Welcome Back

Produced byCharlie Todd and Matt Adams
Music byTyler Walker
Digital Video: Agents Adams, Shafer
Digital Photography: Agents Nicholson, Sokoler

For our latest mission, 20 Improv Everywhere agents personally welcomed home total strangers at JFK airport. Grabbing first and last names from car driver signs, we greeted strangers with personalized posters, flowers, balloons, and a 10-foot wide banner reading, “Welcome Back.”

The plan was simple, our team of 20 agents would head out to JFK airport together with balloons, flowers, poster boards, and markers. I would approach a driver waiting at baggage claim with a sign, confirm the first and last name of the person he was waiting for, and then let him know that we too were waiting for that person. We’d then quickly write the person’s name on our poster boards and prepare to give them a warm welcome home.

Going over the plan at the Air Train station near JFK

Agent Good looks at arrivals
Agent Nicholson and I had scouted all of the terminals the day before to figure out which ones had the most drivers waiting. The huge international terminals seemed to be the best bet. We were a little nervous that we would get someone visiting from a foreign country that didn’t speak English. I scanned the drivers looking for American sounding names. I also wanted to find a driver who looked friendly who we could immediately get on our side.

I settled on Kevin. He was waiting for Lori. I told him we were as well, and right away he was excited to be a part of our welcoming party.

Kevin came right over to stand with us. “This is going to be fun,” he smiled. After hanging out with us for about ten minutes, he decided it would be a better plan for him to go up front and catch Lori’s eye as soon as she entered and then lead her over to us. We agreed. This way she would find her driver and then be led directly to our party. Of course, he had no idea that the 20 of us knew Lori about as well as he did.

Agents write Lori’s name on signs
It was exciting standing there wondering when Lori would arrive. We had no idea what she looked like, so any woman who walked by could have been her. We had to stay alert. Agent Nicholson came up with the great idea to Google Lori’s full name on his iPhone, and he quickly found this photo:

So we had a photo to go on, but we couldn’t be sure it was actually the same Lori and not someone else with the same name. Tensions mounted as the wait for Lori stretched over the one hour mark. Kevin had told us that her flight from Rome had long since arrived. There must have been a long line at customs. We knew she wouldn’t leave without her driver, so we just had to patiently wait.

Lori arrives and meets Kevin
Finally she arrived. As planned she saw Kevin right away and he led her over to us.

The Improv Everywhere team greeting Lori
The look on Lori’s face was priceless. We had a few signs with both her first and last name on them so there was no doubt we were there to see her. Agent Reeves approached with a smile and gave her a bouquet of flowers. Everyone was cheering and screaming her name. “I don’t think I know these people,” Lori kept telling Kevin. Kevin, not in on the mission, kept saying, “They’re here for you!”

After a minute or two, I approached Lori to let her know that we didn’t know her either, but that we just wanted to welcome her back from her trip.

Knowing that we didn’t know her either seemed to put her at ease. Although she was still a little dumbfounded as to why we had chosen her, she couldn’t stop laughing and thanking us.

Lori and Kevin posed for some photos with the group, holding signs. We interviewed them both on video for a bit, asking them about the experience. Lori told us, “That was very strange. I wasn’t expecting anyone, just my driver. I saw my first and last name. I kept thinking this is really me, but this can’t be me.” Kevin was just as shocked as Lori. At first he couldn’t figure out why Lori was reacting strangely to a large group of what he thought were her close friends. “That was a beautiful thing,” he told us, and then said we could welcome him back at the airport anytime.

We told Lori and Kevin goodbye and they walked off towards his car. Lori took with her one of the signs, her flowers, and a single blue balloon. We had so much fun welcoming Lori back that we decided to try it a few more times. I found another driver with a new name and we started the process all over again. Our new person was Drew G. Everyone quickly started making new signs as I kept repeating his name. “It’s Drew G,” I shouted. Out of nowhere a man replied, “I’m Drew G!” We turned around and there he was standing right next to us!

Drew G.

Agents laugh as they realize Drew is right next to them
He had been wandering around trying to find his driver and happened to be passing right by us as I was saying his name. We all busted out laughing and then hastily started yelling welcome back holding up our just finished signs.

Agent Lindquist handed him a box of New York chocolates and Agent Wimpy gave him flowers. “Thank you. Do I need to kiss you, or anything?” he asked. Agent Wimpy smiled and went in for a European style double kiss.

“This is cool. I’m still trying to figure out what is going on here.”

Agent Lathan had the best sign
Drew’s welcoming was short and sweet, especially compared to the hour wait we had for Lori. No one else in the terminal seemed to notice that the same 20-person group welcomed home two completely different people in a matter of minutes. We talked to Drew for a bit and he posed for a few photos. He left with a sign, flowers, and chocolates, smiling ear to ear.

After Drew left we decided to hop over to another terminal to welcome a couple of more people home. Surely people would eventually catch on to us if we stayed in the same place. At the new terminal, I found a very nice driver with a sign for a named John. He happily agreed to stand right in front of us.

Agent Lindquist bought an “I Love NY” bear in the gift shop to give to John.

The IE team waiting for John
After about ten minutes of waiting John arrived.

At first he was completely confused. He insisted that it was another John the crowd was waiting for. “It’s not me,” he kept telling his driver. “It’s you! It’s you!” the driver kept insisting, not understanding the confusion. I guess having a common name like John made it seem more likely that we were waiting for another person with his full name.

“It’s not me.”

“It’s you.”
Agent Reeves gave him flowers and Agent Lindquist gave him the bear.

“Who are you people!?!?”

John smiles as he tried to figure it all out

Once again, Agent Lathan had the best sign: “You Rock Our World John K.”
I approached John and explained that we didn’t know him either, and he started laughing. “Well, that was really nice,” he told us.

John posed for a few photos with his fist held triumphantly in the air.

John told us goodbye and headed home to get some rest after his long flight. We were about to head home ourselves when a man approached me and asked if we could welcome home his daughter and her new husband from their honeymoon. He had seen us welcoming back John and had figured out what was going on. “Sure,” I told him, “Just tell us their names.”

We agreed that he and his wife would hide behind our group and wait a few minutes before revealing themselves. A few minutes later Jeannine and Dennis arrived.

“Who are these people?”
Agent Reeves and Wimpy gave them both a bouquet of flowers as they stood shocked.

Moments later the parents came out from hiding.

It took a little bit of explaining for them to understand what had happened. At first they thought their parents had hired a crew to come greet them. Actually, I guess that’s pretty much what happened.

It was our last welcoming back of the day, so we gave Jeannine and Dennis our big bunch of balloons to take home with them.

It was a long day for all of us. Normally no one would want to spend 4 hours at baggage claim, but we had a blast together and managed to meet five new friends. Everyone on both sides of the welcome back banner had a great time.

Mission Accomplished.


-More photos:
Agent Nicholson’s Flickr Set
Agent Sokoler’s Flickr Set


  1. Genius concept, flawlessly executed, more than fitting the definition for “random act of kindness.” Thanks for making the world a little brighter and more colorful.

  2. Aww… this is the sweetest thing I’ve read in a long time. I’ll be travelling for Thanksgiving and I hope somebody freaks me out like this ;)

  3. Absolutely beautiful mission – I daresay I got a little teary-eyed looking at (and reading about) reactions. Am I the only one who loves hanging out at the Arrivals level in an airport? Lots of happy reunions!

  4. In the world we live in today, I could not think of a more perfect prank. You guys are absolutely outstanding, and if I lived in NYC, I would have been a member from day one! Thanks for making random people smile!! :D

  5. Wow! What a way to WAKE UP from a long and usually boring flight! Nothing like a “random act of kindness” to give a person a story of a lifetime! What an excellent way to use MOB mentality. You guys are fantastic, I hope you know that you all created happiness and joy in peoples lives through these events, not only the ones you physically meet, but us, the viewers, who look forward to your next “act”. You all deserve a WELCOME HOME party yourselves! (and a great big THANK YOU for making our day!)


  6. That was very well executed. It may be silly, it may be funny, but if it makes a difference in someone’s life then why the heck not? :)

    Good job, guys.

  7. Ha, awesome concept. The reactions are priceless. I’d absolutely love to get in on some of these smaller missions. If you ever need people for them you know who to call! :)

  8. I really enjoyed reading about your latest mission, and seeing the delightful photos. It was a welcome break from reading about all the negativity in the world today. Keep up the good work!

  9. This was great! When the parents asked you to greet their daughter/SIL, I started crying, I was laughing so hard.
    I keep my eyes open for a Sunday or weekday evening one that I can join but no luck for me so far. Some day I will get to join you all in the craziness!

  10. Excellent just excellent the agents never seem to put a smile with my mouth fully open expression……..how do i become an agent to join in on the hulairity, smile

  11. I have loved everything I’ve seen you guys do but this one – the combo of its simplicity, uniqueness, and … and what … appropriateness? is that the word I’m looking for? makes this one just totally absolutely completely superb! and i don’t have a font size big enough for this I’m trying to express. yes, i cried smiling through and through. thank you all!

  12. I love you guys! It’s so great to add fun and imagination into people’s lives. You never know when you’ve helped out a person really in need of a laugh and smile!

  13. It’s beautiful when it goes off without any hitches, isn’t it? Even though everyone was surprised, no one got angry or upset and there didn’t even seem to be bad weather. Congratulations. :) A perfect Improv Everywhere stunt.

  14. you guys are fantastic…this was an astoundingly sweet idea and you made me cry with delight & laughter – so unexpected and beautiful!!! keep up your amazing work!!!!!!!

  15. You guys are nuts! I love it! I really wish I could have joined in on this one.. or any mission, for that matter. But school has kept me busy! At least I get to watch these hilarious videos! One day I’ll join you all!!

  16. Wow! I’ve never had anyone meet me at the airport, even when I fly home to see the family, but there’s always this split second when I can’t help but look and see if anyone has shown up for me. If that had been me, I would’ve started crying – happy tears, though. It would have been really nice.

  17. One of your best – bravo!

    If you ever need an agent in Chicago — or something postmarked Chicago or environs — let me know. I can be contacted through the Old Town School of Folk Music. I have the gravitas that comes with having a few more years under my belt — and, by the way, a couple long-standing but vaporous institutions, including a university and a literary/scholarly journal.

  18. Brillian! Absolutely brilliant! I wonder what would have happened if that happened to us…

    Oh, wait. We didn’t have a driver. Still…Awesome! Keep it up!

  19. what in the world how come i didn’t hear about this? did you guys sent an email about this? damn i want to do this! do it again PLEASE!

    i said this a lot, hahaa.

  20. That was very great of people to take the time off their lives to make a few strangers smile. I love doing things like that. If i go out, i will normaly walk over and talk to someone who is alone. or maybe look like they don’t fit in. I’m a very pretty girl and i know this myself so i use my looks and charm to make someone who is standing on the outside smile. What better way to spend an evening making someone else smile. It’s food for the soul doing this. I always love making people smile and i’m so glad that i am not the only one doing it! You guys are great, don’t stop!!

  21. @Rocky,

    Join the NY Mailing list – http://improveverywhere.com/email-lists/ – and come to all the big missions. Everyone who does the smaller missions has been around for years and years, so it’s sort of a seniority thing. One way to get involved with something smaller is to email us an idea we’ve never thought of that we decide to do (we of course always include the idea suggester in the mission.)

  22. I got off of a plane at JFK 4 days ago and texted a tweet saying that next time I came home I was going to hire someone to come greet me at the airport.

    Absolutely incredible.

  23. It was beautiful, true expression of the human spirit. I love the real expression of surprise from the unsuspecting faces! After a few seconds, although they did not know everyone, couldn’t help but feel special for that moment in time.

  24. Really really cute! Couldn’t stop laughing watching it… Well done everyone!
    I joined an action in London a few months ago but I will look for a group in Tel Aviv now!

  25. thx for letting me come up and help you out with this mission. Let me know if you would like anymore help on one of these :)

  26. Reminds me of a prank my friends pulled on me when returning home from College for the summer. My friends were picking me up, but they brought along another friend of theirs – a VERY attractive girl I had never met before. As I walked out of the gate, this attractive girl came running across the room calling my name to give me a huge hug and kiss – welcoming me home. I was pleased to have such a welcome, but totally confused!

  27. It pleases me a lot to recognize agents highlighted in past missions. Did we spy Chekov in there? And does Rob ever where a different shirt?

  28. that sentence about “hiring a crew” to greet the honeymooners gave me an idea…you should charge to provide this service. you’d make a fortune

  29. Long time reader, first time commenter…

    I loved this so much. In fact, I love everything you guys have done. There is no other website that can make me laugh, cry, and call my sister to read the newest post all at once. I have been so happy to see how this site has taken off. Congrats, and keep up the good work.

  30. Aaaaaaaaaaaaay!!! que lindoooooos!!!! buenisima ondaaaa!!!!

    Greetings from México´s City. Even I´m thinking in try to do something like that here in México´s City Airport!, we need some fun here, you know? with all those problems with crisis and war against grougs.

    Hughs and kisses!!

  31. amazing people!! I love these people and not even know them.

    I’m from Mexico city too and I would like to do the same.

    the people of our country is generally warm and smiling so it would be an unforgettable experience

  32. This is awesome! Especially in today’s world where people are too busy to send you and fetch you from the airports anymore. Lori, Drew and John were so lucky to have gotten picked.
    An ideal world it would be if every time you came home, you would be greeted by friendly faces, hugs and kisses, flowers, balloons and chocolates, even if they were from strangers.
    I am tempted to spend the day today at the airport welcoming home strangers but it would be weird since I’m alone.

  33. “Welcome Back” reminded me when Ari, age 12, and her sisters were in my car on a country road in the Catskills. A man, who was walking toward us, waved. Ari asked, “Who was that, Daddy?” Raised in New York, we were all confused when it happened several times by other local pedestrians. When I saw “Welcome Back” I cried joyously because it showed the real connections each of us has–beyond clothing, income, skin, gender, etc. It also reminded me when Ari and her sister Shana welcomed me on my return from my year-long stay in China. I knew I was special in their eyes. But their welcome sign and flowers affected everyone at the luggage carousel. I think that was the best part–to see strangers’ faces light up that way. Thanks for helping me remember. Charles

  34. That is absolutely amazing. You people are awesome.

    By the by, am I the only person who was reminded of the opening of Love, Actually?

  35. It’s funny to think that after vacationing or working in another country, their arrival home was probably the first thing they told people about. What a delightful mission!

  36. This project would have been better if the people pretended to know that person and came up to hug them as if they were long lost relatives instead being distant.

  37. I wish someone would do something like this for me. That would make my day even my whole year! I absolutely love random & spontaneous things. :-D

  38. This is the neatest prank I’ve seen on here. My best friend works at RDU in Raleigh; we need to get people to do this there. That would be awesome.

  39. Some of IA’s bits are awesome… the shopping mall musical, the frozen people in Grand Central, etc., but this is one of the ones that happens to suck. While the reactions on the peoples’ faces are great, it is entertaining for a good 3 seconds.

    As a side note, the fact that they recognize elitist douche bags using a car service is a shitty way to pick their “mark”.

  40. Hi,

    I’m from Amsterdam and last friday you guys got on Dutch TV, it was partially about this mission and mostly about another one you guys did with a band, letting them think they were famous in NY, three days later they found out they weren’t and they were insulted. Then the reporter asked if he had been given the choice between living that dream for 3 days or reality, he chose the dream. Just wanted you guys to know, I thought it was beautiful.

  41. This is awesome! I watched you guys on the VH1 greatest pranks 2 but I really enjoyed this one! You guys and your missions are pretty rad. I wished I lived North and could be a part of it! :P

  42. We need a group to step up and do these in Las Vegas. The airport is teeming with people almost 24/7, and the strip provides more opportunities than I can speak of. Just think…frozen people walking in the middle of a casino, or just bouncing in place on the street. Even wearing the same color shirts and making a peace sign in the middle of the Fremont Experience. The opportunities are endless and the people here would totally embrace events here! Thre is also a huge twitter following here in Vegas…instant volunteers and instant communication! If you do it, let me know— I’ll be there!

  43. This was amazing…Mcdonalds was on the right track…”We love to see them smile.” If only these events could happen in CHICAGO!!!!

  44. This one was great. I’m woman enough to admit it got me a bit teary. I do wonder though, have you ever pulled off mass pranks in small towns?

  45. @JC

    Grow up, if you don’t like the videos then don’t watch. I think it’s a brilliant way to brighten someone’s day.

    And getting a car to pick you up at the airport doesn’t make you an “elitist douchebag.” If you’re away for a long period it’s often more economic to have a service pick you up than paying for airport parking, especially if none of your family or friends can pick you up. And probably some of them were on business trips, so their companies would have probably paid for them anyway. How else would they figure out the names of people? It’s not something any staff would just tell you.

    Rock on IE, I only recently discovered you, but I LOVE all of your missions! I wish I were in NYC so I could be a part!

  46. Wow. I just found you guys today. You make me wish I lived in NYC. Seriously. THis is pretty much one of the coolest things I have ever seen. You make me want to find out if folks in San Francisco are doing anything like this.

    Way to go. You totally rock. :D

  47. That was not a European two sides kiss :P That was a Dutch (which is in Europe, but is just strange) three sides kiss.. They don’t do that anywhere else in Europe. Good action!

  48. OMG! Fantastic idea! I am 10 weeks pregnant and have started crying watching these videos, could u imagine if I was the one at the airport being welcomed back, I would of loved it!!!!!! Good job, keep them coming! Try this in Miami please!!!!

  49. Okay I am TOTALLY recommending we do this in my cities’s branch. It looks like so much fun!!! Plus you’d pretty much make that person’s day.

  50. Of all of your “pranks” that I’ve seen, this one is by far my favorite. I think it would be hard for anyone to find anything negative about this prank. It’s also great to hear how your “victims” responded. In addition, the welcoming of the newlyweds was a nice addition at the end.

  51. Amazing concept. Couldn’t have done it any better myself. Here’s an idea though. How about a welcome home for a soldier? I was waiting for a friend in the airport on Sunday and a unit of servicemen passed by with their expressionless faces. Wouldn’t it be great to give someone a warm welcome home that actually deserves it?

  52. Bahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
    I could not stop laughing after the first one! =D
    Brilliant Idea and Performance.

    You guys waited for four hours? Great Determination =)

  53. They were probably thinking on the plane, ” It’s good to be home” but then they got a big surprise! It was way bigger! Aww so nice! That had to of made thier day! All of them! I wonder what all of the drivers thought.

  54. Omg. I KNOW i saw you people at Jamaica Station. didnt think anything of it at the time. I’m kinda sad I missed it.

  55. Haha so funny. In Australia we had a whole show dedicated to family meeting in the terminal after long trips away. This was way better!! :) Keep it up

  56. So so gutted i live in the Uk and can’t join in with what looks to be one of the more amzing things left in the world today. You guys do some amazing work and if i am ever across the pond will definatly be coming to look you up!


  57. You guys should do that for military people coming home from oversees- its really hard when there is no one to greet you as you get off after fighting overseas and spending so much time away from home.

  58. Guys, you can be just admired. I am so sad I don’t live in NY. Otherwise, I’d love to participate. Keep it going, you’re doing a wonderful job! :)

  59. This is the best I seen out of all missions. You guys do knows how to warm other’s heart up. Keep the good job up!

    With love from Malaysia