Obviously the answer right off the bat is no. Not to put words in your mouth! I’m sure there are people out there who, every time they go to Target, hope and hope that they run into a flash mob that is meant to advertise a local school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, or that is just meant to brighten the day of anyone whose day it interrupts and makes awkward, and maybe you are one of those people. We all have different things that we like and that’s what makes the world such a nightmare, but also it is what makes the world such a beautiful wonderland, because god knows math wouldn’t exist if I were the only kind of person on the planet, and if math didn’t exist how would we know how to mix our cocktails correctly? So. Maybe you like these things. People must like them, because otherwise why would so many participate in them? Spite? Maybe! But I assume that if you are reading this you are most likely in the camp that would not enjoy running into one of these public group stunts. Which brings me to my question: Can you imagine one that you WOULD want to run into? The video we’re about to watch shows a group of people standing around and applauding people who are either coming from their subway ride or going to their subway ride, and it looks to me like adding insult to drudgery, but I bet when they thought of it they thought, “People are going to LOVE THIS.” So, I guess let’s just watch it:

AHHHHHHHHHHHH! STOOOOOOOP! DON’T CLAP AT ME AND FILM ME WHILE I AM IN AN UNDERGROUND NIGHTMARE! I am convinced that anyone who smiles in this video is smiling only because they’re thinking, “Oh no, what if this is on the news later? I don’t want to look like an asshole on the news. Arrrgh.” Right? WHY ELSE WOULD YOU SMILE? So, back to the question: Can you imagine something like this that you’d like? I can’t. Haha. Fun question. Maybe if everyone involved was a really good dancer and dressed like Robyn and they all did a dance to “Hang With Me” by Robyn and the music was played at a reasonable volume and when it was over we all just clapped and then they left? Maybe that. WHAT DO YOU THINK? (Via Gothamist.)

Comments (74)
  1. Does Happy Hour count? I mean, if you’re in your own bar or house and only with people you choose to be around and know?

    Otherwise I would say a group nap except we’re all by ourselves in our own beds (or couches if you prefer to nap there as I do) in our own houses.

  2. I was going to say that if it was a bunch of really hot dudes taking their shirts off I would like it, but to be honest that would be kind of awful and mildly frightening. Basically anything that disrupts my autopilot when I am going to or from anywhere annoys the shit out of me, even if it has cool elements.

    • Like, once my sister was talking about how sometimes bands will play in the terminal at this train station, and I was like “I cannot even begin to tell you how much I would want to die if I was trying to get on a train and there was a concert happening” and she was like “But you’re a musician!” and I was like “I KNOW but that doesn’t mean I want to hear music everywhere all the time!!!”

      Cool story, catweazle.

      • I pointed out the podcast below, but that’s precisely the mentality Improv Everywhere had when they pulled a “best concert ever” thing, bringing like 30-50 people out to a show (for a completely new unknown band) on a sunday night – learned all the words, sang along, screamed requests. Then left immediately after.

        I’m sure these doofuses thought “Musicians will love this!” but as a musician, I can say with certainty that 30 people showing up to an otherwise empty house show will 1) creep me out 2) make me feel like shit. Also part of the point of playing live music is to interact with people, especially after the show when you get to talk to people who are interested. These jerks just ran off, probably feeling great about themselves while the band was left there feeling pretty insulted.

  3. I would like to run into a flash mob of Gwyneth Paltrow impersonators. As long as i happened to be wearing the short flask’s Hulk Smash Hands.

    • Just to be clear, i am not condoning violence against anybody here, have you played with these things? They are foamy and make a RRRRAWWWWWRRRR CRRRRRRUSSSSHH sound when you bonk things with them. Playing whack-a-goop with those would be good clean harmless fun is what i’m saying.

  4. The only public group prank or stunt I’d be interested in is one where everyone very orderly walked on the correct side of the sidewalk/mall walkway/anywhere, and nobody stopped suddenly to turn around, or bumped into me because they were checking instagram, or was a small child I stepped on, or was a tiny dog I stepped on, and everyone got where they were going without any major incidents.

    • That sounds like a beautiful prank and I want it to be pulled every day.

    • Can we add to this? I’d also like the people at the grocery store to move around in an orderly fashion rather than zig zagging down the aisle and leaving their carts in the worst places. I know you don’t know what kind of soup to buy, but I do!

      • I once saw a very beautiful man (this is important, because if he wasn’t so beautiful I wouldn’t have been looking) grocery shopping with a list, and when he got to the soup aisle, he looked back and forth between the soup and the list a few times and then proceeded to buy ONE OF EVERY KIND OF SOUP and I died from cute overload because obviously the list just said “soup” and he was like “OH MY GOD, WHAT DO I DO?!?! WHERE DID ALL THESE OPTIONS COME FROM?!?!”

        • this was my old roommate. grocery shopping with him took almost three hours because he insisted on reading every product label and determining what cost per oz. was the smallest and what tasted the best. it was very annoying for me.

          • One of my best friends makes a list (in whatever order one makes lists) and then shops by starting with the first item, finding it wherever it is in the store, then looking at the second item, finding it wherever it is in the store, etc. It’s hilarious. Also I can’t go grocery shopping with her ever again.

          • I do things like that and it’s very annoying to me, but if I don’t do things like that I get anxious that the grocery store has screwed me. Oh, neuroses.

    • And single file when there is traffic in both directions! Or double, but only if there is room for that.

      If you make me walk in the snow because you can’t walk single file briefly so that I can still walkin the sidewalk like a decent human being, I am walking right through you.

      • This is a major problem in my college town because for some reason, parents decided that it wasn’t important to teach their daughters that it is VERY RUDE to make one person walking by themselves walk out into the actual street because you want/need to take up every inch of sidewalk like some sort of GREEDY, ENTITLED ASS HOLE.

        I have some issues with some things, you guys!

        • I am right there with you! I call it “sidewalk rage.”

        • But guys, aren’t there times when you’re walking three abreast with your friends very slowly down the sidewalk and then something happens on your phone so that you have to stop all of your friends and show them and block everyone else trying to go in either direction? Me neither because sidewalks are for walking!!

    • what is it called when you upvote every single comment in a thread?

  5. If a bunch of adorable (meaning not stray) cats got on my bus and then just tumbled around and were adorable and sat on my lap, I think I’m be okay with that. Or are we only talking about groups of humans?

  6. We all sit and read quietly. No talking allowed. You can make eye contact if you like the book someone is reading, and make that weird, half-pouty looking, tilted head nod that you make if you appreciate something but would rather not make a big deal about it.

    • What if everyone was reading the same book. And laughed or looked up appreciatively at exactly the same time, as if they were all on the same sentence? That would be awful, but at least it would be quiet.

      • Oh god, everyone would know who read faster than them and then they would feel bad, but to make themselves feel better, they’d start to try to convince themselves they read better, more closely, but they’d speed up anyways. and miss things, and be filled with spite and regret.

        • I have a friend who prides himself on how fast he reads and how often. I lent him a book once and as we talked about it — two days after he finished it — I was shocked by some things: 1) He did not remember the names of any of the characters; 2) He had not noticed the Big Reveal about the central plot in the middle of the book; 3) He was annoyed at the ending for making no sense (because he had missed the Big Reveal). Talking a little more, I learned that he “skips over names” and also that “if nothing seems to be happening” he’ll skip ahead a couple paragraphs “to see if it picks up there.” I asked if he sometimes worried this way of reading was flawed and he said no. “It’s a flaw of the book if the author fails to hold my interest.”

          For the record, his favorite books are all fantasy books and he cut his teeth on Lord of the Rings in 4th grade. I think his methods work well with LOTR.

          • That makes me sad. I pride myself on how often I read, though I don’t think I read particuarly quickly, and even with that I feel like I miss a lot and it frustrates me. I don’t think your friend’s reading style even works for SF/F books, at least the good ones.

          • That is incredible. What was the book?

            I read a lot but I don’t read very quickly and I’m always jealous of people who read like twice as much as I do because I read all the time and there is just no way I could read more. I’m just going to assume I read better than they all do and that my pace is exactly correct. Like that George Carlin line: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”

          • Imsteph, the book was an SF thing called “Icehenge.” I don’t read a lot of SF but I tried this one and wanted to hear what he thought, because he reads lots of em. Stylistically it was a slog, and the ideas were interesting but not engagingly carried off. That’s my problem with a lot of SF/Fantasy — it’s tone deaf. With SF it’s like, “Here’s a bunch of What-Ifs! Sorry about the sentences!” and with Fantasy it’s like, “I dunno a dragon I guess. And a journey?”

            I once tried an experiment with this friend — I emailed him two blind opening pages, asking him to pick the one that was more well-written. My theory was that one was objectively better. But he picked the overwrought one, full of cliches and straight from hell. “It’s more evocative.” (It was the first page of “What the Night Knows” by Dean Koontz and it actually hurts to read! Read the opening page at Amazon!) So I guess it takes all kinds, and some kinds are wrong.

            (ptsmith, there’s some SF/F I’ve liked a lot. Ender’s Game comes to mind. The John Carter books. And 1984 if that counts.)

    • I had to register just to comment on this. (Hi, monsters! Longtime reader, first time caller!)

      I’m the oldest of my group of cousins, and so became the unofficial leader when we were all kids. Obviously I loved the power and prestige this gave me among them, but they were also exhausting. So I instituted a “game” called Quiet Time that was almost exactly what ptsmith_vt described: sitting and reading in silence. (You could also draw or color, QUIETLY.) It was amazing. Even more amazing was that my cousins actually “played” this game with me for years after they should have known better!

      • Tell Gurgi hi for me.

        • Ack, my comment looks weird/random. I was enjoying the name you picked. The Chronicles of Prydain were my favorite in 5th grade. Taran Wanderer was my generation’s Harry Potter.

          • Haha, don’t worry hotspur, it wasn’t weird/random to me. :) Always glad to meet fellow admirers of The Chronicles of Prydain!

            One of my best brushes (“brushes”) with fame was when Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, asked me if I was named after Taran from Taran Wanderer. (Since my name actually is Taryn.) I was sad to have to tell him no.

      • My friend and her 4 sisters were raised by a single mom who would keep them well-behaved at the mall by telling them she had seen the boogeyman’s car in the parking lot so they’d have to stay extra close and be extra quiet so as not to attract his attention. Worked every god damn time. The woman is my hero.

        • One of my best friend’s dad would fricken love this. He did awesome awful stuff all the time to keep the kids in line.

          My favorite is the time they were going on a family vacation during the summer. Before they left, he made it very clear to them that if they yelled and fought, the trip was off and everyone was going home. So everyone packed all their things, they packed the car, they prepared snacks. After a little bit of driving, the fighting started. He warned them, they continued, so he turned the car around and took everyone home. They unpacked the car and sulked. The next day, they tried again and the kids were perfectly behaved.

          He had no intention of leaving that first day. The whole point of the first day was to prove to them he would carry through on the threat. From the start, the actual intended day of departure was the second attempt.

          • Also, one time, one of them hit the other, and so went and told their Dad. His response was that the hittee should hit the other, as hard as she could, a freebie. He encouraged this hard. His gambit worked. Older sister felt so bad and was so not wanting to hit her little sister, that little sister realized how wrong she was to hit in the first place.

            He also taught them the importance of paying a restaurant bill by pretending to dine and dash until they cried, panicking about not paying.

          • That is J. Walter Weatherman level awesome/crazy.

        • Once I was baby-sitting for a family of three girls, one of the girls being only a year or two younger than me and the others were, like, kindergarten age. And the oldest girl and I lied to the two little ones that there was some sort of once-in-a-lifetime cosmic time-change event which meant that their bedtime was happening two hours earlier than usual. We even showed them an article in a magazine that said as much (the little girls couldn’t read so they just had to trust us). So the little ones went to bed at, like, 5:30 and the oldest one and I watched TV and ate pizza.

      • In middle school, I invited a friend over. When he asked what I wanted to do, I suggested reading. He never came over again.

  7. Great public group stunts:

    1. Everyone gets together and goes to a beach and picks up all the trash and then they film it and put it on youTube and it gets twelve hits.

    2. Everyone gets together and goes to a dog shelter and adopts all of the dogs and then they film it and put it on youTube and it gets as many hits as that deserves but that isn’t the point.

    3. Everyone gets together and comes to my house and tells me “You won!” and then they clean my house and cook my meals and do my work all for some kind of performance art and then they film it and put it on youTube and it gets four hits but they keep doing it anyway.


  9. No. No more flash mobs or improv events. Cut it out. you guys are annoying and you are not making life ‘an adventure’ or whatever the hell you think you’re doing.

    There’s a great This American Life about two improv everywhere stunts gone badly.

    These guys don’t actually think these things through at all. It’s always so thoughtless…like it’s one thing to learn what someone really wants and give that to that person. It’s another thing to make assumptions about what would make people happy and then execute them without even one consideration that “hey, you know what? This may have negative repercussions!” And then to leave the situation entirely thinking you’ve done something great.

    • “It’s always so thoughtless…”

      Exactly. Carpe diem is the motto of the selfish bastard.

    • Oh yeah, I know all about these ass clowns. I have to avoid the subway once a year because of that no-pants idiocy.

      • There was another one (and another TAL about the fallout from it) where they gave this guy a “Best Birthday Ever” even though it wasn’t his birthday. He thought he had gone crazy and was already kind of antisocial.

        Again: totally thoughtless. Like, can you not just consider for a moment that some people are not going to have a positive experience, and therefore DON’T DO IT

    • Yeah, it’s one thing to be a street artist and busk or whatever, people can just walk around you if they want. But a whole group jumping out of nowhere and going into a choreographed dance routine or whatever is a huge invasion of everyone’s routine, and like Paul F. Tompkins said on his blog… maybe your mom just died and you’re not in the mood for some jackass to sing a song in your face at the grocery store.

      The page is down with Paul’s full letter, but you can see it on the wayback machine: http://web.archive.org/web/20120514025912/http://paulftompkins.com/blog_detail.php?id=46

  10. If I was walking through those clapping people, I’d wave and take a bow and blow kisses and pretend it was all for me.

  11. if by “public” you mean the comfort of my apartment, and by “stunts” you mean reading the internet, watching netflix, and cooking…i love “public stunts.”

  12. The one where everyone at my office starts singing a song about how I’ve just been getting pranked all along, and that I haven’t really been wasting the best years of my life sitting at a messy desk, mired in a meaningless job with seemingly no path forward. They are in fact not co-workers but angels that will now light me on a path to total fulfillment, inner peace and unconditional love.

  13. also, this is the reason god invented ear buds, so that i don’t have to interact with the public.

    • This is why I always used to put headphones on when walking through the student union in college even if I wasn’t listening to anything. No, I don’t want to vote for some dude I never met for homecoming king, or donate to your study abroad fund or whatever. I want to walk to my next class. Leave me alone.

  14. There was one good Improv Everywhere that I liked: they had a bell choir (choir?) play the bells with a Salvation Army guy at Christmas. It was just unexpected and cute, but also done by professionals.

    • I liked the one where they all wore khakis and blue polo shirts to a Best Buy. But I hate Best Buy so maybe that was part of my adventure.

  15. Is there a Public Group Stunt that involves giving out fistfuls of $100 bills? Because I would be ok with my routine being disrupted for something like that.

  16. I just want to say how much I love the sentence “We all have different things that we like and that’s what makes the world such a nightmare.” Let this comment stand as my shrine to it.

  17. I would be okay if, in a sushi restaurant, everyone around me ordered a different fancy roll, ate one piece without touching the rest, and then offered the rest to me all like, “I’m stuffed, do you want this?” (“YES PLEASE” – me)

  18. I could imagine that if a bunch of people from all over the world who kind of looked like each other walked around in a place, but didn’t jump or clap or dance or even particularly make special eye contact with anyone, that could be kind of neat. But nothing in subways please.

  19. I used to work on 31st street in Manhattan, what I considered the Bermuda Triangle of Madison Square Gardens, the Empire State Building and Macy’s. Everyday at lunch was like the most horrible improv everywhere stunt. The sidewalks, oh lord the sidewalks. And don’t even talk about Christmas in that nightmare vortex. The only prank I liked was going to the Macy’s 9th floor furniture gallery to quietly read a book or take a little cat nap in the bedroom displays.

  20. Well, it being my birthday, I could go for a stunt where Aubrey Plaza shows up at my house and we watch Gene Wilder movies all day and then get jiggy with it.

  21. I’ve done larger group protests to speak up against the proposed coal barges and trains in my area… but we were all very respectful of traffic and people not involved that were nearby… and even the Pacific Morrow and Ambre Energy people that were also at the events (city council meetings, public forums) that sparked the protests. And because I’m a little bit older than the younger protestors or activists or whatever they’re calling themselves, I was able to stop a few from “sticking it to the man” through obnoxious behavior… and because I’m older and smarter than them and explained that flipping over a table before a public forum would derail the cause, they actually listened to me. I also dress up like a young Republican (so heels and makeup?) when I go to these meetings and present myself as a telecommuting carpetbagger from California tech and media worlds who moved here bc it’s lovely and will get the hell out before I get the black lung (as the pro-coal groups are pushing jobs over clean air and water). And my little stunt worked… or at least the mayor’s eyes basically had dollar signs in them when he realized my angle.

    At a hearing in early December, we bagged up a ton of coal that was picked up within Portland limits from the 4 trains that go through there daily leave near the tracks in little packets to give to people at a public hearing as a early holiday gift from Ambre Energy, who was NOT on Santa’s good list.

    I’ve also been in big group cleanups of the Columbia River because of this stuff. And we paddled out to an area where salmon spawn to show how this entire section of land and water (and nearby forests and a natural gas plant) will be destroyed when open-air coal barges and trains move through to ship coal from Idaho and Montana to China and Korea. And we did make a video for it and took a ton of really fun shots, but that was more about education than disruption.

    So large groups of people acting nicely to save the environment? I’m down with that. Plus the more I spend doing stuff on the Columbia, the more likely it will be that I befriend an otter.

  22. uptil I looked at the receipt of $4025, I did not believe …that…my best friend woz actualie taking home money in their spare time at there computar.. there uncles cousin had bean doing this 4 only about eight months and resently cleard the morgage on there place and bourt themselves a Saab 99 Turbo. this is where I went,………. BIT40.ℂOℳ

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