Image courtesy of VivereNewYork
Anyone who knows me well enough can vouch that I’ve yet to shut up about flash mobs since discovering the concept.
I love harmless pranks. Don’t ask me how I got this way, but there is something hilarious in making people scratch their heads or think twice, without blatantly hurting them.
So when I learned about Improv Everywhere
a few years ago, my heart filled with joy. Who knew there were that many other people who found singing in unconventional places and drawing attention to themselves in the most bizarre scenarios to be funny?
Then I moved to New York, and I promised myself that I would participate in one of the events.
The MP3 experiment is like a scavenger hunt meets flash mob. Everyone downloads an original MP3, synchronized by atomic clock, then meets at a specific location and blend in until it’s time to push play. It’s 45 minutes of hilarious antics, while unsuspecting visitors try to figure out what is going on.
This was the 9th year for the experiment, each being a different time, location and set of instructions. Past tasks include lightsaber battles
, mummy dance parties
and balloon fights
I took a ferry Sunday afternoon to Governers Island with no direction other than to start the MP3 at exactly 3:00 p.m. EST, no matter where I was. Due to the amount of people trying to get to the island, many had to start the MP3 on the ferry, which is the only way to get there.
My backpack contained the instructed supplies: a white sheet, water gun, shower cap, small stuffed animal, hard flat object and small noisemaker of some sort.
Despite a hot and drizzly afternoon, two teams separated by date of birth pressed play and listened to a combination of narrative from”Steve” and original music, composed by Tyler Walker
The theme was “Governors Island Olympics,” though you’ll see none of these sporting events in August. We completed tasks like dropping to the ground at the same time, which must have looked hilarious and baffling to anyone simply watching.
Image courtesy of VivereNewYork
What had to be even funnier is thousands (last year’s saw about 3,500) of people walking aimlessly with white sheets on their head like ghosts. We quickly flung the sheets off of our heads as instructed and then ran to the Parade Grounds with victory capes, which was the same sheet draped over their shoulders. The sheet also functioned as a trampoline to hurl stuffed animals into the air. The flat objects were used to collaboratively create the tallest tower.
The activities led to the “water gun finale,” an epic water gun battle which participants used their noisemakers before marching to meet the opposite team — all while sporting a shower cap.
The twist was that 300 random participants, myself included, were told in the middle of the MP3 that we were the chosen “secret sleeper agents.” We were forewarned of a sabotage during the water gun finale — prank within a prank. Instead of aiming for the other team, at the last second, we were to shoot our own side. The result was hilarious chaos.
An older woman unaware of the experiment laughed later when I let her in on the joke. She came to the island for an afternoon with her daughter and grandson, and left with a much better story to share — I only felt bad that she had to wait in line to get off of the island with the rest of us, given that there’s no other way than ferry.
Though the woman claimed to be completely surprised, it was quite obvious to me who was in on the stunt and who wasn’t, mainly by the visible water guns. However, had I not known what was going on, the amount of people wearing headphones would never have phased me. In a city like New York, there are constantly people surrounding you, yet most are often in their own little plugged-in world: at work, during commutes and just walking around.
What was so brilliant about the entire experiment is that even with headphones on, the participants are highly engaged. There was a sense of interaction without saying a word to the participants, much like online conversation.
Though, it’s awfully hard not to laugh with each other when you’re surrounded in a field wearing shower caps.