Tuesday, May 09, 2006
The scene-causing Improv Everywhere group run by Charlie Todd in NYC create and document clever, irreverent and funny "missions" with a loose network of undercover agents.
A recent mission: a cell phone symphony pulled off by checking backpacks and book bags in at the counter at a major used bookstore and then coordinating callers to make cell phones tucked inside the bags ring in a certain sequence.
Some quotes from the mission report:
"The first step was to divide everyone up by cell phone brand. In addition to creating a cacophony of 60 phones going off at once, I also wanted to have different sections play at different times, like a symphony. Instead of the 'string section,' we would have the 'Samsung section.'"
"The crowd divided into brands and each group tried to find a common ring tone that all of their phones had. The Nokia group had the 'Nokia Tune,' Motorola folks had 'Hello Moto,' etc. Those without common ring tones would either partner up with someone who did, or partner with someone else without a common tone. Agents began to pair off and trade phone numbers, deciding who would enter the store and who would be a caller."
Less elaborate schemes have fueled big-budget action movies.
This April, 80 Improv Everywhere agents showed up at a Best Buy dressed in the company uniform of blue polo shirt and khakis. They were to loiter in the store, neither shopping or claiming to be an employee. If a customer asked for help, they were to try to answer the question as best they could. They even used the store's own demo cameras to record the proceedings.
Here's the Best Buy mission report. My favorite quote from the incident:
"Security guards and managers started talking to each other frantically on their walkie-talkies and headsets. 'Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair!,' one employee shouted. They were worried that were using our fake uniforms to stage some type of elaborate heist. 'I want every available employee out on the floor RIGHT NOW!'"