Surprise!

Featuring: Kinney, Minton, White, Todd, Good, Rainswept, Lovejoy, Richardson, Mckinley, Narasimhan, Ries, Boim

Improv Everywhere Mission
The 6 Train. 1:52pm

“We Cause Scenes.” It’s on the front page of our web site; it’s on our business card–it’s what we do. We go on “missions” and add them to our lists of “conquests”. But let’s get one thing straight, we can cause a scene without pissing anyone off. Missions and conquests can be executed without inciting anger or being deceptive. Usually, it’s more fun that way.

During the cold winter months, the New York subway system has been the primary stage for Improv Everywhere. Obviously it helps that it’s climate-controlled and there is always a captive audience, but there are even better reasons for staging missions on mass transit. The New York subway system is a daily symbol of the nine to five job, the corporate rut, and the agonizing commute. People of all different ages, races, and backgrounds board the subway system and sit alone. They read, sleep, listen to music, stare at the wall–anything to avoid engaging others on the train. It’s always the same: the same train, the same stops, the same delays, the same routine.

With our Subway Series, Improv Everywhere attempts to shatter the mundane and bring excitement and happiness to the underground. To us, the subway is a place where long lost brothers can meet, men can exchange outfits, and pants can be sold for $1.

Improv Everywhere Mission
12 ft. Decorative Banner

With the goal of creating total fun, on February 2nd Improv Everywhere agents threw two surprise birthday parties on the 6 train. They came prepared with two 12-foot “Happy Birthday” banners, 24 party hats, 20 “Happy Birthday” balloons, 16 noisemakers, 35 cupcakes, and a “pin the tail on the donkey” game. As they did in “No Pants!“, IE Agents boarded the 6 train at Brooklyn Bridge. For the first party, agents White, Lovejoy, and Todd were throwing the birthday party for their friend Agent Good. Agent Rainswept, another friend of the birthday boy, was in charge of filming the party. The remaining 7 IE Agents played strangers who did not know anyone else. They entered the train at various stops before the party (exiting an adjacent car and entering the party car when the train stopped).

Improv Everywhere Mission
Not IE Agents. Strangers.

As soon as they entered the train at Brooklyn Bridge, White, Lovejoy, and Todd (“The Party-throwers” from here on out) began decorating the car for the party. They casually mentioned what they were doing to those who asked. “We’re throwing a surprise party. Our friend is boarding the train in a few stops.” They began to solicit help from strangers to blow up balloons and tape them to the walls. As the IE Agent “strangers” agreed to help, real strangers began to help as well.

Improv Everywhere Mission
A stranger laughs.

The Party-throwers began to raise their voices and explain to train what was about to happen, “Hey everyone! We’re throwing a surprise party and we need your help!” They passed out party hats and noisemakers, and the strangers (both real and planted) eagerly got ready for the party. “Our friend’s name is Jesse! He’s going to enter from that car over there at the Astor Place stop. One of our friends is with him to make sure he gets on this car.” The Party-throwers had the undivided attention of everyone in the smile-filled car.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Happy stranger

As the train began to near the Astor Place stop, Agent Todd yelled out the final instructions, “I’ll give everyone the signal when he enters the car! We’ll yell surprise, and then as soon as the doors close, we’ll all sing Happy Birthday together! Remember his name is Jesse! Okay, here’s Astor Place. Shhhh! Shhhhh!” Agent Todd quited the entire train and the passengers sat in silent, giddy anticipation of Agent (Jesse) Good. At the stop agent Good and Minton (playing the role of Agent Good’s friend) exited the adjacent car, walked down the platform, and entered the party car.

Improv Everywhere Mission
A stranger smiles.

“Surprise!” In unison, the train full of strangers shouted out with smiles and laughs. Agent Good stood flabbergasted. Agent Todd counted down, “1, 2, 3, Everyone! Happy Birthday to you…”, and the entire train sang Happy Birthday to dear Jesse. Everyone clapped and blew their noisemakers with joy. Agent White shouted, “Who wants cupcakes!?,” and began to distribute the food to all the hungry passengers. Agent Lovejoy set up the “pin the tail on the donkey game” and a few undercover IE “strangers” began to play, as others looked on with glee. The party throwers began to shout for Agent Good to make a speech, and Jesse delivered a heart-felt thank you to everyone on the train for coming to his party.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent Todd poses with the “birthday boy”, Agent Good.

On the return trip, the agents threw another surprise party, this time with Agent Richardson as the birthday boy. The results were the same. In a matter of minutes, the train went from quiet and dull, to loud and festive. For both parties, IE Agents had the participation of the entire train. People of all different ages and races joined together in the name of fun. Everyone from the three-year-old Chinese girl and her father to the 60-year-old tourist couple from Holland donned party hats, blew up balloons, and ate cupcakes together. We created a multicultural party for strangers of all ages, and damn was it fun. We refer to those we don’t know in this report as “strangers”, but as these parties prove, there really are no strangers in this world, only potential friends. Sappy? Yeah. True? Absolutely.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent White gives out cupcakes

Other Highlights:

  • Agent Richardson declares his birthday cupcake to be “communal”, takes a bite out of it, and passes it on. 4 strangers take a bite of the same cupcake.

  • Woman leaves the train skipping.
  • Woman declares, “I have the best story to tell, but none my friends are ever going to believe this!”
  • Before the 2nd party begins, Agent Good gets the ENTIRE train to crouch to the ground for the surprise.

Improv Everywhere Mission
Agent Kinney poses with a stranger

Improv Everywhere Mission
Pin the Tail on the Donkey!

Improv Everwhere Mission
Agent Narasimhan pins the tail.

Improv Everwhere Mission
Excited about her cupcake

Mission accomplished.

Comments

comments

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61 Responses to Surprise!

  1. Zirrio ~ www.zirrio.it says:

    It’s difficult for me to believe you actually managed to do this… I mean.. it’s unbelievable… you are great.. there’s nothing else I can say… gonna make a birthday party over here too, when metro will be operative?

  2. Jestrada says:

    You guys are the best! I was rolling on the floor laughing! I love your style!
    -Jestrada

  3. Jestrada says:

    The subway series of pranks are probably your best. What a great location for stunts like this! I’m glad there are other people in the world who share my sense of humor! If I lived closer by, I’d want “in” on this stuff, I enjoy doing this kind of thing with friends. Keep up the great stunts!

  4. Rae says:

    I love it. The best surprise party I was ever part of was a surprise funeral we threw for my mother. We threw her a concert. Everyone stood up and said nice things. She even sang in the alto section of the choir. It was a great time, much too good for her to miss. Actually, friends my age (45 at the time)thought it was somewhat ghoulish, but people my mother’s age (75 at the time and recovering from a serious heart attack) thought it was great.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It’s definitely a nice idea, and it’s great that people have fun…but why not make it for someone who really IS having a birthday?? Why does it involve deception all the time?

  6. Matt says:

    I would just like to say that this is one of the most amazing and amazing things I have ever read. Thank you for making my day.

  7. Fables... says:

    You guys are awesome! I wish you would run for office as an entire political party, maybe the rest of the world would start liking America again. When you start an expansion group out in Los Angles let me know and count me in!

  8. Skek says:

    After reading this, I am veyr very keen on actually doing this for a REAL birthday for a friend of mine… the Toronto Transit Commission won’t know what hit ‘em!

  9. jason from england says:

    i love what you guys do , puts a smile on my face. keep up the good work its brilliant and pleasing to read !

  10. Ailish says:

    My family hosts foriegn exchange students, and it’s become a tradition to throw them a surprise going-home party. I think that we’ll move it to a public place nest year! We don’t have subways, but we have a Wal-Mart!

  11. catherine slocket says:

    you’re all wonderfull,and crazy/sane.i’ve been reading all your missions[still in pyjamas all morning.i’m an artist from dublin,originally,london based blah blah.performancy nonsense…christ i wish i could get to witness one of your interventions!have a friend over there.sadly no cash and 2 broken wrists at the moment.ouch.my new heros.keep it up!PLEASE!!

  12. Paula says:

    Heard about your group on the radio. The birthday party is my favorite. Everyone is enjoying the fun and I will have to share with everyone here. Maybe we’ll think of one of do at work.

  13. Marieta says:

    That’s actually an excellent idea for a surprise BDay party! People really aren’t that different, huh? :)

  14. Andrew says:

    Man, you guys rule! How do you find the time to do these stunts? You have made my day. Keep up the work!

  15. CH says:

    NICE!!! It would have made me (a man) skip too if I was there! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  16. JD says:

    Hahah. Very nice.

    It would have been funnier, however, if you would have just picked a stranger walking on the train and yelled surprise and sung to them.

  17. Hally says:

    That was awesome! It’s a really good idea, and it’s great you got everyone to enjoy themselves. Ironically, February 2nd is my birthday =D
    I love what you guys do, I hope one day I’ll get to see you guys doing something like this (I live in Canada).

    Cheerio!

  18. Arelis says:

    I can’t believe you actually got people on the train to go along with this. But then again, I would’ve gone along with it had I been on the train myself.

  19. Erin Roberts says:

    If only in real life people could throw parties like that all the time…i think thats actually a wonderful idea to get all those random strangers to celebrate and have fun on a subway…its just so deliciously random and fun and perfect! congrats you guys have made me smile yet again!

  20. Mike K says:

    How about a repeat but in Hamilton, Ontario?