It started first in New York, then in Chicago, and now ‘No Pants Day’ has hit Asian shores as young Taiwanese girls decided to go pant-less for one day, and ride the subway in their panties.
The no-pants subway ride is annual event first started in New York City, by Improv Everywhere (often abbreviated IE) – a New York City comedic performance art group which carries out pranks or ‘missions’ in public places to celebrate silliness. Formed in 2001 by Charlie Todd, its slogan is “We Cause Scenes.”
The group carries out pranks, which they call “missions”, in public places. The stated goal of these missions is to cause scenes of “chaos and joy.” Some of the group’s missions use hundreds of performers and are similar to flash mobs, while other missions utilize only a handful of performers. Improv Everywhere has stated that they do not identify their work with the term flash mob, in part because their site was created two years prior to the flash mob trend.
Improv Everywhere has been profiled by many national and international media outlets including The New York Times, The Today Show, and ABC’s Nightline.
Todd started the group in August of 2001 after playing a prank in a Manhattan bar with some friends that involved him pretending to be musician Ben Folds. Later that year Todd started taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City where he first met most of the “Senior Agents” of Improv Everywhere. The owners of the theatre, The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), had a television series from 1998–2000 on Comedy Central. While primarily a sketch comedy show, the UCB often filmed their characters in public places with hidden cameras and showed the footage under the end credits. Both the UCB’s show and their teachings on improv have been influential to Improv Everywhere. Todd himself currently teaches and performs at the UCB.
While long-time members of Improv Everywhere often participate in missions, many are open to the public. IE has organized and carried out over 100 missions, from synchronized swimming in a park fountain to repeating a five-minute sequence of events in a Starbucks coffee shop over and over again for an hour, from flooding a Best Buy store with members dressed exactly like the staff to riding the New York City Subway without their pants. All the missions share a certain modus operandi: Members (“agents”) play their roles entirely straight, not breaking character or betraying that they are acting. IE claims the missions are benevolent, aiming to give the observers a laugh and an experience.
IE have also performed several ‘fake’ missions which are staged and uploaded on April Fools Day as a real mission, causing outrage until the next day when the joke is revealed.
On Sunday, January 9th, 2011 over 5,000 people took off their pants on subways in 48 cities in 22 countries around the world. The prank which started with seven guys in 2001 has grown into an international celebration of silliness.
Popular among Western countries, the only Asian country that participated in the event last year was Tokyo, Japan. Taiwan is the new addition to the 2011 list.