Grocery Store Musical


(View it larger on YouTube)
Song by Anthony King and Scott Brown (Gutenberg! The Musical!)

For our latest mission, six undercover actors burst into song in a grocery store in Queens. Three minutes and lots of silly choreography later, they returned to their roles as shoppers and stock boys. The mission was filmed with hidden robotic, lipstick, and wearable cameras. Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our report below.

We had a couple of really excellent hidden camera reaction interviews that got cut from the final video. I put them together in an outtake video:

Outtakes from Grocery Store Musical


Produced by: Disposable Television
Director of Photography: TV Boy
Still Photos: Katie Sokoler

We’ve been wanting to stage a follow up to our Food Court Musical mission for quite some time. Unfortunately, we’re not able to produce a musical like that without some serious help in the budget department. (Food Court Musical was produced for a TV pilot.) Last month Trident Layers expressed interest in sponsoring an Improv Everywhere event (giving us creative control and using no product placement), and I knew this would be a great opportunity to create a new public musical.


Agent Brown rehearses with Agents Kayne and Rustin

I knew from the start that in order to make a worthy follow up to Food Court Musical, I would have to use the same songwriting team, Scott Brown & Anthony King. Not only are they longtime Improv Everywhere Agents, they’re also the authors of the hit Off-Broadway musical, Gutenberg! The Musical!. Their songs, both catchy and hilarious, have been stuck in my head for many a sleepless night.


The cast rehearsing

The cast were all actors I knew from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. We had to cast people who could really sing well, given the “slow jam” nature of the song. We had a rehearsal at a Manhattan studio where Agent Brown taught them the song, and Agent King worked on the choreography.


Rehearsing in the store

The next night we had a rehearsal in the grocery store itself. The store was part of a small chain called “Best Yet” and was located in Astoria, Queens. We chose it for its enormous size, at least by New York standards.

Our rehearsal was late at night, right before the store closed. There were very few people shopping at that hour, so we wouldn’t get a real sense of how crowded the produce section would be until the actual mission the next day. We worked with the store and got permission, enabling us to set up hidden cameras. We used some incredible robotic cameras that were operated via joystick in the control room in the back.


The control room


Speakers

We had planned to just use the store’s PA system to play the song. At the dress rehearsal we learned that grocery store speakers sound awful when the volume gets cranked up. The bass turned to fuzz. So we hid some additional speakers under the muffin table to give their system a boost.

In addition to the robotic cameras hidden on high ledges and in security domes, Agent Adams had a couple of camera rigs he could control out on the floor. We put a lipstick camera on the end of a cart and filled it with groceries. He was able to push it around the area while watching what he was filming on a little monitor.

Agent Adams also had a hidden camera in the strap of his bag, getting a great POV shot of anyone he talked to.

His main job was to get reactions from shoppers after the musical ended. He wore a hidden microphone and also wore an earpiece, enabling me to talk to him from the control room and say things like, “Try to get the woman you’re talking to to turn around; we’re only seeing the back of her head.”


Control room monitor

We staged the mission a few times throughout the day to make sure we got the best possible take and camera coverage. The first take started around 1 PM.

The first few moments were always hilarious. As soon as Agent Kayne started in with his “No, no, no’s,” heads began to turn.

When we did Food Court Musical, we had a pretty good idea of where our audience would be– sitting at the tables. This was more unpredictable. We had all of this choreography planned, but we had no idea if people would make way for us. The area got increasingly crowded as the day went on, which made it all the more fun. Often people found themselves right in the middle of the show.


A woman laughs as Agent Johnson passes with his basket

The woman above took her cart right through the center just as the chorus began. It was like she was a part of the choreography.

Agent Scott’s character was pregnant; she was not. We used a fake belly. She had shoppers coming up to her before and after the song asking when she was due, etc.


Agent Fernandez helps a customer find an item from the circular

Agents Brown and Fernandez played the two stock boy characters. This meant they spent most of the day walking around the floor in the store’s uniform. Of course they were constantly being stopped by customers asking for help.

Our musical was staged very close to the front door, so lots of folks would walk in mid-song. It was fun to see their reactions as they entered and were immediately confronted by our ridiculousness. We got so many wonderful reactions from everyone in the store throughout the afternoon. Queens is the most diverse county in the entire world, and it was really wonderful seeing all of the different types of people laugh and smile.


Letting a friend on the phone listen in


This guy was particularly excited (as seen in the video)


There was always a nice crowd near the registers looking over

The musical got even more absurd when Agent Brown carted Agent Fernandez down the aisle. Agent Fernandez delivered his passionate speech into a price gun, and the two starting spinning while the rest of the cast circled them, building up to the finale.

Before the shoppers could finish applauding, our actors were back to normal life. Those playing customers went back to shopping and those playing stock boys got back to work.


Agent Brown prices some fruit

Mission Accomplished


OTHER RESOURCES:

– Many more photos in higher resolution: Agent Sokoler’s Flickr Set
– Our first musical: Food Court Musical
– Our third musical: I Love Lunch! The Musical
– Buy the original cast recording of Gutenberg! The Musical, also by Brown & King.

If this is your first time here:
-our over 100 other missions can be seen here: Missions
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Comments

comments

185 thoughts on “Grocery Store Musical

  1. A bit of a shame to be so similar to Food Court Musical; but really well performed, and the reactions were excellent. Nice to see IE really putting a smile onto people’s faces and great to see the organisation that went into it!

  2. Another funny, amusing and successful mission. We need to get this going in the UK too!

  3. Oh, bitter Greg.

    How wonderful. How unique in its own right! How magical and moving – the expressions on the faces of the civilians … pure joy. Thank you, thank you.

  4. It’s just so cool to see how happy this made people who were watching!

  5. “some of the Broadway musicals dont sound as good as they did” Great performance. =)

  6. The Food Court Musical was my favorite Improv Everywhere event ever. This one was great too. Love it!!

  7. I am starting to wonder if the complexity of IE’s missions is taking this out of the realm of simple impromptu fun and into more of a organization’s actions. Simple is better, Best Buy, No Pants, McD’s Bathroom all took little to no real formation outside the group.

    None the less, great job, well done hope to see and participate in more soon!

  8. Beautifully organised and constructed! I like the movements of the agents, quite artistic! Good going!

  9. Another great mission. The awestruck children were funny. Its nice that the grocery store owners were so accommodating.

  10. I hope the next Improv Everywhere book has a chapter called “I guess they do this here maybe.”

  11. This is a good one. Sometimes it’s nice to see something this fun to bring people by surprise. Can you imagine if you doing this in Grand Central or Penn Station? That would be really interesting, but it would be hard to set up. Of course not all missions need to bring the crowd to do it. You guys brought different types of missions that all looks great. I hope I can participate the next mission you guys are planning though. =)

  12. Well done. I’ve often wondered what life would be like as a musical. :D Kudos to the grocery store for being so accommodating. And thank you guys, for spreading smiles.

  13. best one ever. you guys are nuts. does anybody from hollywood know about you?

  14. the BEST was the guy at the end “maybe they do that here, I don’t know” hahahahahaha totally cracked me up! i love it, great job you guys!

  15. Friggin’ awesome! I loved the food court musical and this one was equally amazing. Just watching the faces of people as they see more and more people joining into the musical is great. It kind of starts off with people thinking “wow why the hell is that weirdo singing?” and then realizing that it’s a spontaneous production.

    It’s funny watching some people try and just do their shopping with it going on, too.

  16. Astoria represent!!!

    I used to shop at that supermarket when we had parties and needed the car! What a fun mission. It was so nice to see all the happy reactions- a bit of joy in the middle of food shopping!

  17. the best thing about these videos is watching the folks who try really, really hard to ignore what’s happening and go on with their routine. way to be new yorkers, people!

  18. How clever and wonderful! The singing was great, the choreography was awesome (when the performers started circling the cart, I lost it!), and watching the “audience” react was just priceless.

    You’re brilliant, IE!

  19. WooooW! and Brown and King too! Gutenberg! is my favorite. Didn’r know they were on the team, but glad they are. Great job as always.

  20. A Staten Island mission would be the most amazing thing I will ever see in my entire life.

  21. OK, you guys are having just too much fun!!!! Always something to keep us all laughing and wanting to sing along with you! Some day, I’ll get to NYC when you’re doing an improv! Keep them coming! LOL Colette

  22. Awesome and it was so nicely done!
    my favorite part starts from 2:15 lol

    i wish i could be a part of this video

  23. I liked the Food Court Musical better, but this was pretty great. Makes me want to go squish some fruit, man! And make a delicious purée!

  24. I even say my life is like a musical…but not even these kinds of things happen to me.
    i wish i was there to watch it.
    maybe if i move to new york or something i’ll join the next one :P
    awesome video, i loved it.
    it’s so cool watching the people’s reactions and seeing their faces light up.

  25. This one really isn’t that good =/
    Food Court musical was great because it was all normal reasons why somebody would ask for a napkin and it became a big musical. But I don’t think anybody has ever said “I’m going to take this fruit in the grocery store and squish it with other fruit!” more then once.

  26. Don’t listen to the people above! MORE MUSICAL MISSIONS!!!

    I think this one is particularly interesting because it is smaller than Food Court.

    Coupled with some original missions, you could make a whole Improv Everywhere movie out of spontaneous musicals!

  27. Why did you choose to perform this improv in a working class neighborhood in Queens NY? I feel your choice of audience is safe. The average resident of Queens, NY is most likely rather cultured. Queens if full of people with class and sophistication. Why not choose an audience which would benefit more so from this type of exposure to impov theater? Or is this a self serving performance mostly for your own enjoyment, and the enjoyment of the other actors involved? Don’t you think there are other audiences around the country that could really use something like this in their lives more than your average NY resident ( NYC is the city with the hightest theater goers per capita)? Why not for your next performance find an audience of underprivileged, classless, uneducated people who would probably never be exposed to any theater at all during their lives? Perhaps somewhere in the poorer parts of the suburban/rural South or Midwest US?

  28. That was amazing, better than some of the others. I like how you had feedback from people who had witnessed it in the end. Absolutely great!

  29. I love going to the supermarket! Awesome! How cool that “Best Yet” was down with your plan!

  30. i LOVE this! Just amazing… just like being in a Walt DIsney movie…

  31. That was very uplifting. Just as food court, I caught myself watching it over and over again. Thank you for spreading some positive energy. Keep up the good work!

  32. I wanted to like this, but I found the lyrics and tune really uninspiring. I was disappointed. You can do better than this.

  33. Brilliant. Great cast, great writing, great direction. I’ll have a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

  34. I’m always amazed at how people watch but don’t participate. I would have followed the lyrics, picked up a fruit, found someone with a different fruit, and squished them!

    But I’d also try to the dance routines or anything else I was fortunate enough to stumble upon.

    Life is about participating… experiencing… not just watching!

  35. i just think that you were able to put a smile on every single face n that store no matter who they are! Nothing like, music, comedy, and a musical to bring the world together…or at least queens!
    Thanks for the smile!

  36. I love y’all.

    I love improveverywhere and have since seeing “Best Gig Ever” and the picketing of Wendy’s hamburgers by the redheaded people.

    This is pure greatness.

    Thank you. Keep it up forever, please.

  37. I go to this grocery store! Nice choice, the produce area is real big.

  38. Love what you do. Make people smile. I always feel good after watching a mission.

    Regarding the comments about the more recent missions becoming too staged, I think a continuing variety of simple and complex missions is a great mix. Keep up the inspiring work.

  39. That was soooo good. You sholud take it on the road. I know of a perfect grocery chain here in MD that would love it!

  40. I love that BestYet. I lived 2 blocks from there before I left NYC and always had a positive experience with them. It’s no surprise they let IE do a mission there. I’m sad I missed it!

  41. my god haven’t these poor people suffered enough. keep up the good work

  42. I liked it. Though food court musical was better in my opinion. It had a lot more surprise elements like the janitor and the guard.

    Still, good job. Keep it up.

  43. This was so funny to watch! I loved the reaction on the faces of all the shoppers in the grocery store. Life would be so fun if it were a musical!
    Great job!

  44. I loved this! I had to wipe away the tears from laughing. If I give you my schedule, will you come do something fun right in front of me?

  45. haha this is funny it makes me smile so much just to see that there is still hope in this world
    that people can accept this things and listen so facinated to it
    it is just amazing
    keep doing things like that guys
    and to the young girl you really have an amazing voice
    work with it!!!!

  46. I LOVED THIS! You brightened my whole day! The real joy and wonderment on the shoppers faces, and the good feelings all around, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I’m going to go push some fruits together right now!

    BTW, Good on Trident for supporting you without wanting control or product placement. I think I’ll go buy some gum!

  47. Your new slogan: “Improv Everywhere: I guess they do that here!”

  48. Is it wrong that I found Agent Scott sexier when I thought she was pregnant?

  49. I may be totally wrong, but I think the guy that you captioned “This guy was particularly excited (as seen in the video)” is the lead singer of a NYC funk band called Urban Sun.

  50. where in queens did this happen?? it looks exactly like one in astoria. can anyone tell me??

  51. How wonderful – wish I’d been there. Beautiful voices, and well orchestrated and planned. A fresh antidote to isolation. Keep it up!!

  52. i do not think the musical was over the top. musicals are great and what a better way to perform them than on the street where the audience doesnt expect it

  53. (Buffering)…”Look at this fruit”….(buffering)…”wha”….(buffering)…Old guy double-take…(buffering)

    Never mind.

  54. I think this is a great mission, or maybe better to define it as an audio mission as from what i can tell most of the other missions are more “sight humor” Bravo!

  55. It is nice to see a “candid camera” skit that is not cruel. I was great to see all of the smiles on peoples faces.

  56. Nothing could top food court musical, but this came very very close. Thank you for finally doing a followup!

  57. This. Is. Great.

    If anything, I think this tops the Food Court musical (Though the Food Court was more open to people walking by… maybe the two missions are equal.).

  58. Loved it, but I feel the Food Court Musical mission was more… something (I tried inspired, organic, original and entertaining; none of them convey my sentiment).

    Escalator High Five and Best Game Ever, possibly your least and most complex missions respectively, seem to me to be IE at it’s best.

  59. You made so many people happy! And invited them to share and talk in a supermarket in the city. That’s a beautiful thing.

    The first musical, the mall, was better in the sense that you were always surprised that someone joined in. I can’t explain it, but each and every addition was tense–you thought someone would bug out. Especially the mall cop. Plus, the plot was more easily identifiable than squishing fruits together–that was odd.

    (Just some constructive criticism—some people were too vague in their critiques)

    But great job, all.

  60. Great video, this is the first i came across while surfing youtube. Claps, Claps, Claps………………

  61. Reminded me of UK film, Coventry Market the Musical, a short film made all about and starring ordinary people who work and shop at the market.

  62. how about a musical on the 18th green at the masters on sunday next year. i checked with billy payne and he is all in.

  63. Wow, Improv Everywhere is really professional now with the filming and missions. A show of improv everywhere would be the greatest…

  64. Thank you for the happy tears. Watching the enjoyment on the faces of your unsuspecting witnesses is one of my favorite parts of watching these videos.

    I’d ignore those folks (Greg, Susannah) who seem to think that IE must reinvent the punchline for every mission. The whimsical spectacles that you create don’t have to be avant garde to entertain or delight.

    Cheers.

  65. Okay, I kind of want to see a musical with the song “Squish our fruits together”, and that is a hilarious mission.

  66. You guys are really creative and crazy – a perfect combination I would say. It’s really awesome to see the behind the scenes of this viral video, makes me appreciate the effort and thinking involved in the process.

    Lookin forward for more viral videos…hopefully you can do somethin here in Toronto :)

  67. Bravo !!!
    Du talent et de la bonne humeur, quelle formidable idée !

  68. This was great, just like all the other work! Please come back to Canada! You have lots of fans here and we all loved it when you did the MP3 experiment in Toronto. It was awesome to be a pert of that. Canada misses you Improv Everywhere!

  69. This is great! And ballsy! I love this; this should be done more often to brighten up people’s day. Come to the suburbs of Philly!

  70. That was great!!!We need more of that ….how about in North East Queens WhiteStone or Bayside….

  71. Fabulous! Makes me feel better because of all the times I wanted to break into song while shopping for fruit. :)

  72. Man, I’ve got to link to this site more often! I can’t believe the range of comments, both good and bad about your latest musical venture. Personally I loved it. Sure it had more polish than past pranks but what the hell, it was fun to watch.

  73. THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!!!!!…..I WOULD PAY TO SEE MORE!!!!!

  74. Good times. This brought a grin to my face, and the reactions were priceless.

    I do agree that it doesn’t measure up to Napkin, Please, though–in my opinion, it’s the lack of staged entries that cuts it down to second. The song and lyrics were just as good, but the part of the first musical that made it really fascinating was that you never knew who was going to break into song next. The janitor, the security guard–there was more of a sense of the singers pushing the limit, being in danger, then ‘getting away’ with it when the authority figure joined in.

    That said, this was still a fine mission. Well done. ^_^

  75. I love it ! Wish this happened here in Germany too. You made my day, greetings from Berlin

  76. Loved – hehehe… I wish I was there… I bet I would start dancing too :)
    Can’t wait for the next project!!!

  77. This just brightened my day..Well, it is 6:40 in the morning where I live right now, but still. Happy me.

  78. Accidentally found you on YouTube – what a great way to break through to jaded NYers! I laughed out loud. Thanks for the entertainment.

  79. Don’t know what the hate is about. This is genius. While you could compare it to the food court musical, it is totally different. IN fact I find this one to be much better. Of course, people that have been fans of comedy groups/comedians for years always feel the new stuff is not as good/inspired but sometimes it is just that you create a false expectation of their greatness which can’t be achieved.

  80. I have been a big fan of IEW for many years and this was really awesome. The crowd reactions were priceless and the agents did a really great job, the song was a perfect ode to the fruit isle. This is one of the BEST missions ever. I will wear my Improv Everwhere T-Shirt with pride and spread the word of the Improv Everywhere gospal.

  81. Both musicals make me with that I was there. I have long wished that my life was a musical. I think I’d *squee* if this happened in my town. LOL

    This was great – still like the Food Court Musical better but this was fantastic as well ;D

  82. You got into the dutch newspapers with this!
    I guess they decided to put something fun in for a change. ;)

  83. I prefer the older ‘improvisations’, but I keep checking this site once in a while. I really don’t like the subject matter of this latest event, but I admire the effort taken and how brave the agents are. People in the video seem to be enjoying it, but I’d certainly never watch it again. Well done for making people smile!

  84. Absolutely amazing, i am completely in love wit hthis song actually, well done, i saw this on the news IN THE NETHERLANDS, A SHORT part of it, being a fan of musicals i had to go and see and omg, good job! , i discovered improv everywhere!!!

  85. Watching this made me really happy. I haven’t stopped laughing yet.

  86. You guys should definitely put the lyrics out.

    This was amazing!

  87. WOW. This is so brilliant. TBH, I only watched those two musicals and it is awesome! If only they were this stuff in my country (Malaysia). Yh, you guys are the best!

  88. This was great, made me smile. Would like to see something like this happen in a store in England.

  89. This is fun and all, but when will the promised photos and videos from Rotterdam be uploaded

  90. enjoy….and quit analyzing…..what fun….come to my grocery….

  91. ya that guy at the end was fucking acting you pieces of shit; “wooow mann, that was soooo crrrraaaazzzaay.” No one in a super market would care that much. Don’t fucking hire people to make reactions to what you’re doing you assholes.

  92. I like this all very much, but does anyone have the lyrics of this song or from the I Loce Lunch?

  93. I’ve always thought that you measured success in an IE mission by how the people responded. As seen by the reactions, this was something completely unexpected to everyone there, and they absolutely loved it. Is it so wrong to do a similar mission twice? Nah, I don’t think so.

    Mission accomplished.

  94. Fantastic! I think I never stand a chance to see this happen in my area, but it would be fantastic :)

  95. this made me laugh
    we all need more crazy good old fashioned fun in our everyday lives!
    i am a mom who loves art and fun and i really appreciated this video@

  96. you are my heroes. I always wanted to do things like that and here i am watching it. amazing, my day has been made.

  97. I think its better that they have it planned, as you’ve seen in other missions If they dont have it planned etc. Then sometimes they get in trouble. This way, the whole production sounds better and they can relax because they know no one will tell them off.
    I love all the missions you guys do! It really brings joy to everyone around.

  98. This was fun to watch. Back in the eighies here in the UK there used to be a program called That’s Life. They had a campaign to get Britain singing and would send one of the hosts (there were 6 or so) into a supermarket and they would play music and belt out well known songs. They would try to get the public to join in. This very much reminded me of seeing that. Pretty cool. I’ll look forward to many more in the future.
    Scott

  99. I loved it loved it loved it! This is a great thing they are doing! Dont knock it or them! They are making people laugh and get away/escape from the craziness of life and the world today! We all need a little break from all of our day to day routines! This is a good thing and takes a lot of work that goes behind it I’m sure.
    This reminds me of something I used to do with my kids I used to make a musical song each time I would cut up veggies or cook in the kitchen for dinner! or cleaning..etc..whatever the subject I would often break out in a Musical Song I would make up pertaining to the subject on hand…my kids or people around me that knew me would crack up laughing! I miss that and in fact, I almost forgot I used to to do that before watching these videos! I would love to be part of something like this maybe here in Ohio I dont know…
    Just want to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! TO all the agents that make this happen and make us all laugh!!!
    Gina Pilotti.

  100. I live in Armenia and was showing this to an Armenian co-worker. She LOVED it. She’d never seen anything like it before. And we had a big ol’ laugh when she commented that, while the musical was great, it would have been so easy for someone to steal something during the show.

  101. I thought it was EXCELLENT!! I would love to see this in my grocery store here in the Seattle area. Is there any way to get the music, coreography, etc, to set this up? I know quite a few who would love to do this.

  102. I don’t know why, but this brought tears to my eyes! Very good job. This type of thing is needed thru-out the USA and around the world. Keep it up! Come to NC!

  103. This is fantastic! Myself and some community theatre friends have been wanting to follow in the footsteps of random song to get those same happy reactions.

    Life can be really boring so why not? Is there a faction or group in LA/OC area that my friends and I can join?

  104. hillarious. i loved every minute of it. laughing until i cried. seeing people open up to this kind of experience is priceless. thanks for bring some joy to so many people!

  105. I liked the first song much better than this one. However, this was just as brilliantly performed! You guys are great, love IE :)

  106. I actually prefer this song to Food Court Musical, the performances are a lot stronger and the reactions were much more fun to wacth than in the other musicals.

    Brava IE!

  107. I loved Food Court Musical, but in some ways I like this one even better. It’s grown on me, too, after watching it more than once. I couldn’t get the song out of my head; despite the silliness, it’s clever and well-crafted.

    I’m a bit surprised at some of the harsh comments here. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, but it just goes to show:

    The world’s a vicious place… but it’s not when fruits embrace.

  108. Excellent! Amazing! Fantastic!. I’m a subscriber for sure. Hope to be an agent some time. Thank you all for being soo damned rad.

  109. (: To the haters: they don’t deserve harsh criticism for all their hard work. Yes it’s not broadway, but it is wonderful on its own! What matters is that they brought humor to daily life and put smiles on those people’s faces, which is something beautiful in itself. Thank you guys for being awesome!

  110. Wow.

    I love Improv Everywhere. You guys are great. But would you mind a little constructive criticism?

    The Spontanious Musical missions are great, funny, and well, spontanious! But this one was lacking.

    I Love Lunch was awesome. I can see some of my friends doing that, and meaning it! The first one was great as well.

    But this one was missing something. I think the biggest problem was it’s irrelevance. I’m all for irrelevance, but this was juvenile. Let’s squish our fruits together? Let’s swuish our pillows over our ears.

    It was funny. It truly was. But it would have been funnier if it was relevant. I understand that it’s called spontanious musicals, but really? Let’s squish our fruits together.

    But I digress.

    I look forward to more spontanious musicals in the future, and hopefully they will be similar to I Love Lunch!

  111. This was great! The only thing that bothers me is that I can’t get the outtakes to load, and they’re not on youtube for some reason. Can you post them there?

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