Featuring: Cassis, Good, Lovejoy, Meyer, Nadan, Robertson, Rosenbaum, Schnetuer, Todd, Willner
No Pants: This is not the Opera House
In the early days of the New York chapter of Improv Everywhere, the majority of our missions were based in conflict. Whether it was someone stealing Ben Folds’ wallet, or someone getting ripped off on a shoddy caricature, our missions always seemed to flow into an argument. The early missions were successful and tons of fun, but as of late we’ve been steering away from conflict based situations. In improvisation, “agreement” makes for a far more interesting scene than “argument”.
This time around, the plan was to get 7 agents to agree to live in a world where riding the subway without pants is normal. Sure, we would “cause a scene”, but it was our hope that the scene would be little more than a dose of subway comedy. We found out that not everyone has the same sense of humor.
The 10 of us met at Union Square and rode the 4 train down to the Brooklyn Bridge stop. Once there we waited for the 6 train in silence, giving no indication that we knew each other. We got on the middle two cars of one of the older 6 trains (there are no windows between these cars). Agents Rosenbaum and Meyer entered car “B” and the rest of us entered car “A”. Rosenbaum hid his DV camcorder in his lap under a magazine and began filming.
The mission worked like this, each time the train started moving a new IE Agent would take off his pants and throw them at Agent Cassis (pretending not to know her), and she would place them in a duffel bag. When the train stopped, the agent would exit car “A”, walk down the platform, and enter car “B” (the hidden camera car). Agent Meyer was stationed in car “B” to hold the door open in case an agent needed more time. We did not want anyone to be stranded pantless on a subway platform. Once in the car “B”, we would act completely normal, and if asked, we would insist that we did not know the other pantless riders, and that we simply forgot to wear pants.
Report from car “A”: As reported by Agent Cassis, “I get more and more annoyed as more and more people throw their pants at me. Some people throw and some people toss and some people firmly put them in my hands, but each time I’m more and more pissed off and start muttering to myself about how ridiculous it is. Eventually I avert my eyes, but pants keep landing on my head. For the last guy I walked away and tried to ignore him but he came up to me and put the pants in my hand. People on the car were snickering, everyone was watching, and some people were trying to ignore it. One man nudged his wife and said “Honey, look” [at the guy taking off his pants], to which she
responded “Honey, it’s NEW YORK.” People started saying “Who’s next?” and looking around eagerly as the mission went on. As I left I said sourly, ‘Anybody else have any more pants you want to throw at me? Jesus Christ!'”
And the report from car “B”: The majority of the mission took place in car “B”. At the first stop, Canal Street, agent Todd enters the train. He is wearing a heavy winter coat, a hat, a scarf, gloves, and chartreuse boxers with bright red lady bugs. He is also wearing headphones. Todd checks the map and then stands in the middle of the train. He is noticed by everyone on the train, but no one comments. The train stops at Spring St. and agent Good enters the train in a winter coat and blue polka dot boxers. Two german guys begin to laugh out loud. Others on the train attempt to hold back laughs. Agent Lovejoy enters the train at the Bleecker St. stop with sunglasses and Hawaiian themed boxers. He sits and reads a book. The german guys are now laughing uncontrollably. At the Astor Place stop, Agent Schnetuer enters pantless and sits. A couple, two men about fifty years old, also enter the train and sit directly across from the hidden camera.. Agent Robertson enters at Union Square, sits, and reads a newspaper. The older of the two men (henceforth known as Man 2) notices the video camera across from him and whispers to his partner (henceforth known as Man 1), “They’re taping us!”. Man 1 notices the camera, scowls, and then gives “the finger” to the camera. He laughs at his own wit. At 23rd St. agent Nadan enters the train and sits, pantless. Agent Todd approaches a stranger and asks, “Does this train go to Grand Central?” The stranger responds, holding back laugher, “Yes.” Man 1 attempts to put his foot in front of the camera to block its view. Agent Willner enters at 28th St. with an unbuttoned knee length winter coat and no pants. There are now 7 people on the train in their underwear.
Everyone on the train is now laughing except Man 1 and Man 2. One guy approaches agent Todd:
Guy: (laughing) Is there a man with out pants convention today or something?
Todd: I don’t think so.
Guy: You guys aren’t going to a convention?
Todd: I’m not. I don’t know those guys.
Guy: (exiting the train) Take it easy.
Todd: You too. It’s cold out.
Guy: (laughing) Yeah! For you!!
(The train has stopped at 33rd St. Agent Cassis enters with a large duffel bag full of pants.)
Cassis: Pants! Pants! One dollar!
Cassis: Got to have exact change!
(Everyone on the train is watching, laughing, and enjoying themselves… except Man 1 and Man 2.)
Stranger on train: You guys are great!
Todd: (from the other side of the train, shouting) How much for the pants?
Cassis: One dollar. Exact change.
Schnetuer: (grabbing pants) I stepped on the right train… I’ll tell ya!
Todd: For real. Bring the pants down here!
Willner: I’ll take some pants over here, please.
Todd: It’s cold out!
Man 1: (to everyone) Watch your wallet! … This is so fucking stupid.
Todd: (to Man 1) Yeah really! A dollar?
Man 1: You gotta get a life.
Todd: What do you mean?
Man 1: You heard me. What word doesn’t make sense?
Todd: I heard every word. I don’t understand what you mean by it.
Man 1: Get a life!!
Todd: I understand, but why get a life?
Man 1: Please. Look at yourself.
(agent Todd is holding the pair of pants he just bought in his hand.)
Jesse: (to Todd) Hey, mine don’t fit, can I try your pair?
Todd: Sure. (they exchange pants)
Man 1: (to Jesse) You got the wrong pair of pants, buddy! Get a life!
Todd: (to Jesse) I don’t know if this pair will fit. (to Man 1) Why do you keep saying get a life?
Man 1: What word don’t you understand?
Todd: I understand every word, but I… I mean, it seems like you’re being rude, but I don’t understand why.
Man 1: The last thing I want to see is you putting your fucking pants on in the train.
Cassis: I’m just trying to make an honest buck here. People want pants, I’m going to sell them to ’em.
Man 1: At my expense!
Todd: At my expense. I’m the one that just paid a dollar for them.
Man 1: I paid $1.50 to get into the subway.
Man 2: It is really retarded, what you’re doing.
Man 1: I mean, it’s stupid.
Man 2: It’s stupid.
Man 1: Maybe in the 60’s or 70’s it would have been funny, but today…. it’s embarrassing.
Todd: Because I woke up this morning and forgot to wear pants?
Man 2: And you all did. You all didn’t wear them.
Todd: I don’t know those guys. You’ll have to ask them.
(A woman, henceforth W2, speaks up)
W2: These people [Man 1 and Man 2] need to lighten up!
Man 1: Watch your wallet! It’s so stupid.
Man 2: It’s asinine.
Man 1: It’s annoying. You want to relax on the train and then this happens…
Todd: I’m sorry.
Man 2: …and the cops will come out…
Man 1: The cops will know about this.
Todd: What did I do wrong?
Man 2: It’s a public place. It’s a quality of life issue.
Man 1: It’s a public nuisance!
(another woman, henceforth W1, speaks up. She speaks loudly and confidently)
W1: (to Man 1 and Man 2) I don’t think this qualifies as a public nuisance. I think this qualifies as a “happening” or a piece of performance art, i.e. from the 60’s. That’s exactly what this is, and you just have to accept it and move on.
Man 2: Well then bring it to the theatre, not in the public place.
W1: No. That’s the beauty of it! It happens in public spaces like this. This is why we have “happenings”…
Man 1: (interrupting) Honey, you’re forgetting that this is not the opera house! This is the subway!
W1: It doesn’t take place in the opera house, honey. It can happen here, in a public space.
W2: (to Man 1) You’re forgetting what happened on September 11th! Lighten up!
Man 1: Get a life!
W1: I think I have a life.
Man 1: Yeah?
W1: Yeah. I think so!
Man 1: You’re full of shit.
W2: And you’re full of anger and bitterness!
Man 1: (to all of us) I hope you all get colds!
Lovejoy: We don’t need to create a public nuisance. We have one right here (points to Man 1).
Man 1: Thank you.
Lovejoy: You’re welcome.
Todd: (To Cassis) Do you have any pants that are a little bit bigger? (Todd lifts up coat to expose his crotch that won’t zip up. This is intentionally done right in front of Man 1).
Cassis: I’m out.
Schnetuer: You know, they might fit me.
Man 1: Take ’em off. Maybe they’ll shrink some more!
(agent Todd takes off his pants directly in front of Man 1. He and Schneuter exchange pants.)
Schnetuer: What’s your name, dude?
Schnetuer: I’m Andy.
Todd: Nice to meet you, Andy.
Schnetuer: You too.
Man 1: This is art on the subway!?
(from the back of the train, a man with a mustache, henceforth MM, speaks to Agent Todd)
MM: I wouldn’t trade pants with nobody.
Todd: I wouldn’t either… but she was selling them…
MM: I shower every day… I’m clean…
Todd: (pointing to Schneuter) Well, he seems like a nice guy. That’s true though. You never know.
Man 1: (pointing to W1) Someone needs to buy this girl a movie ticket! She doesn’t know what art is!
(agent Todd hands W1 an Improv Everywhere business card)
W1: Oh! Is this your theatre group?
Todd: What? No. That’s my personal card.
W1: Hey! Do you guys ever need a designer!?
Todd: A designer? ummm… I’m a lawyer.
W1: Oh. Well, I’ll email you my resume.
(The train comes to a stop at 68th St. and the Improv Everywhere agents leave the train, still pretending not to know each other. The mission lasted a total of 17 minutes.)
So much for creating a scene based on “agreement.” Our goal for this mission was to cause a fun scene, to add some excitement to the boring subway life, and to give folks a great story to tell. We did not intend to “embarrass”, “annoy”, or to appear “asinine” and “retarded”. Man 1 had something to say, and we made him the star of the scene. We could have broken character and insulted him back, but instead the IE Agents stood firm that they “forgot to wear pants” and even went so far as to apologize to him. We let W1 and W2 do all the insulting for us. We could not have created a better character than Man 1 if we had scripted it. It’s too bad he didn’t enjoy our scene. For the rest of the train, judging by their laughter, our goals were achieved. We didn’t set out to “fool” anyone. We just set out to create a bit of live comedy through agreement.
As a footnote, W1 did send IE her resume:
to: Improv EverywhereHi,
i caught your subway series on Saturday, 1/5 —
if your group ever does anything site specific
or in a theatre and need a designer, pls call me.
enclosed is my resume. hope to see more of
She’s a lighting designer. Thanks for sticking up for us, Beth!
As another footnote, the dialog written above is an EXACT transcription from the video tape. Other IE missions in the past have been transcribed to the best of the recollection of the agents. It’s important to point out that this transcription is verbatim.
We hope to have footage from the hidden camera up on the site in the near future. If anyone knows anything about putting digital video on the web, send us an email!
UPDATE: Beth (AKA “W1”) has sent in her own written account. Read it here.
UPDATE: Many years later: