This Train is not a Playground
Kinney, Kula, Carnevale, Hines, Dippold, Pittman, Shelktone, Barrison, Runestand, Mason, Borden, Corinaldi, Rosenthal, Choo Choo, Appel, Woods, Winckler, Sheldon, Jesster, Berrebbi, Tudor, Arauz, Leonard, Montague, Godwin, Thomas, Tompkins, McNayber, Goodman, Ardell, Sheaffer, Macdermid, Rodgers, Cassis, Grossman + more
Digital Photography: Agents Dippold, Borden
DV Cam: Agents Butler, Choo Choo, Winckler, Borden
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of “No Pants!”, Improv Everywhere set out to stage a sequel to the mission. Like all sequels, we intended to make this one bigger and wilder. With over 40 people participating, we did just that.
Once our masses assembled at the meeting place (the steps of the off-broadway show, De La Guarda) I divided everyone up into different groups and positions. We had two digital photographers, three people filming, two pants sellers, two guys in charge of keeping the doors open in case of emergency, and about 40 people ready to take their pants off.
We took the 5 train from Union Square down to Brooklyn Bridge and crossed over to the Uptown 6. The doormen and the folks with cameras positioned themselves discreetly in the final car of the train. Everyone else entered the second to last car. I removed my pants as the train started rolling and entered the last car at Canal Street. Agent Keech entered by himself at the next stop. The following stop, 2 agents entered, then 4 at the stop after that, and then 8 at the next four stops. The four groups of 8 were each headed up by a team captain to make everything run smoothly. After all of the pantless riders had entered the last car, the pants sellers entered selling pants for $1. When the pants-buying had completed we exited the train and repeated the mission on a downtown 6 Train heading back to Union Square.
So that’s a quick outline of how things worked. Rather than getting in to the details myself, I’m going to let you experience the story through our photos and the direct reports of those involved. Enjoy!
Pre-mission group photo
I was the second one off of the train. So, I was the only one on the subway car taking off my pants. The car totally filled up at the stop where Agent Todd got off first.
So, I ended up standing in the middle of a packed car, all people who had not seen Todd take off his pants.
As I’m holding onto the shoulder of a stranger for balance, taking off my pants, another stranger on the train starts yelling at me, “Woah (like ‘slow down there’), buddy, woah, woah, woah, whahohoho, woah, woah, hold up, buddy!”
When I finally got my shoes back on, I tossed my pants to the nearest undercover I.E. agent and got off the train and onto the last car.
The first thing I did was kind of walk around and then check the map. I squeezed between two people on the train and pretended to fall asleep. Highlights from the conversation of the couple next to me:
“They can’t know each other. They haven’t even talked to each other.”
“Did they look at each other?”
“I don’t know.”
“There is no way that this guy is really asleep.” (Trying to wake me up.)
As more people without pants enter at the next stop:
(Laughing) “Weird… Now there’s a bunch of them.”
“Should we get off?”
“Let’s at least wait until our stop.”
“Yeah, ’cause I think he’s asleep.”
Agents Dippold and Rosenthal on the 5-Train prep ride
The kids in the 96th street station were hilarious when they saw Agent Pittman without pants. Three little girls literally stopped and backed up away from him, saying, “Put some pants on! He’s a pervert!”
A man sitting next to me asked me what’s going on? I said, oh gosh, I forgot my pants today. He said, no, I mean, all these people – is there a run somewhere today? I just looked at the others as if I was noticing them for the first time and said, “Oh gosh, I don’t know!”
Agent Todd is the first to enter
At Astor Place, Agent Amigone and I entered the train. We were the first females the passengers saw without pants. We stood in front of one of the windows so we would be plainly visible to commuters on the platform. At 14th Street, the train was held in the station momentarily with the doors closed. Three teenagers walked up to the train, cupped their hands around their eyes, and peered in. One of them yelled, “Hey guys, look! Chicks with no pants!” As the train pulled away from the station, the three teenagers ran after it, trying to get our attention.
Agent Todd checks the map
I was so surprised at how many people were there at the steps of De La Guarda. It was like a rally or something, especially with how we were divided into teams. I was on Team Barrison.
Team Barrison got off to a lopsided start as Agent Rosenthal and me were on the last car of the train together. Not realizing that we should have been on the next to last car together. Then we saw Agent Todd coming along very slowly in his cherry boxers with the same slowness and importance as a man holding a gun above his head. The game had begun.
Mark Sam and I exchanged glances and realized we should be in the other car as Todd went to look at the subway map and bent over to give everyone a good view of his no pants.
The 2nd car was very crowded. Way too crowded. I was instantly worried how we were going to remove our pants. Spotted the rest of team Barrison. Then saw Agent Pittman the businessmen with no pants emerge. The 2nd wave had gone. And right as the next stop hit, Barrison started yanking on his pants. I observed someone else who was sitting down loosening his belt and unzipping his fly, and I was amazed that no one was reacting. Maybe they thought he was going to pleasure himself and were trying not to look.
As doors opened, I took off my pants and shoes and scurried into next car. It took a long while to put on my shoes, and I noticed that this couple was eyeing me. The conductor sounded over the PA, “This train is not a playground.”
Unfortunately, they were foreign and I couldn’t understand what language they were speaking. But they were confused at the infusion of pantless subway riders. A seat opened next to me, and I squeezed in by them. This was one of the best moments to watch for people’s expressions when a pantless person did the old squeeze in next to them.
Same little kids selling candy came through and did brisk business among the pantless. But the little kids berated the pantless and made fun of them.
Amazingly, when scooching next to people in skivvies, I observed only grimaced faces but no verbal complaints. I started reading my book. I was relatively unbothered for most of the trip. However, the old couple left and a woman and her daughter entered and they kept wondering to themselves what it was all for. A man next to us loudly asked, “Who’s next?!” “Who’s going to take their pants off next?!” “You!?” (Pointing at someone who had just gotten on, not an Improv Everywhere agent.)
Then the pants people arrived selling pants. I got some pants but they were women’s so I returned them and put on a pair of sweatpants. It took a long time and the woman and daughters were amused. More amusing were the people that decided to NOT wear pants.
Soon, we all got off, and I got my own pants.
Agent Keech enters on the second stop
Agent Butler films discreetly
While I was getting undressed a woman asked, ” Is this some kind of freak day? Can I get undressed, too?” I replied with encouragement to go for it. Therein she asked, “Is this some kind of club?” I replied, “It’s kind of like the Polar Bear club but without water.”
She then said, “This is great! I get to watch you and I don’t even have to pay you.”
Some men propositioned Agent Sklaren and me by saying, “How much?”
Also, one guy got off the train and ran to the window and proceeded to stare at our legs until the train left.
In the initial car, next to the “drop point”, there was an old lady who said, “Look at all of that free ass! I can’t remember the last time I seen so much ass.”
On the uptown trip, the pants salesman was quickly followed by a crew of kids selling candy.
Also of note was the unexpected crowdedness of the first train. I couldn’t see the bag girl when I took off my pants, so I literally had to just throw my pants down and go. I really wasn’t sure if I’d see my pants again.
It was a great experience.
Agent Todd and Agent Kinney
When Agent Keech [the second man to go] got off the train, (Keech was right near myself and several others) that’s when I first heard some reactions – “Did that boy just take off his pants?” “It’s gonna be one of those days…” and “what’s going here?” Then, soon afterwards when myself, Agent Leonard and Agent Montague and the rest of the first group of eight took off their pants, I heard “This is crazy!” and “Maybe I should take off my pants, too…”
On the train with fellow no pants riders, after a few stops a Hispanic man and his brother pull me aside and asked me what was going on – I responded, “What do you mean?” and he said, “C’mon – why are all these people not wearing pants?” I told him that I didn’t know them, and I said speaking for myself, I simply forgot. He said, “Isn’t that weird?” and I said, “yeah I guess, I haven’t really thought it much.” Right then the pants sellers came on board, and I excused myself to go buy some pants.
On the next to last stop before we got off, a man got off and said, “Well, I’ll never forget this train ride…”
On the second trip, I came on a bit earlier, and with the train a lot less crowded, I got a lot more attention. When I walked in, three African American women exploded into laughter (I went on the third stop) saying, “Here we go!” realizing the pattern to what was going on. I immediately walked over and sat down right across from them. One of the women convinced the other to take a picture of me.
I was sitting next to an African American man who may or may not have known them, but when they went to take the picture, he protested that he did not want to be in the picture. I gave the ladies a strange look when they took their pictures.
Audience Member and Agent Kula
Random Guy, to Agent Pittman: Do people give you guys shit, or do you get a lot of money?
Pittman: What do you mean “you guys”?
Guy: You know, all y’all not wearing pants.
Pittman: I don’t know about them. I’m just late for a meeting uptown, and I forgot my pants.
(At that point, Pittman gets on his cell phone and, despite being well below 23rd St., “calls” his business associates.)
Candy-selling Kid 1: Y’all going to a Forget Yo Pants party?
Candy-selling Kid 2: Y’all gay.
The best moment in the uptown ride was when the two kids selling candy entered at one end of the train just as the pants saleswomen entered at the other end. It was entrepreneurial ping-pong:
“Pants for $1”
“M&Ms for $1”
“Pants, just a dollar”
“Starbust, one dollar.”
Agent Tudor, Audience Member, Agent Pittman, Agent Leonard, Audience Member
On the first run, when Agent Mason’s group was taking their pants off, I heard some guy say “If it’s THAT kind of party, I’m gonna take my pants of too!!!”
During the first run, a mad/confused passenger said “I’m on the WRONG train” as he tried to make his way through the crowd of pantless riders.
Agent Woods and Audience Member
This is how I remember my favorite interaction. I was sitting next to a skinny, elderly black man in a big puffy coat. I was talking to him about my no-pants predicament. At one point he said, “It’s all good. It’s all good.” To which I replied, “It’s good for you, you get to have a chuckle, but for me it is extremely embarrassing.” He said laughing, “I’m having a good chuckle.” Later in our conversation, he tried to put me at ease by modifying his earlier statement, “Understand, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.” I thought that was a very sweet and funny thing to say.
Agent Pittman as “Business Man”
The M&M boys: “Why y’all in your shorts?”
Me: I have an important meeting uptown and I guess I forgot.
The M&M boys: “Y’all Gay.”
Hipster Couple: “Do you guys catch a lot of shit from the MTA–or do they just let you go?”
Me: “I’m sorry?”
Hipster Couple: “Do you guys catch a lot of shit from the MTA?”
Me: “What do you mean you guys?”
Hipster Couple: “All the people without pants on!?”
Me: “Oh! Look, they must’ve forgot too.”
The rapper that used our cameras to promote his bootleg-ass album was pretty hilarious. I asked him if he traded stocks. And it should be noted that his freestyle was totally pre-fab.
Also, Agent Carnevale was ridiculous. I could not look at him and keep a straight face.
Agent Amigone (floral), Agent Carnevale (black breifs)
After buying a pair of pants from a salesperson, I traded them back in for a picture of a cat that Agent Godwin was carrying. Smart move, right? It was a nice picture and I like cats. Wrong – I quickly realized my mistake and lamented it to the gentleman next to me:
Me: “Would you trade me your pants for this picture?”
Man: “These were $70 dollars!”
Me: “Wow – sucks for you. You could have bought 70 pairs.”
There were two guys on the way up, one of whom had a beanie baby in his jacket:
Guy 1: “What’s going on?”
Guy 2: “I don’t know, but it’s good.”
Guy 1: “Why?”
Guy 2: “Cause girls got their pants off.”
The boisterous man on the way back down is the one who screamed (while we were getting off at Union Square) “Next time forget your britches!… uh – the ladies I mean, not the guys.”
One of the kids selling candy said “We should have been selling
Someone screamed “Only in New York!” at some point.
So much fun.
Audience Member enters the No Pants train
I was standing next to Agent Arauz who, when taking off his pants, had to turn his back on a woman, seated, whose boyfriend, also seated, tucked her under his arm and unleashed a stream of profanities and moral imperatives concerning the removal of one’s pants on the subway, the removal of one’s pants in front of a woman, and the opprobrium that should greet one who does so without consideration of the proximity between one’s behind and the face of that woman. Also discussed was the unthinkable outrage of recording such things with a video camera.
On our southbound subway trip, relieved of my video camera, I had the opportunity to remove my own pants, which I greatly enjoyed. As we were similarly attired in business apparel appropriate to ‘The Street’, Agent Pittman and I engaged in some improvisational dialogue concerning recent and upcoming events and business dealings at ‘the firm’
A good time was had by all (agents) and most (unwitting participants).
The following is my account to the best of my memory of the adventures of the Team Runestad. Like paratroopers who were gusted away by uncommonly strong winds my team found ourselves separated from our allies and behind enemy lines – without pants!
One of the funnier moments occurred before we were stranded: As you know, it was crazy crowded in our starting car. As a result there was some chaos as to when to leave and whatnot… The first really big noticeable group was Agent Barrion’s, the one right before mine, probably because they were all in a group near us when they all dropped their pants. My team, being improv-ly awesome, joined in with all of the people around us in irritated disgust over what these apparent strangers had just done. On top of that, the conductor also took the opportunity to announce that the subway was not a playground and that whatever shenanigans were going on needed to stop. My team nodded our agreement. Then we all proceeded to drop our pants and exit the subway car.
Having not paid any attention to the other IE Agents leaving or the direction they went, I lead my team forward to the third to last car rather than towards the last car.
We entered a car full of people with pants. Nobody panicked, everybody just acted like nothing was out of place in the least. The only two members of the team who interacted with each other at all during the mission were Agent Thomas and her friend who were playing the roles of the tourists.
One of the things that made Team Runestad even more extreme was that the 4 female agents on the team didn’t change their underwear choices at all but were actually wearing panties. One of the most interesting things to notice was how unimportant a guy in boxers was compared to bare womanly thighs. I stood next to the tourists for the whole trip and no one even blinked in my direction.
Everyone who was brave enough to inquire as to why people weren’t wearing pants ALWAYS prefaced it with “I’m sorry, but I have to ask…” I found this really funny. We were on the subway with no pants on. You don’t need to apologize for wondering what is going on.
The tourists had a hilarious exchange going throughout the whole trip, the details of which I’ve almost all but completely forgotten. The funniest moments were when they would interact with other people trying to get directions around the city and stuff. People took them incredibly seriously when trying to help. The following exchange took place around 59th street going north while the tourists were looking over a map with one of the regular passengers.
Tourist: Well, I guess what we really want to see is Times Square.
Passenger: (deadpan) you are going the COMPLETE wrong way.
Some kids came to sell candy and upon seeing the girls one of the kids began taking off his own clothes while remarking, “My dreams have come true” until he was restrained by his friends.
In order to try to maintain some sort of moral high-ground, the whole time I was pantless I was reading the book “Walking the Bible”.
Finally, and luckily for us, an IE agent arrived to sell us pants. This presented some interesting situations – due to the confusion and crowdedness of the original car, we had almost all taken our pants with us as there was no one readily available to hand them to. I kept mine under my coat for the whole time. The following solutions were reached: “Here, let me trade you this pair of pants for one of yours” and “No, that’s OK, I don’t need pants, I’ve already got a pair.” Both of these statements make no sense because they admit that the person had had pants all along and just wasn’t wearing them for some reason. Nonetheless, it was all done so convincingly that I didn’t realize that it made no sense until later on.
It was also at this point where one agent made one of the cooler moves of the mission. There was the obvious hubbub of the pants seller coming on; the vibe was definitely one of “Yay pants! Our savior!” After this subsided the agent, who was sitting in the far corner somewhat separated, stood up and as though he were ordering a hot dog at a baseball game said, “Hey, can I get a pair of pants.” His dollar was then passed down and pants were passed along to him.
At 125th street in Harlem we got off and after several agents took much-needed trips to the bathroom we got on an express train and met back up with the rest of the IE agents at Union Square. Mission complete.
While I wouldn’t have chosen on purpose to separate myself from the larger group, it was definitely a cool experience and a more subtle one than I think everybody else had. We all just did our own thing, acting like everything was normal and it was a really cool experience.
Agent Mason buys a pair of $1 pants from Agent Godwin as Audience Member looks on
When the train opened its doors at Canal Street, so many people got on our car that it became impossible to keep track of everyone on my team. I had no idea where the duffel bag people were either. I was worried we’d have to abort the mission and regroup. This was my first mission, and I was foolish. IE agents don’t abort.
My orders were to lead my team on our sortie one stop after Agent Mason his team. Through the throngs of people (which had only increased as we proceeded uptown), I lost track of the order. It was then I remembered my field training, and the inspirational words of Agent Todd echoed in my brain (or was that the train conductor announcing that the train was “not a playground”). I gradually got in position. Miraculously, Agent Hines materialized next to me, and I knew the time was right. Surrounded by a cocoon of agents, I de-pantsed and made my way out of the penultimate car. Close at my heels were Agents Shelktone, Borden, and Rosenthal, who had deftly noticed my positioning and readied themselves.
We entered the last car and all went as planned. Eventually, when Team Vend came around selling pants, I took a stance against the pants, which I assumed to be made in sweatshops due to their low price. I instead bought a pack of sour Starbursts to finance boys’ basketball uniforms. I enjoyed three bursts before we exited the train at 96th Street: Watermelon, Green Apple (yuck), and Fruit Punch.
When we exited the uptown portion of the mission, I looked around for the team that was to succeed my own in entering the last car, led by Agent Runestad). He was nowhere to be found! I was at that time unaware of the exploits of Team Runestad, and was concerned we had broken a cardinal tenet of the IE Code: never leave a man behind.
Agents Hines and Sheldon inspect their new purchases
I started the trip way on the other end of the car. When it came time for folks to start dropping their pants, they found they didn’t have time to get their pants to any of the bag people. I gathered up what was there and dropped it off closer to the back of the train.
Making the move in the fourth group I think limited the amount that was going to happen. On the trip uptown, the train became so crowded that half of Team Hines had already moved into the final train a stop early (no big deal). The few of us that were left seemed to be treated by riders that had become very jaded. We heard remarks like “these guys are taking off their pants too!” and “it must be a frat thing”. But we shambled over to the last car and found room to stand.
The crowd definitely was giving us plenty of room. No one wanted to brush up against Agent Corinaldi or me. Being at the front end of the last car, we purchased pants very shortly after we entered. We all got out of the train at 96th, but Agent Corinaldi immediately jumped back on. At the time no one knew why. Of course we found out later he was selling pants to people in a different car [Team Runestad].
The way down worked much better. I think simply because there was more room to walk around. In the staging car a number of people were remarking to me how odd it was that everyone kept dropping their pants. I agreed, but shortly after revealed that I was just as odd.
Audience Members on the second train
There were 8 of us on Team Runestad. We were one of the last teams to “go.” Agent Goodman and I (dressed as tourists complete with New York sweatshirts and t-shirts, fanny pack, “Ground Zero” cap, and a subway map) had befriended a woman and her 12-year-old daughter on the fully clothed (or pre-pantless) train. She was helping us with directions to Bloomindales. Once she noticed people disrobing, she told us that the subway was very safe and that her daughter rode it all the time by herself.
We thanked her by taking off our pants. She replied with a shocked, “You’re doing it, too?” To which we said, “When in Rome…” But instead of heading towards the last pantless car, we went to the car ahead of us (the third to last car.) There were seven of us total–4 men, 4 women. We were dispersed throughout the car, some reading the paper and occasionally asking fellow passengers for the time, others just standing or sitting casually. Agent Goodman and I continued our tourists-in-panties show. At one point, I leaned back against one of the poles, only to rest my ass on a poor woman’s hand. I apologized; she was horrified.
We noticed everyone else getting off at the 96th Street stop, but we continued to ride to 125th street. Somewhere near the 125th St. stop (I think), a couple kids selling candy for their basketball team came on the train. One kid started by saying: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not mean to disturb your ride this evening, but friends and I are selling candy to support our…DAMN!” He proceeded to pull his pants down in a show of support for our already pantless crew. It was great and got a good laugh from the entire train.
At one point, Agent Corinaldi did manage to sell us pants, so I was wearing somebody else’s (male) pants. We went back down to 14th street after disembarking at 125th. When we got back to Union Square, I met the man whose pants I was wearing, but didn’t know where my pants were, so after some meandering through the subway station labyrinth, I found my pants.
Throughout the whole experience, I did not see one dirty look nor was I the recipient of one mean spirited comment. A couple people asked why we weren’t wearing pants, to which we replied with a shrug, “We forgot.” A couple people accepted this answer, but a few people gave us strange looks. One guy got off the subway, and held the doors open for a last look and a question: “Why aren’t you wearing pants?” The door closed before we could reply. Luckily, I was stationed right in front of the door, so the next set of unassuming passengers were greeted with my bare legs and cherry-decorated, cotton-clad derriere.
Audience Member upon seeing the second wave of pantless agents
I particularly had fun with the fact that I myself wasn’t even sure who was in our group, since it was so large. Three examples:
- On the first ride, I was checking out the bearded guy in our group, thinking that he was just some regular subway rider, and I thought to myself, “jeez, I wonder how that guy’s gonna react when we all start taking off our pants.” Later he took off his pants.
- 2- Once we moved to the second car, and most of us were standing around with our pants off, a large brusque guy came on the train and, clearly annoyed with the Improv, said to one of our agents who was still wearing pants, “So what, you gonna take off your pants too?” Again, I thought the agent was just a regular kid on the subway, and felt really sorry for him as he responded meekly with things like: “What? I don’t know what . . .” Later he took off his pants.
- 3- On the second ride, there was one female agent in sunglasses and boots on the train. I didn’t recognize her from before, and apparently her pantless costume involved a small skirt, such that it didn’t occur to me that she was one of us. So I kept thinking to myself the whole time, I wonder what this girl’s thinking of all this. Then she got off the train with us at Union Square, and I thought, wow she must really want to figure out what’s going on here. Then I realized that she was one of us.
I really enjoyed when, on the second ride, I was sitting next to some girls for a really long time (the ones who kept saying, “we gotta get off this train!”), and didn’t talk with them at all, except for:
ME: Wait, are they selling pants down there?
GIRL: Uhm, yeah, I guess.
ME: Wow, *that’s* really weird.
GIRL: (Confusedly) Yeah.
Agent Leonard and Audience Member
Agents Pittman, Winckler, Leonard, Audience Members
Agent Apple entering the car
Agent Jesster plays Gameboy
Agents Winckler and Pittman read the Financial Times
Agent Cassis, Audience Member, Agent Kula, Agent Amigone
Audience Members react to Agent Tudor’s red breifs
Agents Leonard and Todd
Audience Members watch IE Agents leave
Agent Thomas as “Tourist”