“NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE”

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

Aired on January 14, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> 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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