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Causing Scenes: Improv Everywhere

Public Programs

Causing Scenes: Improv Everywhere

March 7 2008

Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over seventy missions involving thousands of undercover agents. Although many of these agents come from the improv and comedy community in New York City, their work defies easy classification. Most recently, Improv Everywhere executed a mission that gained them national attention when over 200 people froze, inexplicably, for five minutes in the middle of Grand Central Station, before unfreezing and going about their business as if nothing ever happened. The group has been wildly successful online, receiving over eleven million views on YouTube alone. They have been profiled by the New York Times, This American Life (on the radio and on television), The Today Show, 20/20, ABC World News Tonight, and Rolling Stone, among others.

For their program at the New Museum, Improv Everywhere presented never-before-seen footage of several missions. Scott Brown moderated a discussion with Charlie Todd that investigates Improv Everywhere’s unusual process, from development through execution to online promotion, including a survey of the unique problems surrounding hidden camera documentation. Additional discussion topics included how the Internet is changing the way we interact with live performance and the delicate balancing act between anonymity, purity of vision, and sustainability in a world intent on co-opting our imaginations in the service of any potential new marketing opportunity.

Charlie Todd is the founder of Improv Everywhere, producing, directing, performing, and documenting the group’s work for nearly seven years. He is also a teacher and performer of improvisational comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. New York Magazine has called him “one of the ten funniest people you haven’t heard of.”

Scott Brown is a writer, musician, and performer living in Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in Wired, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Details,and GQ. His off-Broadway show “Gutenberg! The Musical!” (co-written with Anthony King) was nominated for Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards.