Improv Everywhere’s performances, or missions, for stillspotting nyc explore themes of stillness, silence, and noise in the urban environment. Using undercover actors and a healthy dose of humor, the group stages unexpected scenes around New York City, in which sound vanishes, is repeated, or springs forth from silence. Sound guides participants into unexpected situations and playfully disrupts everyday city life.
Car Alarm Symphony
The fourth Improv Everywhere mission for stillspotting nyc, Car Alarm Symphony, took place in a shopping center parking lot in Staten Island in May 2012. Staten Island has many large parking lots, making it the most car-friendly borough of New York City. Among the most agitating sounds in the city are car alarms that do not seem to want to end at the strangest hours. To highlight this reason for urban annoyance this mission made 100 car alarms go off simultaneously. Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere conducted agents like an orchestra as they pressed the horn or “panic” buttons on their keyless entry remotes. The sound got more intense as more horns were added in waves, on command. Unassuming shoppers and store employees were surprised by this unauthorized and mercifully brief project. Car horns are not a pleasant sound, but the sheer volume and absurdity created a unique experience for the people witnessing it. See how New Yorkers react when a typically quiet parking lot becomes a symphony of blaring noise.
The third Improv Everywhere mission for stillspotting nyc, Sleeper Car, took place on a subway train between Queens and Manhattan on a cold February night in 2012. What if New Yorkers had a chance to really rest or take a proper nap during their commute to and from work—or traveling into, and out of, the city? What if public transportation was a quiet, soothing journey and passengers could arrive at their destination feeling more refreshed? For this project, Improv Everywhere agents converted a subway car in Queens into a “sleeper car,” outfitted with several army-style cots, complete with sheets, blankets, comforters, and pillows. Pajamas, face masks, and ear plugs were also provided. The conductor, Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere, greeted random passengers as they entered the car late at night and informed them that they had entered the sleeper car. See how New Yorkers react when given the opportunity to catch some true zzzs on the train.
Say Something Nice
The second Improv Everywhere mission for stillspotting nyc, Say Something Nice, took place on a Sunday in early August 2011 at Union Square in Manhattan. The sound of the human voice processed by a megaphone immediately conjures stern situations involving law enforcement, emergencies, or demonstrations. But what would it sound like if positive messages came through these noisy devices? What if members of the public were given the opportunity to amplify their voices to say something nice? For this project, Improv Everywhere agents set up a lectern and a megaphone in Union Square and then disappeared. See how this social experiment unfolds as New Yorkers are given the chance to speak their minds.
The first Improv Everywhere mission for stillspotting nyc, Mute Button, took place on a Sunday in early May 2011 at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, where a large group of street actors blended in with the environment. At predetermined intervals, the performers behaved as if a “mute button” had been pressed. For example, a couple in a loud argument suddenly became inaudible, though their mouths continued to move. A man playing a saxophone in front of a tip jar suddenly became silent, though he seemed to still be playing. A group of breakdancers putting on a show had their music abruptly muted, though they continued dancing as if they could hear it. A small crowd watched them and laughed and cheered, silently. While the sounds and silence of these actions alternated on and off, passersby unexpectedly and suddenly found themselves aware of the sounds of the urban landscape.
Based in New York, Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and delight in public places. Created in August 2001, the group has executed over 100 missions involving thousands of undercover agents, including the legendary Frozen Grand Central and the infamous No Pants Subway Ride. The group’s videos have received over 165 million views on http://www.youtube.com/user/ImprovEverywhere