For our latest mission, we staged an elaborate time travel prank on a New York City subway car with four sets of identical twins. A man enters a subway car and announces he is raising money to complete his time machine. At the next stop, his future self enters to try to talk him out of it. More and more time travelers convene on the subway car as the train rolls along, surprising the random commuters caught up in the middle.
Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.
This project is our third with identical twins. In 2008 we put 15 pairs of identical twins on a subway car sitting across from each other, dressed identically. In 2013 we used two pairs of twins for a Back to the Future-themed prank. This project was a bit of a mix of the two.
We started off the day at Deverge’s studio rehearsing in a mock subway car. Most of the twins had some experience acting, but not all of them. I don’t think any of them had experience acting on a live subway car. As this would be an unauthorized performance, I had to prepare them to be ready for anything. We went over the script outline and the choreography of which stop each performer would enter, where they would sit, etc.
Agent Dave Rosenberg was the first to enter, as the panhandling time machine inventor. He got the car’s attention with his pitch, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to bother you, but I’m here today raising money for my time machine. Traditional funding methods have not worked. My Kickstarter failed. Any money you could can give will help.”
Almost immediately a man gave him $5. I guess he thought it was a funny pitch? Sadly this guy left at the next stop, so he never got to see what happened.
At the next stop, Agent Jeff Rosenberg entered and gets the car’s attention, “Wait! Stop! Ladies and gentlemen, please do not give this man any money! Do not let him finish his time machine! Our life turns out to be terrible once you start time traveling!” He approaches his brother and grabs him, “Look at me! I’m you, from the future! You have to believe me.”
Unlike our Human Mirror project, we didn’t have the twins dress identically. Instead, we had them dress in a similar style and gave them each one specific identical props. Dave wore a brand new Mets cap while Jeff wore the same cap, which was made to look older and dirtier. Jeff also happened to have longer hair and a beard, and we told him to keep the look, as it also implies time passing.
A couple on the train laughed and tried to give Dave money as Jeff pleaded with them not too.
Then the doors opened at the next stop the future
versions of the couple boarded the train. They plead with themselves, “Wait, do NOT give this man money! Our lives are a disaster in the future! Time travel ruins our entire lives!”
Another guy on the train is laughing hysterically at the scene, and speaks up, “This is hilarious. They’re twins!”
At the next stop that guy’s future self enters and rushes to find him, “They aren’t twins! It’s real! This is not a prank. Do not give this man money!” The appearance of the fourth twin got the biggest reaction, as passengers were paying close attention to what was going by that point. Everyone was laughing and smiling at the absurdity.
Eventually the original panhandler is convinced that time travel is not a good idea. “You know what, you guys have convinced me. I WON’T build the time machine after all.” Everyone involved, and a few subway passengers, burst into applause. The future twins then stood around awkwardly trying to figure out what was going to happen to them. “Wait, shouldn’t we disappear if he’s not going to build it?”
We staged the scene five times total, all on the N train. We took a break in between each staging so the crowd on the car would turn over. The audience for this one was particularly small. Unlike other subway pranks that might get an entire car involved, this one was hyper-focused on the people who happened to be sitting and standing around our playing space. In most performances, it felt like a surprise for just ten people. I love creating something so ridiculously elaborate (four pairs of twins, perfectly timed staggered entrances on the train) for the benefit of so few people. Though with our video, we hope many more around the world will enjoy it.
Production photos from photographer Arin Sang-urai: Mission Photos
The twins involved with this project were all recruited via our email list. Join our list to be a part of future Improv Everywhere projects.
Our previous twin projects: