“NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE”

January 15, 2019 at 4:45 am

The 18th Annual “No Pants Subway Ride” was yesterday.  Get the backstory on this  artful event.

Aired on January 14, 2019.

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>>> BYSTANDERS RIDING IN THE
SUBWAY WERE LEFT BEMUSED AND
RATHER AMUSED.
THOUSANDS PARTICIPATED IN THE
ANNUAL NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE.
IT'S A STUNT ORGANIZED BY THE
IMPROV EVERYWHERE MOVEMENT WITH
60 CITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE
TAKING PART.
THAT'S IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE
NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE WHEN FIVE
FRIENDS BOARDED THE SUBWAY
PANTLESS.
AMONG THE FIVE, THE MASTER MIND
BEHIND IMPROV EVERYWHERE JOINS
US.
THE MAKEUP IN THE MAKEUP ROOM,
IS CHARLIE SHOWING UP WITH
PANTS.
>> I WEAR MY PANTS 364 DAYS A
YEAR.
>> THAT'S REASSURING TO KNOW.
LET'S START WITH IMPROV
EVERYWHERE.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT AND HOW DID IT
GET STARTED?
>> IMPROV EVERYWHERE IS A GROUP
I STARTED 15 YEARS AGO IN NEW
YORK CITY.
IT'S A PERFORMANCE GROUP THAT
STAGES SCENES OF CHAOS AND JOY
IN PUBLIC SPACES.
THEY'RE UNDERCOVER PERFORMANCES
THAT ARE FUNNY.
THEY'RE MEANT TO SURPRISE AND
DELIGHT THE RANDOM NEW YORKERS
WHO HAPPEN TO WITNESS THEM, AND
THEY MIGHT NOT EVEN KNOW THEY
WITNESSED PERFORMANCE.
>> CHAOS AND JOY, UNUSUAL TO PUT
THOSE TWO WORDS IN THE SAME
SENTENCE, BUT IT SEEMS TO WORK.
>> YEAH, THE PRODUCTS ARE
CHAOTIC BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT
IMPROVISED.
WE HAVE A PLAN AND IT'S
ORGANIZED AND CHOREOGRAPHED, BUT
THE IMPROVISATION COMES IN THE
MOMENT WE EXECUTE BECAUSE WE
DON'T KNOW HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING
TO REACT TO WHAT WE'RE DOING.
WE'RE INTERACTING WITH REAL
PEOPLE ON SUBWAY CARS, IN A
RETAIL STORE, OFTEN WITHOUT
PERMISSION.
>> AND SOMETIMES WITHOUT PANTS.
>> SOMETIMES WITHOUT PANTS.
THAT'S THE CHAOTIC PART OF WHAT
WE DO.
BUT THE INTENT OF EVERYTHING
THAT WE STAGE IS TO CREATE JOY
AND TO JUST MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH.
BRING COMEDY OUT TO THE STREETS
AND OUT TO PUBLIC PLACE.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE
STUNTS YOU HAVE DONE.
LET'S START WITH THE NO PANTS
SUBWAY.
2002 YOU AND FOUR FRIENDS DECIDE
TO DO THIS.
I'M CURIOUS, HOW DID THAT
DECISION COME ABOUT?
WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION THAT
HAD YOU EVENTUALLY SAYING HEY, I
GOT A GOOD IDEA.
LET'S TAKE OUR PANTS OFF AND GET
ON TO THE SUBWAY?
>> SO THE SUBWAY IS SUCH A GREAT
CAPTIVE AUDIENCE IF YOU'RE
TRYING THE DO THESE TYPES OF
PERFORMANCES, AND PARTICULARLY
IN 2002, THIS IS BEFORE WE HAD
SMARTPHONES, RIGHT?
SO MOST PEOPLE ARE JUST STARING
AT THE WALL IN THE SUBWAY, MAYBE
READING A BOOK.
I WANTED TO DO A PROJECT IN THE
SUBWAY, AND I WAS CHARMED AT THE
IDEA OF PEOPLE ENTERING AT
DIFFERENT STOPS.
WHAT IF SOMEBODY GOT ON AT
BLEAKER STREET AND ASTOR PLACE
AND ACTED LIKE THEY DIDN'T KNOW
EACH OTHER AND SOME PERFORMANCE
UNFOLDED.
AND I WAS TRYING TO THINK THE
MOST BIZARRE THING POSSIBLE TO
DO.
AS IT WAS JANUARY, WOULDN'T IT
BE WEIRD IF ONE GUY GOT ON THE
TRAIN IN HIS UNDERWEAR, BUT ALSO
HAT, SCARF, GLOVES, WINTER COAT,
BUT NO PANTS ON.
AND AT THE NEXT STOP, ANOTHER
GUY GOT ON ALSO IN HIS
UNDERWEAR.
THAT WAS THE INITIAL KERNEL OF
THE IDEA OF HOW WOULD YOU REACT
IF YOU WERE ON THE TRAIN?
AS A NEW YORKER, YOU SEE ONE
WEIRDO ON THE TRAIN, YOU'RE I
BELIEVE TO COMPARTMENTALIZE, OH,
THAT'S A CRAZY PERSON.
THE SECOND WEIRDO AND THE THIRD
WEIRDO AT THE NEXT STOP, YOU
START TO WONDER IF YOU'RE THE
CRAZY ONE.
>> WHAT WAS THE REACTION YOU GOT
THE FIRST YEAR COMPARED TO THE
MOST RECENT YEAR?
>> IT WAS A VERY SUBTLE PRANK
THE FIRST YEAR.
WE HAD ONE HIDDEN CAMERA HIDING
IN SOMEONE'S LAP WITH A MAGAZINE
ON TOP OF IT.
AND WE GOT A GREAT REACTION.
ONE GIRL IN PARTICULAR WHO I
THINK YOU CAN SEE IN THE VIDEO
HERE, SHE GIVES THIS GREAT
DOUBLE TAKE.
SHE LOOKS AT ME.
SHE TRIES TO GO BACK TO HER
BOOK.
BUT WHEN THE GUY GETS ON AT THE
NEXT STOP, SHE LOSES IT AND
STARTS LAUGHING.
THAT'S WHAT WE TRY TO DO, BREAK
PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR EVERYDAY
ROUTINES AND GIVE PEOPLE
SOMETHING TO LAUGH ABOUT.
>> ONE THAT IS FABULOUS AND GOT
A GREAT DEAL OF
AND FROZEN GRAND CENTRAL HAS
ABOUT 35 MILLION VIEWS ON
YOUTUBE.
WHAT THE PROJECT IS WE HAD 200
PEOPLE FREEZE IN PLACE FOR FIVE
MINUTES IN THE GRAND CENTRAL
TERMINAL.
SO YOU'RE WALKING TO CATCH A
TRAIN OR YOU'RE A TOURIST.
>> ALL AT THE SAME TIME?
>> ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
EXACTLY 2:07 P.M., 200 PEOPLE
JUST FROZE.
AND THEY STAYED THAT WAY FOR
FIVE MINUTES.
FOR EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE
TERMINAL, IT LOOKED LIKE TIME
HAD STOPPED, AND IT WAS THIS
SURREAL WONDERFUL THING AND THEN
AUNFROZE AND WALKED AWAY.
>> VARIOUS REACTIONS?
>> THERE WERE ALL KINDS OF GREAT
REACTIONS.
WE HAD ACTORS WITH HIDDEN
MICROPHONES WALKING AROUND AND
CHATTING WITH PEOPLE.
SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT MAYBE IT WAS
PERFORMANCE ART.
SOME PEOPLE WERE BAFFLED BY IT.
SOME PEOPLE WENT UP TO TOUCH
FROZEN PEOPLE TO SEE IF THEY
COULD GET THEM TO BREAK.
ALL SORTS OF REACTIONS.
>> A LOT HAVE HAD HUMOROUS
RESPONSE.
A COUPLE HAVE BEEN BUMPY ROADS.
YOU DID ONE AT BEST BUY.
TELL ME THAN ONE.
>> WE HAVE DONE SOME AT RETAIL
STORES AND THOSE ARE TRICKY.
RETAIL DOESN'T WANT COMEDY TO
TAKE PLACE IN THEIR STORE, WHICH
I UNDERSTAND.
BUT THE PURPOSE IS NOT TO CAUSE
PROBLEMS.
IT'S JUST TO CREATE SOMETHING
FUN AND A LITTLE BIT OUT OF THE
ORDINARY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO
HAPPENED TO WITNESS IT.
FOR THE BEST BUY PROJECT, AS YOU
CAN SEE IN THE VIDEO FOOTAGE
HERE WE HAD 100 PEOPLE WEAR BLUE
POLO SHIRTS AND KHAKI PANTS AND
GO INTO THE BEST BUY.
SO WE GAVE THEM AN EXTRA 100
EMPLOYEES FOR THE AFTERNOON.
AND THE BEST BUY MANAGERS AND
SECURITY GUARDS, THEY DIALED
911.
>> DIDN'T SEE THE HUMOR IN THIS.
>> I GUESS THEY THOUGHT IT WAS A
ROBBERY OR SOME SORT OF
ELABORATE HEIST.
WE HAD 8-YEAR-OLDS
PARTICIPATING.
THERE WAS A 65-YEAR-OLD MAN
PARTICIPATING.
I DON'T THINK WE LOOKED LIKE
YOUR TYPICAL ORGANIZED CRIME.
>> LIKE AN OCEANS 11 DEAL GOING
ON.
>> AMAZING OCEANS 11 ASSAULT ON
THE CHELSEA BEST BUY.
BUT THE POLICE SHOWED UP AFTER
THE FACT AND SORT OF REVIEWED
THE SITUATION AND ULTIMATELY HAD
TO TELL THE MANAGERS IT'S NOT
ILLEGAL TO WEAR A BLUE POLO
SHIRT INTO A BEST BUY.
>> AS WE WRAP THIS UP, WHAT HAVE
THESE EPISODES TAUGHT YOU ABOUT
THE CHARACTER AND THE NATURE OF
NEW YORK CITY FOLKS AND HOW THEY
RESPOND TO THESE FRANKS THAT
YOU'RE DOING?
>> NEW YORK IS A WONDERFUL PLACE
TO BE DOING THIS KIND OF
PERFORMANCE.
I THINK IT'S THE BEST CITY IN
THE WORLD TO STAGE THESE THINGS,
AND I TRAVELED AROUND THE WORLD
FESTIVALS AND I'VE DONE IT IN
OTHER CITIES AND WE'VE HAD
SUCCESS DOING THAT, BUT NEW YORK
JUST MAKES YOU RAISE THE BAR.
A LIFE-LONG NEW YORKER IN
PARTICULAR, THEY'VE SEEN IT ALL,
RIGHT?
YOU'VE SEEN THE CRAZY PERSON ON
THE SUBWAY.
EWE SEEN PERFORMANCE ART IN
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK.
IT TAKES A LOT TO MAKE A NEW
YORKER STOP, TAKE THEIR
HEADPHONES OFF, PUT THEIR PHONE
DOWN, AND ENGAGE AND REALLY
EXPERIENCE SOMETHING.
SO THAT CHALLENGES US TO COME UP
WITH IDEAS THAT ARE TRULY
SPECTACULAR, WHICH MAKES FOR
HARD WORK BUT REALLY FUN
RESULTS.
>> I THINK YOU'VE DONE A GREAT
JOB OF BRINGING THE ELEMENTS OF
JOY AND CHAOS TOGETHER.
A LITTLE BIT OF HUMOR.
CHARLIE TODD, THANKS FOR JOINING
US.
WE'LL LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO
YOU AGAIN WITH YOUR NEXT SET OF
PRANKS.
>> SOMETHING WILL BE.
COG OUT SOON.
>> THANKS, CHARLIE.
BE WELL.
>> THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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