Improv Everywhere doc director's five favorite pranks
Fri Jan 6 2012
Photograph: Katie Sokoler
Participants in the 11th-annual No Pants Subway Ride strip down to their skivvies and casually invade the transit system this weekend. It's staged by merry pranksters Improv Everywhere (improveverywhere.com), whose public stunts have delighted (Ghostbusters invading the New York Public Library brightened TONY's day) and occasionally rankled (Best Gig Ever got the po-faced treatment on NPR).
Now there's a behind-the-scenes documentary in the works and a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. The feature-length movie aims to document a mission from conception to execution, as well as interview people who have been involved with Improv Everywhere over its ten-year run, such as Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza, musician Ben Folds and comedian Nick Kroll.
We asked the film's director and longtime Improv Everywhere videographer and producer Matt Adams for the stories behind his five favorite pranks and the idea behind the group. "When you break it all down, it's so someone can have a fun story to tell," Adams explains. "It's meant more to me after living in this city for a while. When you're in a city that has so many people, sometimes you can feel so alone. You have a job and you're trying to make ends meet, and it can wear on you after time. What we like to do is go out and do these fun spectacles to give someone a break in their day."
As with most Kickstarter projects, generous patrons are rewarded if the funding goal is reached. Those with pockets $5,000 deep will even be invited to be an agent in a small-scale prank. Donate here and hit the jump for Adams's prank picks.
HIGH FIVE ESCALATOR
"When we were trying to figure out the best person to cast for the mission, I immediately thought that [comedian] Rob Lathan would be the perfect agent to get the job done. Rob was on board immediately; luckily, his office was near where we were doing the prank, so he pulled it off on his way to work, even high-fiving some of his coworkers. It was wonderful to see the transition of facial expressions from the bottom to the top of the escalator as Rob gave high fives to thousands of commuters."
KING PHILIP IV
"This prank was a thrill to bring to life because it was so hard to document. Video cameras and audio recording aren't allowed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we had pretend that we were only taking still photos with our cameras. Getting great sound was tricky, too. I had to have wireless microphones attached to the actors, which were connected to an audio recorder that was stuffed down my pants for the entire mission. Luckily we were able to pull it off and no one even knew we were making a video."
BEST FUNERAL EVER
"We like to pull our own April Fools' prank on the Internet: Do things that we wouldn't really do, but try to present it in the most realistic fashion so people ask: 'Would they really do something like this!?' The Internet went crazy. People thought it was real. We were shocked that people would think that we actually [crashed a funeral]. Sneaking a large group of people and a coffin into a cemetery wasn't easy, but the thrill of it was exciting. I love that this prank only exists on the Internet. It never happened, but every time someone thinks it's real, it happens all over again."
"I shot this video pretending to be a film student that just happened to have my camera on me. That line usually works pretty well. The management explained that I couldn't film the people with the giant computers because they were 'most likely studying for finals.' Every time the management turned away, I kept filming. Eventually I got thrown out, but I had all the footage I needed."
WORST ICE SKATER EVER?
"The idea came from an actual experience that agent [and official Improv Everywhere photographer] Katie Sokoler and myself had. We were hanging out one night in the middle of the winter at Bryant Park watching the skaters. Every couple hours everyone's required to exit the rink so that the Zamboni can clean the ice. While this was happening, one man—a very poor skater—was stranded on the ice by himself, continually falling. This drew a large crowd of people gawking at his struggle which gave us an idea: What if we put a professional skater in this position and had him suddenly transform from a novice to an expert?"