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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Klawzie says:

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

  5. 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!

  6. 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).

  7. 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 !!!

  8. Jennifer K. says:

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

  9. 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!

    ^.^

  10. Brenda T. says:

    My favorite part: the communal cupcake!

  11. Elyse W. says:

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

  12. Dionna says:

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

  13. Kate says:

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

  14. 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?

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!!

  18. Sarcastic-Fox says:

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

  19. 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!

  20. Lenora says:

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