three, go.
Now with both lights up and
down in an alternating pattern.
Now move both lights
in random directions.
Start dancing.
Now start switching couples
High energy.
This is the finale.
You're going about
your business,
maybe you work in a nine-to-five
job but on Tuesday night,
you know you've gotta go meet Charlie
Todd and his Improv Everywhere group
and... you have no idea
what this mission's gonna be.
When everybody's kind of in
on the joke,
everybody gets to feel like,
That empowering feeling.
That is... why people
do Improv everywhere.
People are going
through their life,
in a very routine way,
and a very normal way.
And all of a sudden, there is
this thing that makes it "Now!"
This like, exact moment that's like "Oh!
I am very alive now!"
That's the end goal,
is that somebody goes home
and they're like,
"You'll never believe what I
saw on the subway today. "
I've never seen Charlie
drop sweat or look nervous
and yet he's accomplishing
all this things.
It's unnerving.
It's weird.
Welcome to the running
of the Bright Park Steaks.
Italy, and Sweden, and France.
Charlie Todd has planted
his seed, for sure.
When I first met Charlie,
he just told me
"I really like
organized fun. "
And that's all
Improv Everywhere is.
It's just him organizing fun.
I moved to New York
in... July of 2001.
I graduated college and then just
took two suitcases to New York City.
Directing, that's gotta be
an interesting thing.
How did you get into doing
Well um...
I wanted to be a Drama major.
Wanted to be a movie star
when I grow up.
So um... decided
I'd audition for a play.
I moved to New York
to be an actor.
I thought maybe I'd... act in
plays or I'd direct plays.
Media now
is-is all sorts of things.
It's like your CD-R.
Uh... your, um, CD-RW.
Um, they got this new thing, it's just hitting
the shelves this Spring, called DVD-R.
I quickly realized that
that's a difficult thing to do.
You're absolutely nobody when
you arrive in New York City.
And there's hundreds, if not
thousands of people just like you.
I was in New York literally stuffing
envelopes all day at temp jobs.
But... every moment
when I was not doing that
I was trying to express
myself in a creative way
so that I could...
feel good about myself.
Almost every night that I went
out, I would do something weird.
I was constantly trying
to amuse myself.
And I was taking advantage
of the fact that nobody knew me
and that I could...
make a fool of myself
and there would be
no consequences.
About a month
after I was in New York,
my friends Brandon Arnold and Jon
Karpinos were visiting one weekend.
So when I went to meet Brandon,
he said "What's up, Ben Folds?"
And I was like,
"What are you talking about?"
He said
"Oh, that shirt you're wearing,
it makes you look
like Ben Folds. "
Right then, just a little, like
light bulb went off in my head
and I said "Let's see, if we can make
people think I'm Ben Folds tonight. "
We produced uh, cocktail napkins
that we just happened to have,
as a desperate attempt to get
this celebrity's autograph.
You guys... thanked me
and I think just walked-walked
back to the table.
I purposely sat down
next to two attractive girls
and they immediately
turned to me was like,
"Oh my God! My brother is like,
a very big fan of yours!"
It was kinda cool when other
people were responding
to stay-in, like, the character or
the idea that you would set up.
The conversation
with Kristen like,
definitely got
a little bit more personal.
She ended up making me promise
the next time I was in Los
Angeles, which is where she lives,
that I would call her
when I was on tour there.
That I would give her a call.
I said "Yeah,
that-that'd be great. "
And she wrote down her number for
me on a, on a cocktail napkin.
I mean, I remember like, we didn't
like, have it all planned out.
We were kind of like, "How are
we gonna get out of here?"
We had... given them
this crazy experience.
And we've given them this
story that they could tell
about the night
that they met Ben Folds.
That next Monday morning,
when I was back to work at a temp
job, working at a reception desk,
I was emailing
my college friends.
Emailing high school friends.
The full version of everything
that happened that night,
you know, would take me like fifteen
minutes to tell that story.
And... I had a blast telling
it, two or three times.
And I was like "All right, I don't
always want to tell this story. "
So, I'm gonna write it down and then
I can share it with people that way.
In 2001, you couldn't
just start a blog.
To have a website,
was... complicated.
You had to know HTML.
And I knew
some rudimentary HTML.
That's when I... made a lot of decisions
that would go on to affect...
you know, my life.
Where I decided, "Okay, well.
I wanna write this story down.
I need a website.
Like what's my group called?
Well, what about, what about
Improv Everywhere?"
I typed it up
and I had this website,
and I put like, a little picture
of Ben Folds on the top of it.
And I emailed it out
to all my friends.
And then, I just kind of saw
the roadmap from there.
I was like "Okay well, I did
this unique, unusual thing.
I'll go do more weird things.
And this will be the venue
where I document it. "
The first few things I did, were
with people who I knew from college.
In the earliest days,
it was pretty much, uh...
we would... just talk to each other
in person, most likely over drinks.
Ideas started generating, and 90% of them
are crap, but the 10% that are okay,
you know, you end up with something
kind of fun, kind of silly.
It wasn't a really,
like something to be part of.
It was just something
we were doing.
It was fun.
The website
was really mostly text.
And then I figured out how to
upload some tiny photos.
There wasn't such thing as a
blog but it was a blog, I guess.
And he started putting up all
this things on his website.
So I would check it out
all the time.
And see, he was the
first friend that I had
that had any way of keeping in touch
with him electronically and passively.
I remember Rich Lovejoy
saying like "Oh!
My new roommate, this guy Rob Rosenbum.
He's got a camera. "
"Oh, wow!"
These guys are looking at me like
it's something funny going on.
Well, it's 'cause you're
acting, like, really paranoid.
You could just relax.
Well, that's apparent
'cause you won't show it to me.
And then the price was a quarter and you
charged $20 about the time I sat down.
Uh, I'll show it to you
when you're done.
All right.
Some of the early Improv Everywhere
pranks were kind of conflict based.
He's charging me $20 for that.
- Twenty dolla?
- It's a caricature.
$20 for this?
It doesn't look like me at all.
It's-it's a caricature.
But ultimately,
it's just so easy.
I mean, you could do that
over and over again.
I got excited about those
ideas were it was just like,
"let's just
do something positive,
let's do something happy,
let's do something that's weird
for the sake of being weird. "
When Charlie first brought up the
idea of doing an open subway ride,
that was probably one of those
times when I-I really...
I really thought "Wow, this is...
this is an amazing idea. "
I got a... random email.
It didn't even say from Charlie, it just
said "webmaster at Improv Everywhere"
saying... "there's a prank, we are gonna
ride the... subway with no pants on. "
The basic idea was, what would happen
if one guy got on in his underwear
and then... at the next stop, a different
guy got on also in his underwear.
And they wouldn't act
like they knew each other.
They wouldn't even
acknowledge each other.
I just wanted to see
what the reaction would be.
And I was able to get
six other guys
who were willing to come out and
take off their pants with me.
Rob Rosenbum, was manning
a hidden video camera.
We had no hidden camera
technology or strategy,
it was literally just,
the camera was in his lap,
and he had a magazine
lying on top of it.
And that was the extent
to which it was hidden.
I noticed that there was
a-a-a girl sitting on the train
who looked like
she was about my age.
I could maybe feel that she looked at
me or that they were looking at me,
but I didn't hear any reaction.
I knew that I was walking
right by her,
and I hoped that
she was end of frame
and that we were getting
her reaction.
And-and-and in fact we were
and it was great.
I positioned myself where I would kind
of be on the other side of the camera
and just hope that the camera
would also get Jesse Good,
the second guy,
when he walked-in.
I wasn't scared necessarily
of getting in trouble,
but there wasn't
a lot of explanation.
Initially, about what was gonna, what was
going on or what we were going to do.
There's a moment where the girl takes
her book and kind of puts it away
and decides to be
a little bit more alert.
You see her look
across the subway
at the two Danish guys
sitting next to the cameraman
and that makes her laugh.
I loved this
sort of change encounter,
where... the video camera just
happened to be pointing at her face.
My hope was hopefully this
you know, immediately went and
told everybody what just happened.
And hopefully she will always have that
experience of... this crazy thing.
It had to have
some sort of ending.
So, I came up with the idea
to have a pants seller.
We got pants!
I got pants for a $1!
Bring the pants down here!
I'll take some pants over
here, please.
At-at-at that point I felt
like, "Okay, good.
People are noticing
what we're doing.
This is working.
This is gonna be a success.
There were two guys,
who were really... angry
at the fact that... we've
come in not wearing pants.
Watch this.
I guess the first thing he
said was "Get a life. "
He starting saying that.
I think he said it
multiple times.
"Get a life. "
This is so fucking stupid.
You guys better get a life.
A dollar?
You guys can get a life.
What do you mean?
You heard.
I... I hear every other word.
I don't understand
what by you mean by it.
I understand but why
"get a life"?
Please, look at yourself.
I was certainly not delighted
that this guy was pissed off.
We were not bothering him.
I was just standing here
in my underwear.
It was not our intent
to irritate someone.
I paid a dollar fifty
to get into this subway.
Okay, I mean, it's stupid.
Maybe in the 60's or 70's, I would
have thought it was comedy.
But today?
'Cause I woke up this morning and I
forgot to wear pants, I should take care?
You didn't forget
to wear pants.
These people need to
lighten up.
Watch your wallet.
There is a woman who's sitting right
here who speaks up and defends us.
I don't think this qualifies
as public nuisance, though.
I think this qualifies as a happening
or piece of performance art,
i.e.: from the sixties.
That's exactly what this is and you
just have to accept it and move on.
Well then, bring to the theater
but not into a public place.
No, that's the beauty of it!
It happens in public spaces
like this.
There is no beauty in it.
- This is why we have happenings.
- Honey,
you're forgetting
this is not the opera house.
- This is a subway. - It doesn't
have to be in the opera house, honey.
We had an entire subway car
filled with strangers
debating about
the nature of art.
And all we had to do was take off our
pants to get them into that debate.
Watching that No Pants video
for the first time,
I was so excited about it.
But... there was nothing
I could with it.
You can't put video
on a website.
I typed up the story
and it was just text.
So I had that mini-DV tape
for years and years.
And the only way anybody would
ever see that No Pants video
was if there were
at my apartment.
I would say "Oh, you
gotta check this out. "
I thought that the video and the
experience had been so great that...
I decided that I wanted to do
it again the next year.
So about six months
after I moved to New York,
I moved-in with my friend,
Anthony King.
He was sleeping
on someone's couch
and I had an opening in my
apartment so we became roommates.
And then,
my friend Ken moved up.
I moved-in and like,
slept on their couch
and tried to do nice things
and keep it clean.
Having my two roommates
be Ken and Anthony,
accelerated what we could do.
It was never a visceral, like, decision
to be part of Improv Everywhere.
We would just do things.
Oh, okay.
You want to like, get on a fountain
in small, inflatable boats.
Yeah, we'll do that.
Big Mac, I paid for you fair and
square, you get back in my bag.
There was definitely a shift and
I think Danny was an entity.
I was meeting
more and more people
and I was making friends
and getting email addresses
and then I would send out a
mass email for twenty people.
As I recall, it was a personal
like, old-fashioned group email
with like a CC list that is half
the body of the email or whatever.
Just saying like, "we're gonna
be doing this on this day
can anybody do it,
get back to me. "
- What do we want?
- Royalties!
- When do we want it?
- Now!
How are you guys doing
with writers get piracy?
We're here to stop the public
library system as it stands now.
Charlie knew
"Hey, I can go to this group
and they'll be what I need
them to be in this situation. "
Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh.
They were getting out of it,
the same thing I was.
They-they wanted to go
on an adventure, too.
They wanted
to express themselves.
They wanted to be
a part of something.
To do pranks, are the heart of improv.
Really called to me.
It was great to have, unknowing
people be the audience of your show.
Bingo players!
Mark it if you got it!
It was about let's improvise with passers-by,
the people on this subway train,
and see what scenes
we can create with them.
These people have just met
and they're playing
bingo together!
Hi, I'm Christy,
nice to meet you.
See around 66th;
friendships and bingo.
That's what the bingo dudes
are all about.
We would document this story and
we would put some photographs up
and we would share it
with our friends.
Next thing we knew it was like,
"Oh, we've done ten!
Oh, we've done twenty!"
My attitude was like, I got this idea.
This idea is great.
All I have to do, is do it.
And once I do it, I've won!
And it's already a success.
There's probably things that I
did those first couple of years
that don't really fit with
Improv Everywhere anymore.
Okay, a little closer together.
To each other.
Uh, good afternoon,
this is ah, Agent Todd.
Uh... and Agent King.
Uh, we're about to embark
on a hypnotism bit.
Um, Agent King is going to be
playing The Amazing Hypnotist.
You excited about this?
Uh, yeah, it's gonna be
pretty awesome.
Um, basically we're gonna head
down to Washington Square Park
and um, hypnotize some other
Improv Everywhere agents
who are already down there
waiting on us.
And... cause a scene.
So, uh, come along.
It's gotta be fun.
- Come along.
- Okay!
The Amazing Hypnotist was
based on an Andy Kaufman prank.
Hold your seats!
Ladies and gentlemen in just a few minutes,
The Amazing Hypnotist will be
hypnotizing volunteers from the crowd.
It's an absolutely free show. We
won't even ask for donations.
Stay where you are.
Come visit us soon.
So I had five friends who
were going to be volunteers
that would raise their hand
and I would call on them
and they would come up
and get hypnotized.
Is there anyone out here
on Washington Square Park
who would like
be hypnotized today?
You sir! Would you like
to be hypnotized today?
- Yeah?
- Sure.
Ken Keech was cast
to be the first person
to be hypnotized.
He would be hypnotized into
thinking he was an ostrich.
The ostrich is sort of
a silly thing
that can go first
and it's not uh...
no hard feelings with that one.
Just someone being an ostrich.
Come here, come here, come here,
come here, come here.
How about a big hand for Ken?
The second person to be
hypnotized would be Dan Burman
who would be hypnotized into
thinking he was in a desert.
I have this crazy talent,
I can drink mass quantities of liquid
in a very short period of time.
We gave him a bunch of Gatorade,
one of them was like red Gatorade,
and he got all over his shirt.
People were still
ready to believe that hypnotism
is like automatic and-
just, you can do anything.
Today, The Amazing Hypnotist
is going to see
if the power of hypnosis is
stronger than the power of love.
We picked two people
out of the audience,
my friends Charles Roach
and Brooks Ann Camper.
And they were a couple
but seemed like they were with a
boyfriend and a girlfriend already.
The hypnotist hypnotized them
into falling in love.
Charles, Brooks Ann... Pink.
Kind of very slowly, they started
kissing and the crowd gasps.
I think that got the audience
to be like "This is real!
Like they just got two strangers
in New York City to kiss. "
Everybody's clapping
and everything's okay.
But really, like,
that's a messed up thing to do,
to have two people who are in a
relationship, all of this, you know,
basically cheat on their significant
others in front of their face.
The next happening is we got
John Gemberling
and hypnotized him into
thinking he was a stripper.
The stripping was quick.
It was just pants and a shirt.
The rest of it was kind of like,
milking and saying "no, no, no. "
All of a sudden,
Anthony starts calling out
the code words of all
the previous volunteers.
And at that point
when everybody was going,
Anthony and I kind of
slowly started backing up
and then we just took off
and ran.
Leaving somebody hypnotized,
that's a really edgy,
scary thing for people to be in.
Well, he ran away?
Let's go.
Let him go.
This guy's in boxers. These guys
are gonna pick up his clothes.
Here we go, green!
Or blue!
There was one guy
in the striped shirt,
and I could tell
he was not happy.
Call that off!
Right in front of
your damned face, right?
were you with them?
- What?
- Were you with them?
- The two hypnotist, were you with them?
- No, no.
Because if you were,
I'm dead serious,
we're gonna have
a real problem.
And we work with
a lot of people in this park,
and I have a lot of friends
that are cops,
and I will call one right now
if you really want it,
because you just broke up
a goddamn couple!
- So if you're with them, tell me.
- Two couples!
Right now.
Give me the phone,
give me the phone.
- I'm not with them.
- Give me the phone.
And you better stop filming.
I think he was doing the
right thing, I mean,
this had been wrong.
Yo, this is some
fucked up shit.
In some ways it is
the meanest prank, I think,
that Charlie's
ever put together.
- Yo, this is fucked up!
- It is!
Over the years, the voice
of Improv Everywhere
has been refined and it
sort of like, developed.
But I realized, I needed to think about
what kind of chaos this might cause.
And is that a good kind of chaos or is
this potentially a bad kind of chaos.
I documented The Hypnotist
prank on the website,
posted the photos and a
description of what went down
and... it got a
really good response.
Right around the same time, I got an
email forwarded from a friend of mine,
inviting me
to the first MOB Project.
A large number of people
were emailed
and they were told to show up at
the same place at the same time
and to do one specific thing.
Unlike Improv Everywhere,
it was much more about the act
of bringing people together
than it was about the activity that
was happening when you're there.
A blogger coined the term
"flash mob. "
And all of a sudden, this
types of events had a name.
I mean, they were flash mobs.
I went to the fourth mob in New
York which was at the Toys "R" Us.
And they were a lot of
I was sort of concerned
because it seemed like this is
very similar to Improv Everywhere.
The idea of a bunch of people
coming together in a public place
and doing something weird.
Very quickly, the flash mobs
that were happening in New York
were being covered by the
media all over the globe.
It was getting so much attention
that it wasn't gonna last forever
and eventually, there might be a back-lash
or it might be considered a fad.
And then, what I was doing might
be wrapped up with that fad.
So, it was important for me to
never use the term "flash mob"
to describe what we did.
I always imagined that
the MOB Project
would be kind of like
a flash mob, right?
Like it would happen
and it would be really,
really intense and then it
would just disappear.
They all made an announcement
this is the last MOB Project,
it's over after this.
When I heard that,
I was like "Okay, good.
He stopped.
I'm the only game in town
again. Great. "
By the Spring of 2003,
my mailing list was pretty big,
and I was able to go out and start doing
things that were larger in scale.
Now the Virgin Megastore doesn't
exist anymore in New York
but it was a giant media store,
and they had these forty
listening stations all in a row,
where you could listen to the
CD before purchasing it.
I came up with the idea
to have forty people
take over this listening
stations one by one
and then face the wrong way.
It was my challenge
to find forty people
that would be willing
to do this,
which was a lot of work for
me in that time.
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25,
26, 27, 28, 29, 30.
Ken Keech had choreographed
this very simple...
You know, it was almost like a
country line dance type of thing.
Once you're finished,
just take your headphones off
and put them out.
And just peel off. Yeah.
Kind of like you're...
I remember Charlie and I
talking about, like, not wanting
the stories that people told
to be believed.
One-by-one, we went in
to the Virgin Megastore.
So over the course
of about five minutes,
we commandeered all forty
of these listening stations.
I gave the signal for everyone
to start a synchronized dance.
That was one of those cool moments
when the people doing it,
far outnumbered the people
that were experiencing it.
I thought
that was really beautiful.
It's like this whole thing
was established just for you.
Just for you,
for this one second.
And like people might not
believe it,
that it ever happened because there's
so few people that saw that.
I was able to walk around
and talk to employees
and ask them what was going on.
Really one of the first times when
I was behind-the-scenes of a prank
and not being
the active participant.
The dance stopped one-by-one.
And what I loved about it was that as soon
as everybody left the listening station,
they looked like everybody
else in the store.
If they had tried to catch
us, they couldn't.
We were in total camouflage
with their location.
I guess the most hilarious thing to me is
that the um, police were called in the end.
Uh... this is
the first time that uh...
I think the closest we ever come to having
the police interfere with our work.
Uh, which is a shame,
we never go for that.
To me, a retail store
is just another stage.
It's just another place
to perform.
But I think as soon as I started
doing things in retail stores,
word started spreading
really quickly.
A couple of big sites
like Metafilter. com,
linked to
our Virgin Megastore prank.
Blogging was becoming a thing.
Everybody had a blog.
They were big blogs.
And I had content.
We decided that we would have
Anton Chekov give a reading
exactly one hundred years
after he died.
Under communism,
translators are crap.
Charlie made a conscious effort
to put this stuff
on the internet
in a time when people weren't putting
stuff like this on the internet.
People responded well
to our projects
because they were unauthorized.
They were mischievous.
We found a band from Vermont who
was on their first tour ever
and we got about thirty
people to show up to the gig
and give them the best
possible concert we could.
We started spending more time
developing this projects
and we started having more
and they started to becoming
a little bit more detailed.
If the New York City synchronized
swimming team beats a score of 27 points,
They will go to the Olympics
in Athens, Greece.
In New York, making people
laugh and I never thought
it'd ever go any-
anything further than that.
Celebrity trash.
Hi, we're selling
celebrity trash.
It's trash from actual
celebrity trashcans.
I don't know if you heard
on the news,
Justin Timberlake's toast went for
like, five thousand dollars on eBay.
Um, so much funny reactions
I'm getting,
I can't wait to type this up
and put them on the internet.
Come and explore, the terrifying
mysteries of the haunted subway.
Something about everyone being
trapped on a train together
and how boring that is,
people are really like:
Oh, yeah. I'll get on board with this.
What else am I gonna to do?
People were writing about us
and doing stories about various
things that we had done.
Media is always big about what are
the kids doing these days and...
Right now, it looks like kids are
taking their pants off on the subway.
There was a... reporter
from "Time Out New York"
who came and rode the train
with us.
That Spring, he ended up writing
an article on Improv Everywhere.
A writer from "The New
York Times," approached me
and said he'd like to do
a feature on us.
It was a really great,
positive piece
and it sort of implied that
this should probably be on TV.
Not long after
I moved to New York City,
a friend recommended
that I go see a show
at the Upright Citizens
Brigade Theatre.
So I did, and it was really
just mind-blowing.
What the hell?
I wish I lived
in the Dallas Silver Days.
All of the comedy there
was completely improvised.
No script, no plans.
And it really spoke to me, like, this is
the kind of comedy that I want to do.
I used to genuinely like
Peter Gabriel, just like you.
Well, look how fat
and bald he is.
In 2004, I was doing
something UCB-related.
You know, probably six out of
seven night a week.
Right around the same time, the iPod had
taken over. Almost everyone had an iPod.
- Set it!
- iPods?
Yeah, Apple makes it.
- Really?
- It's amazing!
That got me to thinking,
what if everybody was
listing to the same thing?
Well, do you have
the same device?
I do have the same device.
It currently is set to play
the Mp3 Experiment by the Mp3
Experiment on the album Mp3 Experiment.
Mp3 Experiment was a
collaboration with Tyler Walker.
I moved-in next door to Ken
and Anthony and Charlie.
Uh... and Ken and I become
buddies immediately.
Charlie had never
really talked to this guy
but I've been like, over there a bunch
of times because he's a really cool guy.
And uh, I said he writes
music and.
He's got recording equipment,
He can definitely do this!
and I think that was a pretty
much match made in heaven
as far as that goes.
The idea was so good that I
couldn't not be a part of it.
It was conceived
as a stage show.
The idea was,
what if we had a-a show
where the audience,
whether they knew it
or not going into it,
were told to become the actors.
We asked people
to download the track.
Put it on to a portable device
and then show up at the Upright
Citizens Brigade Theatre
for this midnight show
on a Saturday night.
All right, I'm paused.
- Played paused.
- Say it again?
We had a countdown clock
that Tyler Walker made.
Mp3, engaged.
Welcome to the Mp3 Experiment.
My name is Steve and I will be
your omnipotent voice tonight.
There were some simple instructions
like breathing and then...
you know, stretching
your arms out or whatever
and then, pretty soon everyone
was told to get on stage.
All right, don't be
the last person on stage.
All we had,
this all-powerful narrator
that is telling people
things to do.
Simple, joyful things.
Meant to just sort of be
this euphoric, fun party.
I dropped my bubbles.
It was one of those things
where your face literally hurts.
I could not stop smiling.
Let's see you doing,
having fun.
Balloons for everyone!
Everybody's doing it and
everybody's committing to it.
That's such a comforting feel.
Hug as many of your new
friends as you can.
At the end of the show, people
were asked to get their belongings
and go upstairs and go out into
Eight Avenue and 26th Street.
We had a million ideas for what would
happen once you got on the street
but budgetary constrains uh,
ended up making it so,
John Wards showed up, who's
got a big, great, white beard
and we rented
a Santa Claus outfit
and he came up
and he handed out candy canes.
It was very cool.
to have a whole audience of a show,
still participating in the show,
you know, outside,
and I think that did make me realize,
like, this could happen anywhere.
I met Charlie Todd uh,
through improv classes
at the Upright Citizens
Brigade Theatre.
I think we had a couple of
classes together, maybe.
And I convinced him to leave
a story of Queens,
come live three blocks from UCB
and then I got to become
a collaborator
by birch of sharing
a living room with Charlie.
When I lived
with Anthony and Ken
a lot of ideas
would just be generated
with three of us
hanging out and talking.
And it was this same thing when I moved
in to Manhattan with Chris Kula.
We had just found out that U2 was gonna
be coming to Madison Square Garden
for a week of shows.
The two of us
came up with this idea,
what if we staged a fake
U2 concert on our rooftop,
across the street
from Madison Square Garden
on the very night
of the real U2 show.
I played in this cover band,
it kind of was a no-brainer
like, so we can get the Enormous
Television band to play?
I said, "Yeah, absolutely. "
The fact that I lived
across the street
from where U2 was going to be
playing a concert.
I had access to my roof.
U2 was known to play roofs and my
roommate was in a band, you know,
all those things coming together, it
was like, that's-this is too perfect.
I have to do this.
Well, what we didn't have
was a singer.
So I had to figure out who of the Improv
Everywhere family would be right to play Bono.
I ended up deciding to ask
my friend, Ptolemy Slocum.
It's a bit of a daunting task.
The only thing
that saved me was that,
I knew I was gonna be
very far away from every one.
But, I don't think Bono
has freckles.
In between coming up with the idea
and actually staging the project,
my day job gave me an
Either get more involved
or be laid off.
It was sort of a cross-roads
for me where I could've said,
"Okay, the safe thing would
be to stay in this company.
To keep my healthcare. "
Or I could take this opportunity
of Improv Everywhere,
started to become something way bigger
than I expected it would ever be
and see if I can give that a go and somehow
be my own boss and-and have that be my job.
You know,
I remember coming up here.
I was really nervous about
setting this equipment up here.
'Cause it's about noon.
We're not doing the prank
for seven hours.
I don't think they'll even
be able to see me anyway.
- Yeah. - I just wanna go
for the authenticity of it.
Dan Demon
was playing Adam Clayton.
So, we had to spray paint
his hair white.
Chris Kula
was playing Larry Mullen, Jr.
We figured nobody really knew what
Larry Mullen, Jr. looked like anyway.
Ptolemy found a black wig that
sort of looked like Bono's hair.
Terry Jen, who was playing
The Edge, is an Asian man.
There was really
nothing we could do
to change the fact
that Terry was Asian.
Uh... so for his costume, he wore a
skull cap and he wore a fake goatee.
Tyler, I'm gonna have you
on the roof with Zach.
Camera, you-you need a tape,
I do, yeah.
I'm supposed to have a spare of fives.
Our production values were
increasing just a little bit.
Some people had this nice,
three chip cameras
but at that time,
the documentation
was still more centered
around photographs and text.
Up to a 130 people are gonna
come to that location?
Maybe it's 150?
And it's only 30.
I don't know but 130 people
said they were coming.
I decided it would help
if we had some people
who pretended like they were
just U2 fans going to the show
who were not in, on it.
Who all of a sudden ran down to this
block to sort-of see to the crowd.
Charlie told everyone
that wanted to participate
to show up in the steps
of the library.
So when I arrived, there's already
about 75 eager participants
who were fans of I.E. this was, most
of their first time doing a prank.
Tell everybody to go now.
I'm-I'm worried it's gonna start
raining so let's start it.
I remember looking at the band and
they all seemed kind of nervous.
I was very nervous.
Were we gonna get in trouble?
Where they gonna be able
to hear us?
How loud is it really gonna be?
You know, I didn't know!
All right, some start.
Thank you guys for helping,
this is gonna be great.
Are you guys ready
to hear one band U2?
Who are the biggest
band in the world? U2!
It was chaotic and I don't think
I really thought about this
but what was so cool was seeing
all of the neighbors show up.
The sound system was
cranked up and distorting,
which actually I think people
thought, that is helping.
It just sounded like
loud rock music from a roof.
And certainly, from a distance,
recognizably U2 music as well.
From a distance, it was U2.
A very out of key, U2.
Or at least vocally.
I don't care if we were
convincing or unconvincing
but that moment
had a lot of power to it.
They finished their...
fourth song and...
the crowd demanded an encore.
One more song!
It was a little bit of a
because they didn't have
one more song.
They only learned four songs.
So we went back to the beginning
and started doing uh...
the first song over again,
which is a bad idea
because the police got there
before we were done.
My phone rang and Justin Lang who
was playing harsh security guard
let me know that the police were
trying to get up on the roof.
The cops all of a sudden
came up the fire escape.
And I think
there was three of them.
I didn't notice the
cops coming up on the roof,
until they were pretty much like, on top
of us giving us the "kill it" sign.
They were like, your parents
catching you doing something
they told you not to do.
Let them play!
The people on the street could see
that the cops were out there.
Fake Bono had his mic cut but
he still had the megaphone.
So he went and got the megaphone
and he's continued to sing.
God bless the police
of this fine city.
Good night.
He starts inciting them,
and I'm thinking like,
"Ptolemy, all right, that's really
awesome that you're doing that,
but there's like,
three cops up here like,
let's try to be smart
about this. "
They approach Ptolemy
and ask for his I.D.
and Ptolemy, with a
straight face said to them
"I don't need an I.D.,
people know who I am. "
Which was a stupid thing
to say.
Are you gonna shoot your
mouth off all night?
I don't think
I'm shooting my mouth off.
There was absolutely no tearing
him out of that character.
He was Bono,
he was the rock-and-roll
King of the World,
and getting arrested
was just the best thing
that could've happened to him
on that day.
This is what art is about.
I did enjoy, though,
being arrested.
And they were people watching
from these windows
in all the other buildings,
and they were yelling
at the police.
I remember just doing like
this peace symbol.
It's one of the most
pretentious I've ever done,
is being arrested by police
and trying to placate
the people
that are yelling at the police
while being arrested as
impersonating someone else.
They took us downstairs
to the hallway
right in front
of the front door.
I knew that they'd were some
people out there.
I just wanted that door to open
and I wanted people
on the street
to see U2 in handcuffs.
We can hear the police outside
trying to convince people
that it was a prank.
Nothing to see here, people.
If you think that's U2,
you've been fooled.
We all received a summons.
The eight of us had to appear
in mid-town community court.
Uh... the charges,
unreasonable noise.
Um... so we weren't arrested,
we just got a summons.
Like getting a ticket, so...
We might have to pay $10-20
fine or something like that,
it's what the cops said.
They were very nice.
Kris Kula edited together
a little video of it.
And I put that on the
server space that I had
and the video
actually got pretty popular,
pretty quickly.
And I remember like,
my website was crashing.
Someone, not me, uploaded it
to ifilm. com,
which was a very early
online video site.
I remember about a month later,
I was googling U2 prank
and this page
on IFILM came up
and they had our video there.
And I saw that it'd been
viewed over 40,000 times.
It was definitely
one of the first pranks
that sort of put us on the map.
I was-started to see
more traffic to my website.
And I remember like,
just getting tons of emails
from people saying "I love
Improv Everywhere,
can I start
Improv Everywhere: Chicago?"
"Can I start
Improv Everywhere: Denver?"
I started seeing the potential
for Improv Everywhere
to have a global audience.
And some of that potential
was reached in January 2006,
when the no-pants subway ride
became a national news story.
Thanks to the police.
This mission is for people
who are working their...
those who are taking
their pants off, okay?
Please, if you're going to
get on this train with us,
unless you've already talked
to me and you're a cameraman
who I've hired
or from a newspaper,
please take your pants off.
They were a 150 participants.
I divided them up accordingly
uh, into five groups um,
along the ten cars.
And... the mission
was working great.
I forgot my pants
this morning when I got up.
It's like, it's been so cold.
Anybody need pants?
I got pants for sale
down this end of the train.
I got mostly jeans.
By the time we got
to 53rd street,
people were starting
to put their pants back on.
It was really almost over.
We reached 59th Street...
The train just stopped.
So I remember getting up
and looking down the platform
and seeing that there was
a couple of cops out there.
Train is out of service.
Train will be out of service.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
The people that hadn't
put their pants on yet,
from my group, I told them to
just yeah, put your pants on.
Do you have any left?
I'm all out of pants.
I'm looking for a pair
to trade for.
Does anybody want to trade?
I got a pair of eight's.
What's that?
Sir, get off the train.
Ma'am, get off the train.
What are you guys doing?
What are you doing?
Miss, I'm not done talking to you.
Step over there.
Nobody knew what was happening.
It was kinda tense
at the moment.
Move back.
Let's go, clear the area.
There's a 150 of us,
probably another
200 normal people
just riding the train.
You've got 400 or so people
waiting on a platform.
People were
coming up to me, like
"Do you know
what's going on?"
I said "No. " "Well, they,
they've arrested eight people. "
But the amazing thing was,
this is the first year
that journalist found out
about the no-pants
subway ride.
When the handcuffs
started going on,
the people in the underwear,
it was nice that all the major
New York City newspapers
and all of the news wires
had a camera there,
and were taking pictures
of this event.
All of this journalists
had this amazing photograph.
I had so many
conflicting emotions
going through my head
'cause at one point
I'm like, "There's my good
friend in handcuffs,"
"and it's my fault.
This is terrible!"
Let's go!
Nothing to see here, now.
I happened to be reading
this like, supremely nerdy
history book at the time,
about World War I.
Does anyone read a book
about World War I?
I don't know, but I was
doing it at the time.
I stood there and waited
and eventually they start
taking us around one at a time
and handcuffing
and sending us upstairs
to a paddy wagon.
I felt really guilty
that it wasn't me.
But the whole time,
I was very confident
that nothing was
gonna happen to anyone.
Ultimately, the judge
basically laughed
and said "This is ridiculous,
and you're gone. "
Didn't even make us
pay any fine, nothing.
It was just...
this is dismissed.
I felt very happy
later that night
when I found out
that everybody was okay.
The very next day,
as those photographs
started appearing, it became
this viral story.
People in New York City
were being arrested
in their underwear.
Dozens of members of a
comedy troupe called
Improv Everywhere
took part in this...
What happened with those eight people
that got, uh... rung up by the police?
If I could only see those
guys without their pants!
That news story gave
tremendous coverage
to Improv Everywhere
and tremendous coverage
of the no-pants subway ride.
This roving band of
undercover agents,
a cross between
thespians and hooligans
has gained notoriety
for their their stunts.
Since all of this uh,
media attention,
my list has gotten bigger.
I've got about 1500 people
- on my New York City mailing
list right now. - Wow!
The net result of this
no-pants subway ride arrest
ended up being a big gain.
At this point,
I've done about
forty different projects
and had videotaped
almost all of them.
I had all of this video footage
that no one had ever seen.
And then, in April of 2006,
I joined YouTube.
All of a sudden,
I had this opportunity
to share these videos
with the world.
And I think I was at a
little bit of an advantage
when YouTube started
because I had
all of this old content
that I could start
putting out right away.
Just go up the escalator,
I've gotta leave
because I'm wearing
the same clothes
you're wearing?
Yes, we'd like you to leave.
For whatever reason,
my videos on YouTube
were sort of starting
to get featured and take off.
All of a sudden,
this website SlashDot
is linking to me
and it's breaking my server
and, you know, I'm getting
so much traffic that,
you know, my website goes down.
Four different
literary agents contacted me
saying that I should
write a book
about Improv Everywhere.
And Television producers
started contacting me as well.
I saw a piece on NBC,
I believe it was, about uh...
no pants on the subway.
I saw the video.
Um, I then went to
the Improv Everywhere site
and saw the history of videos.
And then I reached out
directly to Charlie Todd.
Jason seemed very confident
that he could sell a show
at NBC or MTV.
It was the time when YouTube was blowing
up and it was like the gold rush.
Everybody was grabbing
what they could off of YouTube
and really trying to,
you know, this is it.
This is gonna be
the next thing.
I flew out to L.A. and the NBC
meeting was the first one.
We pitched them the show
and we planned to shoot
four pranks
for the pilot episode.
It went pretty well
and I remember we were
in the elevator
and my agent like, you know,
stuck his arm out
to keep the door open,
got in the elevator
and when the doors closed,
he said, "I think
they're gonna buy it. "
Everything I'd done
since graduating college,
that I was proud of,
had been Improv Everywhere.
It was just kind of
an amazing bit of news
to find out that NBC
wanted to make this.
My name is Charlie Todd,
and over six years ago,
I started a website
called Improv Everywhere.
I work out of my apartment
in New York City,
and coordinate large scale
public pranks
through my website
by recruiting normal,
everyday people
from all walks of life.
Now, I can organize
large groups of people
to do hilarious things,
anywhere at any time.
It was very different working
for a television network.
I was given creative control
over the pranks themselves,
but the larger choices
about the structure of the show
and how each prank
would be introduced,
those were really not
in my control.
So the premise here,
is that you guys
got a random person
in this bar.
The goal of what
we're doing tonight is
to give Ted
an awesome birthday party.
That being said,
it was pretty awesome
to get to work with
real equipment.
They constructed fake walls
that had two way mirrors
embedded in them.
We had robot hidden cameras
in every corner of this bar.
It was an immense leap
forward for us.
Imagine having a front-row
seat to a brand-new musical.
Only, you're not in a theatre.
You're eating lunch in a
shopping mall food court.
We had hidden cameras
positioned all around
this mall.
All the actors were wearing
hidden microphones,
and we were able to use
the mall's P.A. system
to play the song.
We're gonna turn
this little league game,
played by ten year olds,
into a major league game.
We had this huge mob of fans
show up to the game.
Then we had mascots show up,
then we'd have a JumboTron
appear on the outfield wall,
and then, the real icing
on the cake of this prank
was that the Good Year blimp
was gonna show up.
It was really awesome to see
it actually get pulled off
on such a grand scale.
This was really
the best example
of me being able
to use an actual budget
and do something
that I could not do
by myself.
The fourth idea
that I came up with
was to recreate something
we had done
called Romantic Comedy Cab.
When NBC decided that
they didn't like
one of the missions
we were going to do, we basically
had ten days to figure it out.
Right there, on the spot,
I just came up with the idea
of, well, what if we had
a couple of hundred people,
freeze in place somewhere
and call it Frozen New York.
And Jason said, "That
sounds great, let's do it!"
It's a busy afternoon
in New York's famous
Grand Central Station,
welcome to Frozen New York.
Grand Central's a great place
because you have tourists
who are taking photos,
and you also have New Yorkers
who are using this place
to commute, so it's a great
mix of people.
We met at Bryant Park,
two hundred people showed up.
Some of them were
personal friends of mine,
some of them were long time
Improv Everywhere participants.
It really worked
like a normal
Improv Everywhere prank.
Everybody was told to trickle
in at exactly 2:10.
We would all freeze in place.
It was just really cool to see.
There was 150 of us,
we were about half the crowd.
There was a big, beautiful
thing happening
in the middle of Grand Central.
I think one couple
was frozen in a kiss.
I don't care how much
you like somebody, I mean,
to be frozen in a kiss
for five minutes
in which you're not allowed
to move,
that could be difficult.
I witnessed
Frozen Grand Central
really, like, anyone else
in the space did.
How long has this
been happening?
I don't know.
I think it's some kind
of protest.
- It's like, everybody.
- Yeah.
After five minutes, every one
simultaneously unfroze.
When that many people
in a location unfreeze,
it's like the world just
coming back to life again.
And people applauded.
When we wrapped the project,
I just remembered feeling
great about it, like, wow!
You know, that was
so successful.
It was so cool,
I can't wait
to see the footage,
I feel really good about this.
I got an email from Ben Folds.
And I was terrified
when I saw
his name on my inbox.
It was a little over
five years after
I played the prank,
but every time
I ever get interviewed,
I talk about how
I impersonated him.
It wouldn't be wrong of him
to be kind of pissed off
that I pretended to be him
in a bar one night.
I open up the email,
and as it turned out,
he liked the idea.
So a lot of people
were telling me that some guy
had posed as me in a bar, uh,
to pick up girls,
which is the funny part.
I pitched to him the idea of,
what if I came out
with two of my friends
and started the show
by pretending to play
your piano
while one of your songs
played on a CD.
So we got to
the Harriston Ballroom,
for the sound check,
I remember he was just
very friendly
and really excited
about playing this prank.
He was excited about
the whole thing.
Charlie was Ben Folds,
and I was the drummer,
and Flin Berryson
was the bassist.
That was just amazing,
that they wanted
some kind of cool prank
like this to happen.
He taught me how
to impersonate him.
He kind of leans forward
in a bizarre way
and stands up
a lot of the time.
Ben came up with the idea
of what if the CD
that I was pretending
to play along to
started skipping?
And then, that would
make the crowd think
that Ben Folds had been
caught lip syncing.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ben Folds!
The moment that the three of us
walked out on stage,
it was an experience
like nothing
I've ever experienced
in my life.
Just to hear that eruption,
as we walked out on stage,
and also know that we were
about to prank them,
like, it was just, like,
the greatest feeling.
You guys are fucked.
Kind of the attitude
in the crowd was like,
Ben Folds just got busted!
I can't believe this,
he's a phony!
Except for the people
right in the front row
who were like,
five feet from Charlie,
everyone bought it.
I was just back there going,
"Oh, God!
This is so uncomfortable. "
And at that point,
it was really kind of chaos,
and the real Ben Folds
came out.
You really felt
all of a sudden,
that he had hit this
different kind of level
where people were
looking for it,
it wasn't just like we were,
you know, doing it
to have fun and doing whatever.
Now, it became: other people
are seeking this out.
Starting this whole project,
pretending to be Ben Folds
in a bar,
and five years later,
to portray Ben Folds
in cahoots with Ben Folds
it felt like, "This has been
our curtain call. "
And... we're not gonna do it
anymore because
NBC just bought this pilot
and now you know,
Improv Everywhere Phase One
is over.
It started and ended
with Ben Folds.
And then we sold this TV show
and now we're gonna
be TV stars and that'll
be the end of it.
And that's kind of
really how it felt.
This act begins with a-
kind of a simple question,
and that is,
can you actually mess
with somebody's
sense of reality
as a force for good?
"This American Life"
debuted on Showtime
and Improv Everywhere
was one of the major stories
in this first episode
of the show.
They focused in on the
Best Gig Ever prank
that had happened with
the band way back in 2004.
The story of Improv Everywhere
had been like, "Oh, this is a nice,
fun thing that you're doing. "
And "This American Life,"
sort of found two people
who thought otherwise,
and devoted a large portion
of their program
to talking to them
and not really giving me
a chance to respond.
It's the worse thing
I could possibly think of
ever happening to me
in my life.
'Cause I've been avoiding
confrontation my whole life
so I wouldn't get made fun of.
I was portrayed as
somewhat of a villain,
and as a consequence got
quite a bit of hate mail,
a lot of nasty comments
on the website.
It was certainly the first time
where I had to read things
on the internet
about people who did not
like what I did.
I was really
entrenched in teaching,
and I definitely didn't want
to screw that up,
and once you could see
these things on the internet,
and everybody could see it,
I didn't want that to be a
part of who I was publicly.
So I got married
and we have our first kid...
I felt like I had to
be responsible.
Ken moved to Syracuse.
You know, he was a very,
very close friend
and it was, um, tough to
see him leave the city.
I started seeing news
on the internet
about shows that had
been picked up.
You know, you go on
a couple of dates with a girl
and then she doesn't
call you back for a week,
you know, like, okay,
I guess this is over, so...
I sort of knew that
this was probably
not gonna be happening.
It was definitely a time
for some reflection,
a little bit of soul searching,
I didn't really know
exactly, you know,
where I was gonna
take things next.
I continued posting
old videos to YouTube
and that Spring
I posted the video
from the first
No-Pants Subway Ride.
Within a week, somebody left
a comment on my website.
A friend of a friend, emailed
me and was like,
is the girl on the video
on this website you?
I wrote her, and she wrote
back and said, "It's me!
You know, for years
I've wondered what that was. "
It was really exciting to
figure out what had happened
because when you live
in New York
and you go other places,
they always assume
you have some wacky story.
That's my go-to
funny New York story
to tell at cocktail parties
and such.
I was just so excited
to hear that.
That's exactly what we wanted.
I mean, I'd hoped that
she would've had
a positive experience
and had told that story
over and over and over again.
And it was just so cool
that five years went by
with me not knowing
who that random girl was
and her not knowing exactly
what had happened
or why it had happened,
and it all just came together.
And I love the fact that YouTube was
able to make all this possible.
I realized that I had
an opportunity to
continue doing
what I wanted to do
without anybody else's
People are subscribing
to my channel,
the views are growing,
it seems to be bringing
good things my way.
I think I'm gonna
keep doing it.
Right around that time, I moved
in with my girlfriend, Cody.
We met at the UCB Theatre uh, she
was a comedian there as well.
I don't have health insurance,
so they told me to come here
for vagina advice.
We were together
for almost three years
before we moved in together.
The longer we were together,
the more he would talk to me
about ideas and things.
She's started collaborating,
more hands-on with all of the
Improv Everywhere projects.
Now this is seeing
whatever I'm seeing.
I think that first mission
back was a little bit tough.
I had just gone from doing
these big budget productions
and now, we're back to two guys
with handheld cameras,
no microphones.
It's not illegal to
take your shirt off
in New York City in public.
It may be against
their store's policy.
It's not posted anywhere.
We'll find that out.
A stranger emailed me and said
"There's a shirtless male model
who stands in front of
Abercrombie & Fitch everyday.
You should get as many guys as possible
show up shirtless to Abercrombie. "
Abercrombie definitely invites it
on themselves a little bit, uh,
their entire product
is based on good-looking
shirtless men.
I was really happy with how
that project turned out.
It was a ton of fun.
It was exciting.
It was edgy again,
we got kicked out.
And then it did really well
I mean, the photographs
of everybody
with their shirts off.
I remember being very happy
about that.
I'm thinking like, "Okay, I don't
have the pilot but I still go it. "
Someone who worked at YouTube
decided to feature
one of our videos.
I believe that that was the
first Improv Everywhere video
to get a million views.
Well, welcome everybody who's
here for the first time.
Obviously, this is no longer
a top secret...
covert, underground thing
that me and six of my
college friends are doing.
The snowball effect
of YouTube...
It was a tiny,
little snowball then,
but grew just a little bit
with that video.
I realized that
being on that front page
was huge real estate.
Things were going well,
but one of my big concerns
about the pilot not happening
was the fact that
no one would see it.
I sort of plead my case.
And I said "it's really
breaking my heart
that nobody is ever
gonna see this thing. "
And I know you guys are never
gonna do anything with it.
It's just gonna collect dust
on a shelf.
And the people from NBC said,
which surprised me.
I uploaded it on
a Thursday night,
and that Friday afternoon,
I got on a plane
and I flew to some college
to do an Upright Citizens
Brigade Tour Company Show.
Hey this...
Hey this is Charlie Todd
with the UCB Theatre
Touring Company.
We're here in Columbus, Ohio
at Ohio State University.
That spells Ohio!
It was so stupid in retrospect.
I put up this amazing video
and then just left town,
and I wasn't manning the
control center to monitor it.
Oh, I've been caught!
Maybe you should just
take your clothes off.
I think we're gonna fit in
at this party.
Just get naked, everybody...
I'm already gonna get laid.
We did the show and we went
to the business center
at this Holiday Inn.
I didn't have a laptop,
and I went to YouTube
to find it,
and the video was on
the front page of YouTube.
And we were on that front page
from Friday night
to almost Monday morning.
During this time period,
social media was really
starting to become
this huge thing
and people were sharing it
all over Facebook,
they were sharing it
all over Twitter.
It hit the ground running
and it went viral,
to the very definition
of going viral.
I didn't tell anybody
that it was a year old,
'cause I know like,
on the internet,
people like to talk about
what's brand new.
Usually I would say like,
"Last Saturday, we did this
new prank, check it out. "
For Frozen Grand Central,
I said
"On a cold Saturday
in New York City... "
Because everybody thought
that it was brand new,
there was-
it became news worthy.
On a cold Saturday,
the world's largest
train station
came to a sudden halt.
And what's going on here,
freeze frame!
200 people suddenly freeze.
They stay there for
a matter of minutes.
Very strange, you might think.
The weirdest thing was
"The Today Show," emailing me
and saying "we love this video, can
we show it on 'The Today Show?'"
And what brought you to-
to stage, I mean,
this started many years ago
and-and-and you kind of
started your own movement here.
I-I-I guess so, yeah.
I remember just
loving that irony,
that this is something
that I had made for NBC
with NBC's money
and they had said "no,"
and to have them contact me
and say
"we want you to come
on our show
and talk about
this great video of yours"
It was, you know,
it was really exciting
and it felt really great.
The mainstream media
covering it
just gave more exposure
to the video,
and got the video
more and more views.
But then,
something strange happened
where it kept going
and it kept reaching
different audiences.
Charlie, you're a big hit
on the internet.
When you're going to get
your own TV show?
This video was going viral
in a completely global way.
Um... it was causing people
to go out
and imitate the video
all around the world.
Within the first three months,
it was copied in
over a 100 cities,
in over a dozen countries.
I remember freaking out
a little bit, like
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
I'm the guy with
the great video,
and somebody just copied it
and now that video
is gonna get
all this exposure. "
I made a decision that
I would be okay with it.
If people liked this idea,
and they're inspired enough
by this idea to
organize their own,
then great, go for it.
It sure would be nice
if you could mention
Improv Everywhere when you
put your video online,
and maybe about
half of them did.
That momentum in
the Spring of 2008
took us to an entirely
different level.
Because of this viral success
on YouTube,
I was invited to join
a YouTube partner program,
and what that meant was that
YouTube would put advertising
next to our videos and share
the revenues for us.
So now,
for the first time ever,
it's possible for me
to actually make a little bit
of money
on the videos on YouTube.
Mp3. Hi Guys.
The creative team at Yahoo
approached me.
They were interested in doing
something with Improv Everywhere.
And I pitched them
our Mp3 Experiment.
The best thing about the
Yahoo sponsorship was,
we would actually have capital
to make our ideas a reality.
As long as they weren't
telling me that I had to
do this or I had to do that
or I had to
have their product in it,
I was okay.
I was able to do things
I'd never done,
like rent helicopters
and film the thing
from the sky.
We were able to bring it
to four cities that year.
This opened up the door to-
to the world, essentially.
And then I started
getting invitations.
Would you like to come to
my conference in Manchester?
Would you like to come to
my festival in Germany,
and get people to
freeze in place?
I knew that there was
a certain danger
in me becoming "the Freeze Man"
but I kind of realized,
well, you know what,
maybe I should be
the "Freeze Man"
for a little bit
because the "Freeze Man"
gets to go to Europe for free
and go to festivals.
I would always tell
whatever festival
that we need to bring
at least two of us,
and I would always bring Cody.
Sometimes I was a producer
or photographer,
or videogra-
I don't know what I was doing,
I was just basically looking
for an excuse for him
to bring his girlfriend.
We've been to England,
France, Spain, Australia.
You really do learn a lot
about somebody when
you're stuck in a hotel room
with them for a week.
It was really exciting
to see the world,
and spread the ideas
of Improv Everywhere,
and organize local versions
of our projects.
Basically the idea is
we're going to be creating
two very long lines
behind two strangers
who are not gonna be aware
that they're-
each have, ah,
they won't be aware
that they each have
a hundred people behind them.
By the end of 2008,
I was doing enough touring
and I was doing
enough speaking,
I think I figured out a way
where it can actually
be my job.
So the Grand Central video
had been so popular,
I remember just being
so excited that I knew I had
two more hits under my belt.
I released Food Court Musical
about a month
after Frozen Grand Central,
and it went viral.
And then about
a month after that,
I put out The Best Game Ever.
I remember thinking, like,
"Okay, I just had these
three huge hits.
What am I gonna do next,"
you know?
It was a double edge sword
because the pilot
was shot and produced
by a professional
production company
with a giant budget behind it.
Now, a new Improv Everywhere
video comes out,
and if this video is shot
on crappy DV cameras
with shaky footage,
people are gonna wonder
"What the heck is going on?"
The first video we put out
was this project
called "The Camera
Flash Experiment. "
It was a grand idea,
I would get 700 people
to line the length
of the Brooklyn Bridge,
and they would all take a
camera flash in succession
to create this wave of light
across the bridge.
It ended up being this rainy,
cold, horrible night.
The video was not that great
and I remember being like,
"Our fan base was going to
be expecting
Frozen Grand Central Food Court Musical
Best Game Ever every time now. "
I go to prove that
I can make videos
of a similar quality,
just with my friends.
Quiet on set!
- Okay, everything good?
- Good.
All right, thanks for
coming out, everybody.
Today's mission is called
"Surprise Wedding Reception. "
We're going to throw a
surprise wedding reception
for a random couple
who's getting married
by city hall across the street.
In early 2009, HD cameras
were all of a sudden
becoming more affordable,
so, some of the people
that were on our crew
had HD cameras,
and we started to release
our videos in HD.
That was an exciting
transition where it's like
our videos really look
like television.
That fall, I had guy
email me and say
"We have 2,000
invisible dog leashes here.
Would you be interested
in doing a prank with them?"
I just sent out one email
to our mailing list.
No explanation of what
was gonna happen.
I guess I thought
maybe a thousand people
would show up,
and two thousand people
showed up.
So we have about
two thousand of these.
I was like, the first time
I realized like,
"Wow! I can't do things
in small spaces anymore. "
It became this cycle
where the real world interest
would drive YouTube views
and vice-versa.
That was really exciting.
It seems like
everything I put out
is gonna get, you know,
in the millions of views.
There guy! There guy!
Here you go!
Keep it going!
We did a prank called
"High Five Escalator. "
I saw people in other cities
set up the same thing
on escalators.
It's cool, just seeing
complete strangers
you don't know, and a city
you've never been to,
doing a project of yours,
you know.
It's really cool to see.
And then somebody
sends me a link,
and it's like the Chicago Bears
did it in Chicago with a
professional football player,
and it's advertising
buying season tickets.
Okay, well that's not cool.
I just think it takes away
from the project
if there's some sort
of message.
Ultimately, there's not much
I can do about it.
We were not the first people
to do a public prank,
we don't have a copyright
on public pranks.
I think that's why
it's so important to me,
for us to constantly
be trying new things
and pushing ourselves
in new directions.
And new opportunities are
presented to me all the time.
People are now understanding
the value of a viral video
being set on their property.
The fact that they let us
dress up like "Ghost Busters"
and have this ridiculous,
disruptive chase through
their main reading room,
was really cool.
We released that video
on YouTube,
it just immediately
went insane.
He's become really shrewd
at the internet side of it,
getting the most people
seeing what's going on
and excited about it.
YouTube opened up,
and what he does now
just wouldn't ever have
happened without YouTube.
Bryant Park Corporation said,
"Hey! We really like what you
guys are doing,
we want you
to do something here. "
And I pitched them
doing a project
where we had
the worst possible ice skater
stranded in the middle
of the rink,
and then he would
do an amazing routine.
The Guggenheim approached us,
and we did projects with them.
Mommy loves you!
You have a cute umbrella!
I really like it!
We're from Dallas, Texas,
and we love New York!
It makes life easier
to have permission
but, at the same time,
I'm the kind of person
that gets excited
about being somewhere
he's not supposed to be.
In 2010, the Metropolitan
Museum of Art
had just restored
this Velazquez painting
of King Phillip IV of Spain.
And it just so happened
that there was a guy
on my mailing list who bore
a striking resemblance
to the King.
So we decided to dress him up
like the painting,
show up here at the Met,
and address his subjects.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen,
we're gonna be having
an autograph signing with
King Phillip IV of Spain.
Excuse me, sir, do you have
any permission to do this?
I don't think we can just allow
to bring people in like that.
- Oh, I see.
- You can come with me?
It's just the King wanted
to stand in front
of his painting.
He's very excited that
it's recently been restored.
- Yeah.
- Okay, that's fine.
Thank you.
So normally, when someone
asked us to leave
during a prank, we just leave.
But, in this situation,
we hadn't gotten
all we needed for the video.
Maybe we should-
maybe just stand.
I won't do anything
but just-
let's take some photos
of just him.
You guys from around here?
Excuse me sir,
I asked you before to leave.
Yes, I'm sorry.
We haven't gone back,
I stopped.
I didn't know it was not okay
for him to stand here.
We'll leave.
Please come with me.
No, we'll leave, sir.
We weren't doing anything.
I was just standing
right there.
So, thank you everybody.
The guy's just doing his job.
His job is to be
a security guard at the Met,
you know, and I'm just
doing my job.
My job is to make a funny video
without permission in the Met.
It was a fun clash,
and sort of hilarious
that we're both adults.
I mean, he was
much older than me,
but-but I'm an adult now.
You know,
I'm not a kid anymore.
We just want to say thank you
all so much for being here.
We're so, we're so excited
that so many of you
are here and have come
from so many far places.
Cody and I got married
in October of 2011.
I mean, I'm biased,
but I think it was
the best wedding ever.
To quote Shakespeare,
"Congratulations Charlie
and Cody. "
It had sincerity, and it also
had you know, humor.
Um, and it had been
a nice ceremony,
but I think they were people
who were like,
"Is this really it?"
I, Cody, promise to be
your partner in life.
I'll always treat your family
as my own.
And I will love you
until the day you die.
The officiant Brent Stancil said, "If
anyone has any objections, speak now...
...or forever hold your peace.
I got a problem with it!
Oh, no!
It's Cody's ex-boyfriend!
Former professional wrestler,
What is he doing here?
Craig, this guy did not
RSVP to this wedding!
I ain't going nowhere, baby.
- Oh my God.
- Oh! Oh, no!
This was a union
between Cody and Charlie,
it's now a union
of knuckles hitting faces.
if you're marrying the guy
from Improv Everywhere,
you better have
a sense of humor.
Of course there was a wrestler
at our wedding ceremony!
Charlie's got a chair!
All right.
Get out of here!
Get out!
I staged the prank with my
Dad, Anthony, Ken, Kula...
and Cody was really exciting.
Sorry about that.
There are no more objections?
Part of me feels like
he does it
because he can't not do it.
People forget about
what it's like to play.
And this is playing,
and it's playing for adults.
There's something about
an audience questioning
exactly what is going on,
and not being able
to put a finger on it.
When we get off the boat,
Mommy and Daddy
are gonna listen to music,
and the music is gonna
tell us what to do.
Charlie's created something
that is just an idea
that people can
bring themselves to.
As of this morning,
there are, like,
close to 3800 yeses
on Facebook.
Welcome to the
Mp3 Experiment Nine.
My name is Steve,
and I'll be your
omnipotent voice today.
It inspires people
to do creative things,
and it helps people
believe anything can happen.
That's what Improv Everywhere
is really about.
Well, there is something sort
of uplifting about life.
We can all come together
and work on something,
and there's no "cool kids" or
"losers" or "nerds" or "geeks,"
it's just all types of people.
It doesn't matter.
Squirt squirt squirt squirt
squirt squirt squirt!
I remember the first
Mp3 Experiment,
and it was just like, uh,
you know,
everybody just walked out
of the theatre
and went to the bar.
But this one,
thousands of people,
and I'm really proud
of Charlie,
and I'm really proud
of everything
that it's become.
- We came from Russia.
- You came from Russia?
- All three of us, woo! So excited.
- Really?
Comedy doesn't translate
internationally very well,
and yet Improv Everywhere
has clearly worked
on an international level
that's amazing.
You can just say,
"I am wearing my pants. "
"What's wrong with you?"
Welcome everybody to the 12th
annual No Pants Subway Ride!
I started this project
when I was 22,
and I wonder sometimes,
when I'm 52,
am I still gonna be the guy
that gets people
to take their pants off
on the subway?
You know, maybe...
You know, I-I think
I'd be okay with that.