When I was in high school, I was in show choir, where I used to get to sing and dance to my little heart's content. Somehow, though, that wasn't enough singing or dancing, so my friends and I would pretend we lived in a magical place called 'musical land' where it was normal to spontaneously burst into song and dance at any random moment—at the library, the cafeteria, or just wandering around campus. We'd peek out from behind trees, jazz hands at the ready, and break into whatever song we made up on the spot. Now, that's living!
So it's no surprise that I absolutely love the work of this comedy troupe I recently discovered. They're called "Improv Everywhere," and their website provides this description:
Improv Everywhere is a New York City-based comedy collective that stages unexpected performances in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere aims to surprise and delight random strangers through positive pranks.
Over the past 20 years, we have staged hundreds of projects involving tens of thousands of undercover performers. Highlights include making time stop at Grand Central Terminal, giving Best Buy 100 extra employees, and letting random strangers conduct a world class orchestra in the middle of Manhattan.
I love all their work, but my favorites are their "Musicals in Real Life," where they stage spontaneous musicals in places like food courts, grocery stores, restaurants, beer halls, tech conference, and more. Here's their piece, "Food Court Musical," which they describe:
16 agents staged a spontaneous musical in the food court of a Los Angeles shopping mall. We used wireless microphones to amplify the vocal performances and mix them together with the music through the mall's PA system. We filmed the mission with hidden cameras, mostly behind two-way mirrors. Apart from our performers, no one in the food court was aware of what was happening. Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our report below.
We wanted to create an original song for this mission, so I turned to Agents Brown and King, longtime Improv Everywhere Agents and writers of the hit Off-Broadway show, Gutenberg! The Musical!
And here's my favorite piece of theirs in that genre. It's called "Gotta Share! The Musical," and was performed at a tech conference way back in 2011 (but it's still totally relevant). It's especially funny to me because they give a shout out to Boing Boing. As the audience-members-turned-performers take to the stage, they start excitedly exclaiming that different platforms are live streaming and sharing the event and that the "song is trending." The performers shout out:
"Wow! Our song is getting big!"
"Now it's reached the top of Digg!"
"YouTube, Tumblr, also Reddit!'
"Looks like BoingBoing also spread it!"
For more Improv Everywhere, go check out their website. And you can also watch this great documentary about the group and their work, entitled "We Cause Scenes," which the troupe has made available for free on YouTube:
Since their humble beginnings in New York City in 2001, Improv Everywhere has grown from a small gang of restless jokesters into an internationally recognized prank collective and a viral video-making machine. From the No Pants Subway Ride to Frozen Grand Central to the Mp3 Experiment and beyond, their publicly staged scenes of chaos and joy are beloved by the hundreds who witness them, the thousands who participate in them, and the millions who watch and share the videos online. We Cause Scenes: The Rise of Improv Everywhere is the inside story of this groundbreaking group and its founder, Charlie Todd, who has turned the world into a stage, inventing an art form for the Internet age.