Frozen Grand Central: SVU

We didn’t see it, but we’ve received about 50 emails this evening about tonight’s episode of Law & Order: SVU. It apparently centered around a group of New Yorkers who stage massive public events. The leader of said group was played by Robin Williams.

(still from the episode)

There was footage of the group staging a freeze in Grand Central Terminal, which I guess makes it a fictionalized account of our Frozen Grand Central with a dose of murder tossed in somehow. The group also organized a public pillow fight (organized in non-fiction New York by our friends at newmindspace.)

For the record, we had no idea about any of this, and the show didn’t get in touch with us about it. Last year the Idiotarod was fictionalized (also with a murder!) by CSI:NY, so I guess crime drama writers are really plugged into the public spectacle scene in NYC.

If you saw it, let us know how it was in the comments. And if you have a link to video of it, post that too.


  1. It’s addictive ! I saw the show tonight and as soon as it was over I log to this site. I had forgotten about a youtube video someone sent me weeks ago. It’s been 3 hours now just watching videos from around the world. Regarding the show, it’s amazing how fast good ideas are “shared” by main media. At least a “inspired by…Frozen Grand Central..” would be nice.

  2. It was a pretty good freeze (though not very long). I can’t find any video of the actual episode online but if you type Law Order SVU Grand Central Station into YouTube, the first result is a 20 second video of the scene being filmed. You can see some people frozen and then hear someone call “Unfreeze”.

  3. Hi ! How can I know if any freezing is programmed in my own town ???? I’d really like to participate !

  4. I just watched the episode (or rather skimmed it). Geez, I don’t remember SVU being such a lame show…

    The way the freeze happens is much like the Improv Everywhere mission, but it’s supposed to be some kind of “Don’t be sheep!” disobedience activism. Robin Williams’s character is a brilliant, deeply disturbed, psychopathic murderer, as far as I can tell.

    I’m glad to see they did a proper freeze, mechanics-wise (like people stopping suddenly in mid-action), and beyond that I’d say eh, they can have their scene. :)

  5. I saw this last night too!! I love watching SVU and when I saw this last night I was like “ITs IMPROVEVERYWHERE!!!” I’ve been following for a few months, the Improveverywhere site, so I knew exactly what happened the moment it started happening on the show last night!! Improveverywhere is definatly getting noticed now to be put in CSI and now SVU!

  6. I’m a big fan of yours, so I have to admit while I thought it was cool that they referenced the event, I was a little disturbed by the context. The leader of the group (robin williams) was depicted as a dangerous anarchist, clinically antisocial, and capable of inflicting great pain and suffering on fellow human beings to make a point. One of his “stunts” involved posing as a police officer and convincing another man to sexually abuse a young woman, as a way to draw attention to structures of authority–if a police officer told you to do it, would you? are you just a sheep? That sort of thing. It was downright terroristic: using symbolic violence to make an ideological statement.

    So in that, I found it a little creepy. Doing actual injury to another human being seems absolutely antithetical to the spirit of improv everywhere and the groups inspired by it. Fundamentally, I think your project is humane–maybe better said, humanizing–and above all, humorous. It’s about causing a scene and giving your audience a unique experience and a great story to tell. The idea that there’s any connection to political or ideological stunts that would involve sexual violence is abhorrent and, like I said, antithetical to what you’re actually about.

    Then again, they weren’t portraying ya’ll. It was a take-off on the idea of public spectacle and the potential uses it could be put to, and I suppose doing harm to make a point is within the realm of possibility. I’m sure no one will conclude you’re a lot of dangerous anarchists. Or maybe you are anarchists. I’m pretty damn sure you’re not dangerous.

    I would just hate for anyone to think there’s anything sinister about acting goofy in public.

  7. I saw the episode last night as well. My first thought? ‘OMG, SVU stole the frozen grand central stunt!’ Then I thought maybe you guys are in on it, and I tried to spot you in the crowd. Guess not

  8. Well I didnt catch the show but just watched the videos posted. I agree with what Anastasia wrote, though I think it is quite possible people could conclude “you’re a lot of dangerous anarchists.” There were already a few run ins with the police. Luckily I think you’re already ok with the police here in NYC (after the No Pants Day incident a few years back) but it might cause more trouble for the newer groups (like what already happened in DC). People’s minds can ready be just that paranoid and influenced by what they see on tv :/

  9. I’m really upset that they did not credit you. They pretty much stole your idea and made a bunch of money off of it and they didn’t even have the courtesy to put your name in the credits. I sue those rat bastards. And BTW, I am or WAS a big SVU fan- but the only thing good about that episode last night was the bit they stole from you. Two snaps for you guys. You rock! SVU- Big disappointment.

  10. I saw Law and Order last night and was outraged that they stole your beautiful Grand Central Freeze improv. I hope you take some legal action, as this would appear to be intellectual property that NBC and Dick Wolf have just ripped off. You guys do great work – it makes me really angry to see it stolen.

  11. Um, guys, calm down. SVU, and many other tv shows, “steal” from real life all the time. The stunt with the fast-food employee was also, sadly, a real incident. Writers have to get their inspiration from somewhere, and that’s why they put that disclaimer at the beginning of many episodes (“Although inspired in part by a true incident, the following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event”). Shakespeare stole the plot of Romeo and Juliet and no English teacher I’ve ever heard of credits the first writer; it seems to me that’s more worth getting upset over.

  12. I saw it and before the freeze even happened I KNEW they were going to do it.

    To restate a little what others have said: This episode was kind of built around the Stanley Milgram experiments and people’s blind obedience to authority. Robbin Willams’ character (who had fallen pray to Milgram mentailty) was trying (in some harmless and some not harmless ways) to get people to NOT do the common or predictable thing. That’s where the Improveverywhere type of activities come in -with the harmless stuff. The public spectacle stuff was used for the harmless expression of his “Don’t conform and do what’s expected JUST because its expected of you” message.

    I knew early on that the episode was leading to that and wondered if they’d go so far as to do an all out freeze in Grand Central, and sure enough they did. I just knew it! I also had a feeling that they hadn’t contacted you guys and that pissed me off because they so directly copied your Grand Central freeze. (Except that a whistle blow signified the start and stop of the freeze. There was always a visible ring leader.) I understand that SVU copies things from all over the place, but for something that specific, a bit of credit or at least the courtesy of contacting you would have been appropriate IMO. Too bad.

    On another note, I actually know the Milgram experiment very well and wish they’d gone further with that theme instead of trying to tie it into your type of stuff. Milgram’s experiments were heavy and could have made for a much more powerful and relevant episode. Hopefully they’ll bring this character back for more on the Milgram side of the story.

    By the way, I think Tuesday episodes repeat on Saturday night.

  13. Just so it’s clear, while some in the comments have expressed anger– we at Improv Everywhere don’t care. It’s a fictional show that used a real-life event for inspiration– I’m sure that’s what they do for pretty much every episode.

    It would have been a nice gesture if they had given us a heads up about it so we could have at least watched, but no big deal.

  14. I’m glad to see, Agent Todd, that you have your head in the right place. I, for one, thought it was funny. Especially since they froze for less than a minute. What kind of a statement is that? XD

  15. I’m kind of disappointed that they didn’t contact you. But, if you don’t mind, then I guess I shouldn’t really either.
    Also, the seniors at my school did this for their senior prank, although it wasn’t very well coordinated and it wasn’t a very well-kept secret what they were doing so it wasn’t as successful as I’m sure they hoped. [:

  16. The episode was awsome! (I am a fan of SVU) It’s cool that hey got someone as awsome as robin williams to play you. They cuold have atleast contacted you or given you credit for the idea. But still, your famous! I think it’s awsome.

  17. I was just enlightened with your website a few weeks ago. I posted a freeze on my blog, and got my husband up to speed. We were floored when less than 24 hours later, here was a “freeze” on Law and Order. Pretty cool. Robin Williams was successfully creepy in this show…I don’t know what that says for you guys, but any publicity is good publicity, right?

  18. Ah, American TV — because it can’t possible be interesting if there’s no psychopathic murderer involved.

  19. I am a member of a small improv group that has formed in Winnipeg, MB. I love the Grand Central Freeze. It is what inspired me to join the improv group. I must agree, it seems some sort of copyright infringement has taken place. Although it is complimentary to you all that the freeze was duplicated, perhaps the producers of the show and other powers that be should have sought your consent, and maybe requested that some of your own agents take part in the actual show. It just seems wrong. As well, as one poster has already indicated, the character portrayed by Robin Williams is not in keeping with Improv Everywhere and your mission statement. You’re a peaceful organization of talented people who are not about anarchy and debauchery…just a bit of simple mischief and mayhem! ;) I think you should stage a mock trial and bring those scoundrels to court. And while you’re at it, insist that Mr. Robin Williams owes a public apology, which he can honor by hanging out for a mission with all of you, while providing free coffee and doughnuts to the New York Improv agents! :) Just a thought…

  20. I just saw this episode’s rerun on USA… As soon as they did the pillow fight scene, I was thinking – THIS IS JUST LIKE IMPROV EVERYWHERE… then I saw the frozen grand central scene.

    I figured they had one of you on set as a consultant lol.

  21. For what it’s worth, CSI: NY is big on the public spectacle thing. A lot of their episodes deal with things like the Idiotarod.

  22. The episode name, I believe, is Authority.

    As an IE fan (but an even bigger SVU fan) I have to say that this really wasn’t very central to the episode at all. That they showed it for less than a minute means nothing, it is only roughly a 40 minute show, spending 5 minutes on such a static scene would (no offense) bore viewers. This event in the episode was followed by a hostage situation, tv shows have to keep moving you know?

    And the idea of standing still wasn’t really suddenly invented by one person :/ and as for making money off of it I HIGHLY doubt anyone tuned into SVU just to watch for that, if that were the case, those shots would be in the previews and they were not.