Improv Everywhere

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Improv Everywhere
Founded New York, 2001
Founder Charlie Todd
Type Organization
Focus Comedic performance art group
Area served
US and worldwide
Method Various missions and events organized locally and globally
Slogan "We Cause Scenes"

Improv Everywhere (often abbreviated IE) is a comedic performance art group based in New York City, formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd. Its slogan is "We Cause Scenes".

The group carries out pranks, which they call "missions", in public places. The stated goal of these missions is to cause scenes of "chaos and joy." Some of the group's missions use hundreds or even thousands of performers and are similar to flash mobs, while other missions utilize only a handful of performers. Improv Everywhere has stated that they do not identify their work with the term flash mob, in part because the group was created two years prior to the flash mob trend, and the group has an apolitical nature.[1]

While Improv Everywhere was created years before YouTube, the group has grown in notoriety since joining the site in April 2006. To date, Improv Everywhere's videos have been viewed over 375 million times on YouTube.[2] They have over 1.7 million YouTube subscribers.[2] In 2007, the group shot a television pilot for NBC.[3] In May 2009, Harper Collins released a book about Improv Everywhere, Causing a Scene[4] The book, written by founder Charlie Todd and senior agent Alex Scordelis, is a behind-the-scenes look at some of the group's stunts. In 2013, a feature-length documentary about Improv Everywhere premiered at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The film, titled We Cause Scenes, was released digitally on iTunes, Netflix and other platforms in 2014.[5]


Charlie Todd

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,[6] Todd started the group in August 2001 after playing a prank in a Manhattan bar with some friends that involved him pretending to be musician Ben Folds.[7] Later that year Todd started taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City where he first met most of the "Senior Agents" of Improv Everywhere. The owners of the theatre, The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), had a television series from 1998–2000 on Comedy Central. While primarily a sketch comedy show, the UCB often filmed their characters in public places with hidden cameras and showed the footage under the end credits. Both the UCB's show and their teachings on improv have been influential to Improv Everywhere.[1] Todd currently performs on a house team at the UCBT in New York, where he also taught for many years.[8]

Missions / Events[edit]

All the missions share a certain modus operandi: Members ("agents") play their roles entirely straight, not breaking character or betraying that they are acting. IE claims the missions are benevolent, aiming to give the observers a laugh and a positive experience.[9]

Frozen Grand Central[edit]

Improv Everywhere's most popular YouTube video is "Frozen Grand Central", which has received over 33 million views.[10] The two-minute video depicts 200 IE Agents freezing in place simultaneously for five minutes in New York's Grand Central Terminal. The video was listed as number 49 in Urlesque's 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos.[11] Martin Bashir declared on Nightline that the video was "one of the funniest moments ever captured on tape."[12] According to Charlie Todd, the prank has been recreated by fans in 100 cities around the world.[13]

Fake U2 Concert[edit]

On 21 May 2005 IE staged a fake U2 street concert on a rooftop in New York hours before the real U2 were scheduled to perform at Madison Square Garden.[14] A crowd formed, most of which thought that the people on the rooftop were actually U2. However, just like at the filming of the band's Where the Streets Have No Name video in 1987, the police eventually shut the performance down, but not before IE was able to exhaust their four-song repertoire and get most of the way through an encore repeat of "Vertigo". The crowd, even those who had realized that this was a prank, shouted "one more song!", and then "let them play!" when the police officers arrived. This mission was number 23 on the VH1 countdown of the "40 Greatest Pranks."[15]

Further reading[edit]

  • Charlie Todd and Alex Scordelis, Causing a Scene, Harper Collins, 2009


  1. ^ a b "FAQ". Improv Everywhere. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  2. ^ a b Improv Everywhere's channel on YouTube
  3. ^ "NBC Pickups". Variety (New York: Reed Elseiver). 29 January 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "Causing scenes at". Retrieved July 27, 2009. 
  5. ^ "We Cause Scenes". 
  6. ^ "Charlie Todd". Improv Everywhere. 
  7. ^ Gallagher, Brian Thomas (June 12, 2008). "Prank You Kindly". New York Magazine (New York: New York Media, LLC). Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  8. ^ "Charlie Todd". Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  9. ^ Hockamn, David (February 27, 2005). "When Chekhov Meets Whoopee Cushion". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  10. ^ Frozen Grand Central on YouTube
  11. ^ Glazer, Eliot (August 24, 2009). "The 100 Most Iconic Internet Videos". urlesque. AOL, Inc. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "Improv Everywhere on Nightline". Videos. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  13. ^ Morgan, Spencer (June 29, 2009). "The Art of the Prank". Alpha Media Groups Inc. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  14. ^ Robertson, Campbell (May 25, 2009). "Where the Streets Have No Shame". New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Vh1's Greatest Pranks on Video". vimeo. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 


External links[edit]