New York-based prank collective Improv Everywhere has done it again. This time, however, the surprise was on them when the New York City Police Department showed up at the scene.
Improv Everywhere, founded in 2001, aims to create “chaos and joy” in public places. They do pranks that are similar to those done by flash mobs and live true to their slogan: “We Cause Scenes.” To date, the group has organized over a hundred public stunts including the frozen grand central prank and the performance of synchronized swimmers in a park fountain.
Charlie Todd, the group’s creator and founder, came up with a new prank for Improv Everywhere last month. He was visiting the new Uniqlo store on 5th Avenue and he was “struck by how many mannequins they had in the store.” While observing the mannequins, he noticed how much they resembled humans wearing white Morphsuits. He got a “light bulb moment” and a new prank was born.
Todd’s first idea was to carry out the prank at the Uniqlo store, but much to his dismay, the white mannequins were replaced with clear ones just a few days after. So, instead of doing the prank there, he decided to carry out the mission at GAP instead.
Todd sent an email to gather participants for the prank. The email he sent did not have details regarding the prank, but stated that they had to wear “Gap-style clothing,” and were told to be ready to wear a Morphsuit in public.
The group, which consisted of about 40 participants, made their way to the 5th Avenue GAP store and spread out in different locations. Todd gave them instructions to leave the store if an employee asks them to.
At exactly 3:36 pm, they all zipped up their Morphsuits and stood in place just like real mannequins. Shoppers were amused by the stunt and started taking pictures and selfies with the “mannequins.” Those who entered the store after 3:36 pm did not even notice that the mannequins were real people.
While shoppers and some GAP employees found the prank amusing, one employee did not. He decided to make a 911 phone call immediately to report the incident. According to reports, the employee was concerned that Improv Everywhere’s stunt was just a ploy to cover up a burglary.
NYPD officers quickly responded to the 911 call and arrived at the scene. They handcuffed the mannequins and rested them on the floor.
Todd was shocked with the response that they got and told Mashable that “it was distressing to see these people who were just helping me out down on the floor in handcuffs.”
By chance, one of the responding officers recognized one of the group’s organizers, as the police officer too, has taken part in one of Improv Everywhere’s pranks. When the authorities learned that it was an innocent prank, the participants were let go and charges were not filed.
Despite the misunderstanding, participants say that they had a good experience that would “make for a great story.”
For Todd, the prank was a learning experience. “I’m not mad at the GAP, and I hope they’re not too mad at us,” he said.