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?

  21. Alex says:

    This article made me smile so much. The improveverywhere team are a bunch of amazing people. The ability to make other people feel good, is more than most can say. Keep up the great work. you should be really proud of yourselves.

    Alex

  22. Random says:

    If everyone in the world was like you guys…that’d suck.

    Just kidding, you guys are great! This story had me smiling the whole time. I love this site.

  23. Joe says:

    Another success. I’m sure you guys made that subway ride home one of the best ones ever for some people. And I am sure you made someone’s day a little brighter.

  24. Klawzie says:

    Seriously – one of the best Conquests ever, guys. Do it again!

  25. cje says:

    OK, you guys (& gals) are killin’ me!!!

    Next you gotta do a TelleTubby party! Agents dressing up as TelleTubbies, not in full costume, just suggestive. Only talk baby talk. Try to get the passengers to join in for a TubbieSurprise for an unsuspecting passenger boarding the car.

    Jeez, makes me want to move back up north. Nah, too cold. Although these laughs would keep me warm!

  26. Matt says:

    I have to agree. You should have done it for real birthdays. In fact, you should make it a regular feature (every few years on real people’s birthdays).

  27. Jim Blasdel says:

    I can’t begin to telling you how much I enjoy reading about your missions. I’m in NYC often and am always hoping I’ll see or be involved in one of your "missions." Keep ‘em up and keep the world laughing. The World needs more people like you !!!

  28. Jennifer K. says:

    Will you please come to Austin, Tx and make us laugh too? Funtastic stuff.

  29. Gael says:

    I realy like this one cause even though the fooling the audience ones are funnie (even though u did kinda fool them in this one) this one was just brining happiness to everyone and like u said, showed that no one is realy a stranger. Good job!

    ^.^

  30. Brenda T. says:

    My favorite part: the communal cupcake!

  31. Elyse W. says:

    You people are amazing! Please- never ever stop what your’e doing.

  32. Dionna says:

    None of the people turned down a cupcake for fear of poison or anything?

  33. Kate says:

    I wish we could do stuff like that in DC! Everytime someone laughs on the subway system, the bomb crew shows up.

  34. Kiki says:

    that sounds like so much fun….i miss ed it and i take the six every day!!! oh well when will you do it again?

  35. Nick says:

    Come to Austin! Dress up in complete winter clothing in summer and make fun of Blizzard 2007 at Town Lake! Or do the MP3 thing or something I’am sure there tons of college kids would take part! We need some cheer here in the midst of political bickering!Ugh!

  36. Jenny Luca says:

    You guys are good. I used your Frozen Grand Central video in a classroom in Melbourne, Australia yesterday and the kids were entranced – they want to do improveverywhere at school and bring chaos and joy to our environment. Inspirational stuff – there should be more of it!

  37. chava'le says:

    communal cupcake?! crackin up!

    now that i’ve discovered you people, i look forward to many nights of mission reading and video watching.

    Gd bless you all for spreading joy and cheer in His world!!

  38. Sarcastic-Fox says:

    This is so amazing! I actually kind of wish _I_ could have a party like that!

  39. edrick says:

    This is so cool! I want one too! i want to celebrate my bday in a train! but unfortunately, i don’t think the security people won’t like the idea…
    congatulations on another job well done! yay!

  40. Lenora says:

    I wish I had been there… February 2nd is my birthday!

  41. Michaela says:

    i have a feeling i’m gonna be up all night looking through your website and i have an early class tomorrow! but that doesn’t stop me, this is way too funny. i’ve had to laugh so hard! i love inproveverywhere!

  42. Seamore says:

    this was just fantastic,

  43. BubblegumGirl says:

    Omg!!!! this is cool!

  44. 2sticks says:

    Great positive ideas in a world full of Jackass and Punk’d negativity and stupidity. Next time roam the subway looking for ‘strangers’ who are actually having a birthday and throw them a party right there…

  45. maniacal engineer says:

    True story

    I lived in Japam for a year and a half and rode the subway every day for a year and a half. I worked in Shinkiba and got off the train at ichikwawa Oono, both on the musashino sen. The coolest thing that ever happened was when a bunch of guys got on at the Tokyo Disneyland stop (maihama). Apparently they were in town for the 10th anniversary of Tokyo disneyland. The (obvious) leader was egging on his co-horts to do gymnastics on the rings that hang from the ceiling. Everyone looked at them like they were freaks, but I was the only one to actually do a skin the cat. They got off train at nishi funabashi. It turns out the guy was the late Frank Wells, at that time the COO of the Disney corporation.

    I didn’t realize it until a few months later when I tried to look him up after my contract in Japan ended and I wanted to ask him if he knew who I should talk to at imagineering. I couldn’t get through and finally his secretary told me who he was. OH!. they were very nice and gave me a name and I got an interview, which led to a job offer that my (now ex) wife didn’t tell me about.

    How cool was that!!

  46. Sharique says:

    You guys have added a whole new dimension to art. Great work.

    Iam frm Lahore, Pakistan, and would definately like to have something simillar here fr some fun.

  47. Matt says:

    Hah, it would be so awesome to actually have a [real] surprise birthday party on the subway!

  48. Katie says:

    Oh gosh, i was on that train but i had to get off on the stop right before! i love that you guys do this, keep it up!

  49. Raspar says:

    You are all amazing! I agree that insane “scenes” don’t have to make anyone displeased. I appreciate your style!

  50. kelsey says:

    i love your improve scences mabye u should do 1 in lima ny it would awesome

  51. Katie says:

    I think I’ll join my local chapter in a couple years! Where there’s a subway, there’s a thousand scenes to cause!

  52. Johnobrow says:

    You hear about that group of students who hand a dinner party on the London Underground last year? They had tables, champagne, posh frocks – the whole shebang. Bet you guys were their inspiration. Keep up the good work I’m lovin’ it. I got a feeling i’m gonna be up all night reading these.

  53. jOjO says:

    HAHAHA. OMG, that idea was GENiUS! WOW U GUYS R INCREDIBLE! :]
    HOW CAN I JOIN ONE OF UR “PRANKS??”

  54. Sherry says:

    we could never do anything like this in new zealand.. our trains have guards on them lol

  55. tania says:

    You all are awsomee…you made me laugh and i like this videoss..improoooove everywhere!

  56. pcmrgirl says:

    OMG you guys are the best! No joke… I laugh my head off watching these!!

  57. billlex says:

    I have one for you….. Not sure how it would work in downtown NY. But, several of us took turns hitting the horn button on our key fobs as a co-worker was coming into the office. Most went off when she walked by the car……… it was fall down funny in South Carolina.

  58. Necora says:

    I love you guys! I am taking concepts from you and using them in my own improv acts in the future! I personally like the MP3 experiments!

  59. Jen says:

    OH MY GOSH, i love you guys! can you put a branch of Improve Everywhere down here in MD? i totally want to join! i’ve always wanted to do stuff like this, but in small towns, its hard to get participation enough to make an impact. you could have a DC branch that does stuff in that huge field in front of the capital and the washington monument! and the metro! man, sometimes i wish i lived closer to you guys! :D

  60. sam says:

    can it be my birthday even though mines in january and its next year

  61. Tony Leon says:

    This is PRECISELY how life should be!!! The boring ebb and flow of life NEEDS such beautiful interruptions like this. It astonishes people and pulls them out of this sometimes dreary reality of ours.

    This is really an incredible group. SIGN ME UP!