Best Funeral Ever (April Fool’s 2009)

Note: This is a fake mission we staged for April Fool’s Day 2009. We posted it on April 1, fooling thousands of people into thinking we had lost our judgment and done something horrible. Everyone in the video is an actor. There was no funeral and no family. Be sure to check out the comments from the people who were fooled below.


(Watch it larger on YouTube) | Subscribe to us on YouTube
Produced by Charlie Todd and Matt Adams / music by Tyler Walker

For our latest mission, 30 Improv Everywhere agents found a random funeral in the obituary section of the newspaper and turned it into the best funeral ever. We picked a man who had very few surviving relatives and then showed up to his funeral to make it truly awesome. Enjoy the video first, and then continue reading for photos and our report.

Digital Video: Agents Adams, EMartin, Goldman, Gross
Digital Photography: Agents Fountain, Nicholson, Sokoler

I knew this would be a very sensitive subject, but I thought that if Improv Everywhere could spread a little joy to the saddest place of all, it would be an amazing feat. The first step was picking the right funeral. It was critical that the funeral would be very sparsely attended. My biggest fear was showing up to do this and finding tons of friends and family already there. I started scanning through the obituaries to find short entries that mentioned very few surviving relatives. I also wanted to pick a graveside service because it would be easier to film and photograph it from a distance. It would be too risky to try to sneak cameras into a funeral home or church.


Organizing with the agents

The funeral we picked was in Greenwood Cemetery, an enormous plot of land in Brooklyn. (I’m not going to list the name of the deceased to prevent the family from finding this via a Google search, but it was an 87 year old male.) We met in a park a few blocks from the cemetery gate, and I briefed all of the agents, who had arrived dressed for a funeral. I instructed everyone to be as realistic as possible and not to be too over the top. I was very worried that the family would think we were making fun of them, which was the last thing we were trying to do. I told everyone to just act like you would if it had been your grandfather who passed away and behave accordingly.


Agents walking through the cemetery

We headed over to the cemetery right when the funeral was supposed to begin. We figured it was best to arrive just a few minutes late. The family wouldn’t talk to us if the service was already underway. They would just be silently comforted that lots more people showed up to honor their loved one.


The family before we arrive, only eight people

Our photographers ran ahead to snap some covert photos of the service before we arrived and to try to get the natural reactions of the family when the IE agents showed up. They tried to be discreet, hiding behind tombstones, trees, and bushes with zoom lenses. Sure enough, there were only eight people and a priest attending the funeral.


A pretty small funeral in need of some help

Luckily there was a huge bush right behind the priest. Agent Nicholson was able to crawl into the bush and take photos head on without anyone seeing him.


Shot through the bushes


Our agents start arriving behind them!


IE Agents approaching


Almost there


Family looking around in wonder


Packed funeral!


Family members started whispering, “Who are these people?”


Agent Adams films covertly from the side of the bush

The family, especially the older couple in the middle, were seriously mourning. They seemed to be focusing on the priest and mostly ignoring us. Still, we had to be as serious as we possibly could. If anyone cracked a smile or giggled we would completely ruin the funeral for the family.

One family member, who looked like he might have been a grandson of the deceased, got up and asked Agent Simmons what was going on and where we came from. He definitely seemed confused, and maybe slightly irritated at first. Agent Simmons just told him we were old friends of the deceased here to pay our respects.


Agents Perveen and Ace$Thugg keeping a great straight face


Agent Lindquist offers a family member a tissue


Agent Yo-Yo lays some flowers on the casket


Agents Wimpy and Cunningham walk to the front with flowers

Towards the end of the service, the priest discovered that Agent Nicholson was hiding in the bushes with a camera. I guess cameras are not usually allowed at funerals, because he was not happy. He kept his calm because of the circumstances, but he made it very clear that Agent Nicholson needed to leave immediately.

We found other ways to keep documenting the mission. Agent Spear snapped a few covert shots with his cell phone.

As soon as the service was over, our agents disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. We never broke character and never let the family know that we didn’t actually know the deceased.


Agents quietly leaving

The family members were left clueless as to who we were. They gawked as we walked away. Deep down though, you know they were profoundly moved to learn that their relative had so many friends. One of the family members chased down some of our camera men and tried to get an answer. Agent Adams stuck to his story and told him that he was just a tourist visiting the cemetery (it’s a National Historic Landmark after all!), and that he didn’t know any of the other agents.

It was definitely creepy being in the cemetery, and it did feel weird staging something at a funeral, but ultimately I think everyone had a great time. Obviously the family was sad that someone they loved had passed away, but think how much sadder they would have been if only eight people had been there.

Mission Accomplished


OTHER RESOURCES:

-Agent Nicholson’s Flickr Set
-Agent Sokoler’s Flickr Set

Update:

Read the comments to see people who were fooled. The local CW news was fooled as well. They later filed a copyright claim against us for posting their video of our video to YouTube.

Check out the hilarious outtakes from the mission.

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Comments

comments

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529 Responses to Best Funeral Ever (April Fool’s 2009)

  1. wizpig64 says:

    a lot of these pictures are really well done. would love to see some hi res ones.

  2. Timothy from New York says:

    Awesome mission! Pretty great how you guys keep coming up with better and better ideas for missions every time. Really kept with the spirit of the “Best Ever” series on this one. If I’d have been part of the family I would have appreciated seeing so many people show up for the funeral. Love the idea!

    For you to keep finding touching and poignant ways to affect people’s lives is so great. Our city is better for it. Our lives are better for it, even if we never experience it firsthand. Lots of kudos to you!

  3. There are few things sadder than a funeral with only a few people in attendance. Glad to see that the folks at IE could supersize it for them, putting a proper exclamation point on the end of a life.

  4. Sean says:

    This is really messed up wow. I would be fuckin pissed and one of you insensitive pricks would have gotten knocked the fuck out 4 sure. I’m an agent btw.

    • Walking Corpse says:

      Well then do us a favor, and quit, because you’re obviously too much of a jackass.

      • nat says:

        haha! very true.
        If I was attending a funeral of a family member with only a hand full of people it would be disheartening. But if more people showed up, I would feel better. That the person who passed has many friends in his life. This is a classic stunt. Great job guys. It was not tasteless or disrespectful.

  5. Nick Klaus says:

    Feel free to do this at my funeral, which hopefully won’t be for a long while.

  6. Ben says:

    First! (April 1st that is)

  7. Bishiboosh says:

    Frankly the BEST April Fool today.

  8. HBrett says:

    I hope this is an April Fools joke. If not, I am a bit let down by this site for such tasteless and disrespectful actions. A funeral is not the place to take the “we cause scenes” motto.

    • Brad says:

      I completely agree. It was totally out of character for what I thought this site was about. Just cut your losses and take this section of the site down. And almost everyone knows the family was not in on it.

  9. Prof. Bo says:

    It’s great to see that you’ve found such a wonderfull way to cheer the greiving family. It really is nice of you.

  10. Sarah says:

    i love the intentions behind this, and i’m all for the “best ever” series. i also think you guys pulled this off with the most class and respect you could have had.

    but i think the idea in the first place is borderline… insensitive? the family was obviously more confused than anything. your group had no way to tactfully explain the purpose to them. i hope they were able to laugh it off after their grieving. :-/

  11. herp derp says:

    Is it that day again?

  12. MDors says:

    I don’t know about a funeral, guys. I am a huge supporter of Improv Everywhere. I thoroughly enjoy all the things you guys do. But if you had been outed or if the family ever caught footage of this, I could imagine you’d be pretty busted up pretty bad. I wouldn’t want to see you guys go down like that. But I respect your intentions. Just, maybe stick to the baseball games…

    But I loved the HD quality. You are all doing very well for yourselves. I have always wanted to be apart of stuff like what you do and it makes me want to do stuff where I’m at. I especially like you MP3 experiments. To leave your inhibitions at the door and totally trust some mystic voice in a huge group of strangers for a few hours in a day would be a huge positivity booster that I think more people need to indulge in. To have no cares or concerns for this set period of time. I’m sure that would be the most in-expensive vacation that they’ve ever had. Thanx for continuing to inspire people around the globe!

    ~MDors

  13. Koen says:

    please, please tell me this is an april fools thing.
    Please.
    If not, please disband improveverywhere, you’ve crossed a line and become smug selfcentered and insensitive.

  14. mDors says:

    hey… have you guys ever thought of a wedding?? I can’t remember if I saw a video for that or if I just imagined it… I think that would go over with a few less eyebrows being placed at an odd place on people’s faces … just plugging an idea, I guess…

  15. Fiona says:

    This has got to be an April fool’s joke :)

  16. jono says:

    Of course it’s an April fool. Come on people how gullible can you be? I thought it was hilarious. I love the fact we are supposed to believe that nobody spotted the guy in the bushes with a camera the size of a car. :-)

    you guys are awesome, keep up the good work!

  17. ZzzzSleep says:

    I read the entry and came here to voice my disquiet about this scene. Then I read some of the comments and remembered what day it was today.

    Well played.

  18. Craigers says:

    I love IE, but you guys really crossed the line here. Someone DIED and you think that’s the perfect time to pull a prank?

  19. Prof. Bo says:

    Knowing IE we’ll never know if it really IS an April Fools joke. :\

  20. Pat says:

    Its a nice thought even if this may be April 1st thing. Its rare to have a graveside service. If this is legit, then I say its an adorable thought and if its not, then maybe we should think about how we show respect to the departed