Bwog respects our heritage/amorous affair by posting each issue of The Blue & White. The latest issue, available this week, is a cornucopia of delights: a gripping debate on the merits of shaving, tales of Columbia’s forgotten protests, and profiles of two truly awesome students, among others. In the Conversation, the magazine locates a cool person, and sits down to talk to them for the benefit of all—simple as that. This month, we sat down with Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere fame.
If you happened to be looking up while walking through Union Square one night in March, 2005, you might have witnessed a peculiar scene. The windows of the Whole Foods building on 14th Street were filled with people doing enthusiastic jumping jacks in perfect unison. A few of the jumpers also held poster board letters which, together, urged their audience to “Look Up More.”
Commanding the troops on the ground with hand-signals was Charlie Todd, the founder of Improv Everywhere. According to the group’s website, “Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” Improv Everywhere has orchestrated dozens of large-scale pranks throughout New York City, including the annual No Pants Subway Ride. Todd is also a performer at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in Manhattan, and the author of Causing a Scene, a book about Improv Everywhere’s exploits. Blue & White senior editor Hannah Lepow sat down with Todd to learn about pranks from the master.
The Blue & White: So your last mission featured a lone, clumsy ice skater stranded and falling down on the rink at Bryant Park when the ice was cleared, only to turn out to be a professional figure skater. How did you come up with that idea?
Charlie Todd: Two of the more senior members of Improv Everywhere—Matt Adams and Katie Sokoler, my main video person and my main photographer – they happened to be in Bryant Park and they saw something similar. They saw a guy kind of struggling to leave the ice when it was time for the Zamboni clearing. And I think he fell a couple times and a lot of people were watching and kind of laughing. And they suggested the idea to me of trying to find a professional skater who could be in that situation and then all of the sudden start skating really well.
B&W: It looked like the people who were watching really got a kick out of it, but there did seem to be some mixed reactions.
CT: Yeah I’ve kind of been surprised. A lot of the YouTube comments (which you can never take too much stock in because often it’s just 14-year-olds), but a lot of people had the reaction of being angry that people watching were laughing instead of helping. But I don’t think they understood the situation. They couldn’t just run out there and help him. There was a wall all around the ice.