Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stickin' It to the Man

Every so often, I come across a group of people who make me proud to be a human. My friend Alex told me about this site. It features this organization (in the loosest sense of the word) named "Improv Everywhere." Apparently, they gather small groups of people and perform guerilla improv in highly inappropriate places.

On this one, they got 80 people to dress up in blue shirts and khaki pants. These people then wandered into a Best Buy store, where they wandered around randomly helping strangers. This, of course, completely wigged out the store staff, who were convinced that the group was planning a heist, a la The Thomas Crown Affair, protesting something or other, or showing their allegiance to a religious cult.

What really interests me is the incredibly negative spin that the Best Buy management put on the whole thing. Granted, this store was located in New York City, and store managers in urban centers can benefit from a little paranoia. However, the managers' inability to look beyond their narrow conclustions, even when it became clear that the improv people were there to have fun, ended up creating some real problems. There's a point where paranoia becomes its own punishment, and these pinheads seemed to tromp right past that line.

On this one, they synchronized the ringers on a whole bunch of phones, turned them in to the bag check at the Strand, a huge bookstore in New York, and then proceeded to call the phones in certain patterns. Ultimately, it yielded a cellphone "symphony" that amused many of the employees and customers, but caused a manager to go ballistic.

I think that what I love about this group is the beauty that they bring into the world, combined with the fact that this beauty, in turn, becomes a Rohrshak test for its audience.

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  • I love this. It reminds me of this little improv group that went to Starbucks and all performed certain tasks and conversations. They repeated themselves on six or seven minute intervals. It really wigged people out.

    By Blogger mist1, At November 30, 2006 at 12:18 AM  

  • If I were a customer I'd be amused. If I were the manager, I'd flip. My sense of humor is subject to change.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 7:46 AM  

  • yeah, I agree with pickled olives on this one. :)

    Although, the Best Buy thing is freakin awesome.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At November 30, 2006 at 7:52 AM  

  • Bring on the chaos.

    We have a similar thing here where random people turn up to a pre-arranged location, with ipods, and start dancing. Enormous fun.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At November 30, 2006 at 8:09 AM  

  • I'd heard about the Best Buy one, but I like the cell phone one, too. My cell phone went off at the chiropractor's the other day and I pretended it wasn't mine 'cuz it was so annoying. I can only imagine how irritating a bunch of them would've been.

    By Blogger Mrs Pinchloaf, At November 30, 2006 at 8:21 AM  

  • I love things like this. I'll have to think one up. LOL

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 10:27 AM  

  • that is funny. Thanks for the laughs this morning!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 12:40 PM  

  • Mist-
    Personally, I used to talk aloud to myelf in restaurants, just to watch the reactions of those around me. But it seems like a lot more fun when you do it with a crowd.

    I understand, but I feel like people need to find "moments" wherever possible, not merely in manufactured environments. For me at least, irritation can sometimes gets in the way of living.

    This is the kind of thing that you'd call me at work to tell me about. C'mon, don't front, you know you would...

    I always worry that ipods are destroying human interaction. It's nice to hear about a way in which they inspire it.

    I've actually answered my students' cell phones, largely out of a desire to humiliate said students. Mean, but fun.

    Good idea. Let me know when you come up with something!

    My sister, the art student, saw it as grist for the mill.

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 30, 2006 at 3:17 PM  

  • Ha...sounds like fun to me. Where do I sign up??

    By Anonymous Slick, At November 30, 2006 at 5:06 PM  

  • I think people are uncomfortable because they are too far up their own arses to have fun. Id love to join a group and weird people out, I sincerely think there are less 'mad' people out there just fucking with our heads for the jokey buzz of it all LOL

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 5:44 PM  

  • I would never freak out a group of people, or weird them out. Never

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 6:06 PM  

  • wow... that is just awesome. pure awesome.

    does this group have a home page?? this is hysterical!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 6:49 PM  

  • The thing of it is, for me... well, with the cell phones, not with the Best Buy thing, is that as a customer, I don't have to be there, so I can find it absolutely hilarious from that perspective. And as a customer, I'm not in retail indentured servitude. And retail jobs SUCK so much that to have somebody deliberately fuck with your environment just causes unnecessary pain to the really really low paid clerks...

    The other part of it is that as retail employees, we spend 40+ hours of our time in a very very public space. We don't get any respite from people. Office workers get to sit in their rather private offices or cubicles and have some of their own personal space. You can't personalize in retail... you can't have anything in that space. You're not allowed to chew gum. You're often not allowed to have water. Your bathroom breaks are really constrained. Your own personal space becomes the whole store and when somebody comes in and messes with that... it hurts a little, you know? We identify with our jobs, and even though a lot of retail clerks just flat out suck, there are plenty out there who do actually take pride in their jobs.

    Also, with the Best Buy thing, and I'm not sure how the Best Buy pay structure works, if those employees work on commission, or if they're judged on their sales per hour and the folks who went in posing as employees messed that up, I can imagine that there were LOTS of pissed off employees there. Just because those types of pay scales tend to engender super-competitive people.

    Sorry. I'll get off my soap box now.

    Really, I did find these things funny. I totally love it when people mess with the status quo. Heh.

    By Blogger misanthropster, At November 30, 2006 at 7:07 PM  

  • So awesome!

    A live-action satire of my college's Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization arose called something along the lines of Crusade for Chaos and Confusion, engaged in similar (albeit more anonymous) jocose and light-hearted acts of rebellion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 7:32 PM  

  • Slick-
    Wish I knew--I'd definitely be in line.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    You think? You may be right. Maybe I need to start faking tourette's syndrome.


    I know, not funny.

    Methinks the quant doth protest too much.

    I just edited the post. To get to Improv Everywhere's home page, click on the word "this" in the second sentence.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Satirizing Campus Crusade for Christ's Sake? So perfect!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 30, 2006 at 9:46 PM  

  • Did you hear about the one with the group all spreading out on the NY subway without pants and then a pant-seller would come by and they'd purchase them. Woulda loved to have been there. These guys are fantastic. If we did that here in DC, someone would be arrested, or maced, or shot. No sense of humor whatsoever.

    PS - u b tagged biotch.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 30, 2006 at 9:51 PM  

  • They were probably annoyed that the jokesters raised the bar for customer service, I'd imagine.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 1, 2006 at 12:35 PM  

  • Lee-
    What a great idea! It'd be particularly cool if someone random walked up and tried to buy a pair of pants. In fact, I wish I was there...

    BTW, I'll do the meme soon.

    Actually, that's exactly what I was thinking. Then again, I've had to deal with the smarmy little technoclones who work at Best Buy.

    By Blogger Crankster, At December 2, 2006 at 12:48 AM  

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