Flash mob enthusiasts and daring improv fanatics better iron their tighty-whities before Sunday 10, when Improv Everywhere’s 15th annual No Pants Subway Ride unleashes bare thighs all over the MTA map. The event invites participants to board trains in standard winter wear, with one thing missing: their pants.
RECOMMENDED: The No Pants Subway Ride 2016
“The event is actually very organized, believe it or not,” says Charlie Todd, creator of Improv Everywhere. The group has executed more than 100 interactive “missions” in New York City that have ranged from a Ballroom Crosswalk, during which pedestrians spun in romantic dances between stoplights, to a recent gigantic light switch that turned on more than 50,000 Christmas lights in Father Demo Square.
But No Pants is the group’s flagship event. It originated in 2002 as a prank involving half a dozen dudes on a 6 train and has evolved into a massive stunt—last year, approximately 4,000 bare-legged riders spread throughout 11 subway lines in the NYC area, while thousands of participants in simultaneous No Pants rides dropped trou in more than 60 cities worldwide, from Adelaide, Australia, to Warsaw. The only goal? To celebrate silliness.
“I have 10 lead organizers who head up 10 different trains and divide participants into 10 different cars,” says Todd of the stunt in New York. “We use 100 cars. From there, participants are organized by stop. It’s a slow build for those not in on it. First, one guy gets on your car in his underwear. Then a [pants-less] woman enters at the next stop. Then two people at the stop after that. It’s funnier if it’s a weird, subtle thing at first.”
Improv Everywhere organizers keep the ride out of flashing territory by complying with MTA regulations and enforcing a no-thong policy. “We remind participants every year that it’s a comedy event and not an exhibitionist event,” says Todd. The NYPD usually sends a detail to keep an eye on the unauthorized experiment, but Todd now considers the police force to be more of a friendly presence than a threat. (Eight participants were arrested by scandalized NYPD officers in 2006.)
For those who want to join in, the pants will come off between 3 and 5pm on Sunday and full details will be posted on improveverywhere.com (R.S.V.P. optional). Participants feeling a rush afterward can head to the Official No Pants Afterparty at Webster Hall for a late afternoon of “underpants-shaking beats” from a slew of DJs.
Either way, it’s the perfect day to show off those new Christmas undies.