Yes, I participated in the New York City one with my significant other, though we jumped in late. We auditioned for the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers (she made it, I didn’t, and much for the better). We both decided to audition knowing we wouldn’t make the Improv Everywhere event, but ended up lucking out. When we arrived at the 42nd Street/Times Square station to catch the 7 train home, we came across the parade of pantsless individuals braving the subways to the confused gaze and utter enjoyment of everyone else around us. In one of the transfer corridors, my girlfriend and I partially disrobed and joined in on the fun:

I’m not prominently in the video, but if you really wanted to put your face right in front of the screen, you can probably pick me out in the large crowd standing in Union Square. Good luck with that. I, for one, value my eyesight … more than being warm and properly dressed, apparently.

Next stop: Unfortunate Criticism Junction

After returning home a bit later than originally expected, I did come across some negative comments regarding the No Pants Subway Ride. Improv Everywhere prides itself on its “victimless pranks” mantra, opting instead to bring a little bit of chaos, Project Mayhem-style, into New Yorkers’ lives but in such a way that makes you smile rather than feel like the ass-end of a joke.

Those who weren’t as amused by the prank took their stances based on a few things. First, it was a stupid prank. Albeit, a stupid, worldwide prank (though, it’s likely that not every city that participated had as many as at least 3,000 Improv Everywhere agents in NYC). No one wants to go around seeing other people’s asses for a long, awkward commute. Second, the participants could be somewhat dickish because of the requirement that you can’t tell people that you’re participating in an Improv Everywhere prank. The standard responses are supposed to be, “I was feeling uncomfortable” or “It was kinda warm” or whatever. And, by the time there are hundreds of people in sight without pants on, everyone will have already figured out something was way out of the ordinary.

The logical question is, would it hurt to just let people in on the joke? Improv Everywhere would probably be breaking its victimless pranks mantra if people felt like they were being talked down to or patronized.

The last question is one to consider for the subsequent No Pants Subway Rides. Perhaps such a response would have been funnier years ago, when the tradition was just starting and there weren’t so many people doing it. However, when it becomes such a prominent event, Improv Everywhere might even be doing itself a disservice in not telling the bystanders that they’re pranking the whole city—and should probably invite them to join in. In this way, the participants come off as much more in the spirit of just having fun rather than feeling like the superior one without pants on.

But perhaps this level of mischievousness is still necessary, regardless of the fame and popularity of the event. In the end, still no one is hurt by the prank and everyone (or mostly everyone) goes home happy for being part of “one of those days” they can tell their friends, family, and coworkers about. After all, the Improv Everywhere agents have to balance out their awesome acts of charity somehow. Why not with a little bit of January devilry?

-jl

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