For our Sixth Annual Mp3 Experiment, over 2,000 people of all ages downloaded the same mp3, pressed play at the same time, and had a blast together. This year’s event took place on Roosevelt Island, a thin strip of land in the middle of the East River. Enjoy the video recap first, and then check out the full photos and report.
Original Music and Sound Design: Agent Walker
Digital Video: Agents Adams, Shafer, Haskel, Person
Digital Photography: Agents Sokoler, Fountain, Chigirev, Hambly, Liu
Lone Wolf: Agent Scordelis
If you’ve never heard of The Mp3 Experiment series, you can read about it here: The Mp3 Experiments.
This year’s location was Roosevelt Island. It’s a really beautiful place, situated in between Manhattan and Queens on the East River. There are about 12,000 residents on the island. To participate in this year’s experiment, agents were given these instructions. Everyone synchronized their watch to the clock on the instruction page, downloaded the mp3, wore a red, blue, yellow, or green shirt, and then traveled to the island. At exactly 4:00 PM, everyone would press play from wherever they happened to be on the island.
It’s always fun to spot other participants in the hours leading up to the event. Everyone was told to wear red, blue, green, or yellow shirts. It’s pretty easy to figure out who will be participating.
By 3:30, the crowd started to get really huge. There is one subway stop on the island, and each arriving F train brought tons of colorful folks.
Participants exiting the subway station
One participant managed to find a quiet spot all to himself
We had a wonderfully diverse group of people show up again this year. All ages, races, and backgrounds were present. We had newborns, children, high school kids, college students, 20/30somethings, parents, and grandparents, all playing together.
Mom, Dad, Son, Dog
I always enjoy participating alone and try to sit away from anyone I know personally. I took a seat on the west coast of the island right next to a family who had a red-shirted dog with them. He was awesome!
The Brown twins (Human Mirror agents!)
4:00 arrived, and participants scattered all over the island pressed play. After the awesome opening song by Tyler Walker, Steve (the omnipotent “voice from above”/narrator of every Mp3 Experiment) introduced himself and led us in some light breathing and stretching.
Participants stretch their groins
Condo residents look down at the masses on their courtyard
Steve had us jump to our feet like popping popcorn and throw our hands in the air.
Jumping up from the ground
A woman throws her hands in the air in reaction to the field of participants doing the same
Next up was the traditional geography test. Participants were asked to point to the sites of some of the past Mp3 Experiments and then towards Nicaragua, the direction of which many sadly haven’t learned yet!
Next up was the “audience interaction” phase of the experiment. Participants were instructed to high five as many non-participants as they could find. Part of the fun of the Mp3 Experiment each year is seeing the looks on the faces of those who happen upon us and have no idea what is going on.
This guy got MANY high fives
Some folks even went into the stores and cafes on the island to give high fives. The next task was to form single file lines behind non participants, making them an unknowing leader in a short game of Follow the Leader.
On my section of the island, there were a half-dozen really funny lines of people. It was hilarious walking on one side of the street in a giant line and seeing another line across the street walking in the opposite direction. Many of the non-participants were laughing at the other lines, while not realizing they had a hundred people lined up behind them as well!
Two lines formed behind two public safety officers
At first, this guy didn’t realize what was behind him
The next activity was square dancing. Participants dosey-doed with as many people as they could while a silly square dance song played. It was fun constantly switching partners, and the laughter was infectious.
Steve then called for “Nap time!” Everyone dropped to the ground at the same instant and took a fifteen second power nap.
Notice the one woman on the bench
It was time for everyone to take a walk together to the southern tip of the island. Steve went to grab his favorite soda while his estranged cousin Dave entertained everyone with a story that took place on Roosevelt Island many years ago (or not.) You can listen to the story (written by Tyler Walker) here: Peters and the Wolves.
As everyone began merging together on the paths on either side of the island, it started to become clear just how many people were participating.
It was about a fifteen minute walk to get to southern tip (longer for those who were in the back.) Participants walked along the river, enjoying Manhattan skyline views. They entered the gates to Southpoint Park and passed the old, abandoned Renwick smallpox hospital.
The crowd then followed a short path over the hill and found themselves in a beautiful green space with stunning views in every direction.
Southpoint Park (minus our participants)
People watch as 2,000+ participants arrive in the park
A picnic is interrupted
The park was mostly empty. I’m always surprised at how few people are there, considering how cool it is. There were a few people milling about, and a group of folks sitting in the grass. Hopefully they enjoyed the spectacle. If not, we were gone 20 minutes later anyway.
After everyone had arrived, a game of freeze tag broke out, with the different colors taking turns being “it.”
After all of that running around, it was time for another power nap!
It’s really tough to show just how many people were at the experiment. Unfortunately we didn’t have access to any tall buildings across the river, so we couldn’t get a proper overhead shot. The pictures from the ground level don’t quite capture how ridiculously packed the park was.
Steve announced it was time for a dance party, but first he had to tell a couple of secrets. He had the red/yellow and blue/green groups take their headphones off in turn so he could speak privately to the other group. Blue/green were told to dance like they were from the 1920s and red/yellow were told to dance like they were from the 2020s. What followed was a 2,000+ person dance party for flappers and robots.
Party like it’s 2029
For the finale, Steve introduced everyone to a new game, Bats vs. Hammers. The red/yellow team headed to the northern part of the field and received 700 inflatable bats while the blue/green team went to the southern part of the field to receive 700 inflatable hammers. I figured 1,400 weapons would be enough, but hundreds of people didn’t get a weapon and had to participate in spirit.
Rob blows up his bat
The red/yellow team
The blue/green team
Agent Phire leads his team into battle
Agent Mike the Man charges with his hammer
Steve interrupted the fight suddenly. “Why must we hit each other with inflatable objects every Mp3 Experiment?” he said. He told the crowd that while they were fighting, the Lone Wolf (a character mentioned in the story they heard earlier) had made his way to the park. It was time to unite against a common enemy! Steve had everyone remove their colored shirts to reveal their white shirt underneath. Everyone was now on the same team!
Participants wave their shirts overhead as they prepare to fight the Lone Wolf
Through a cloud of smoke, the Lone Wolf appeared on the staircase at the southern tip of the island.
A couple of thousand people beat on the wolf (he was wisely wearing a cup.)
The attack on the wolf captured by someone across the river in Queens (via)
The Lone Wolf is dead!
Steve instructed everyone to celebrate their victory in slow motion. While some Chariots of Fire-ish music played, the masses high fived and hugged each other at quarter speed.
The dog wasn’t so good at slow motion
The experiment came to an end as the crowd all shouted “goodbye!” to Steve in unison.
We were blown away by how many people came out to participate. We can’t thank you enough for supporting Improv Everywhere and coming out to play with us. It’s just so cool to see all sorts of people young and old getting together to do something so ridiculous, just for the fun of it.
Unfortunately we were not able to tour The Mp3 Experiment this year, but hopefully we will again one day (The 2008 tour was so much fun.) We do enjoy bringing The Mp3 Experiment to new places, so if you know a festival or university that wants to hire us to stage an experiment in your area, let us know. We’ve recently staged experiments at festivals in Berlin and Australia.
And if you’re a fan of Improv Everywhere, show your support by buying or new book!
Agent Erde poses with Agent Todd and Agent Scordelis (still in wolf costume) after getting his book signed following The Mp3 Experiment
Finally, I just had to share this photo I randomly found on Facebook, clearly taken a bit later on in the evening.
You can download some of the songs from The Mp3 Experiment on Agent Walker’s MySpace page.
Check out first hand reports from participants on the Recap Page. Add your own report if you were there.
Read David Pogue’s write up of the event for The New York Times
We regularly tour The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia and to college campuses in the US like UNC and Texas Tech. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university student activities board, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.
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