New York City-based Improv Everywhere usually elicits shock, awe, and laughter with its stunts. But the comedy group's latest performance caused a much different reaction; one that involved a 911 call and the New York Police Department.
While the latest Improv Everywhere video involves a trip to the Gap, the idea came from a visit to a different clothing store.
"About a month ago I wandered into the brand new Uniqlo store on 5th Avenue. While browsing I was struck by how many mannequins they had in the store," wrote the found and creator, Charlie Todd on the Improv Everywhere website. "While giving one a closer look, I realized how much they looked like humans wearing white Morphsuits."
Todd began to plot out a stunt in which a flash mob invaded Uniqlo dressed as mannequins. But to his dismay, Todd returned to the store just days later and saw that the white mannequins were replaced with clear ones.
Uniqlo's loss would be Gap's gain — at least in terms of human mannequins.
After studying the average height of male and female displays, Todd utilized Improv Everywhere's email list and gathered 40 people in Central Park. The instructions to the participants were rather vague: Wear "Gap-style clothing," and be prepared to wear a Morphsuit in public. No one was told the exact mission until they all arrived.
Once everyone gathered and suited up, they walked to the Gap store on Fifth Avenue, took their places on the different levels, and waited until 3:36 p.m. At that moment, the participants zipped up their Morphsuits and froze in place. Customers stared, laughed, and snapped selfies with the performers in disguise. Others turned it into a game, trying to find as many human mannequins as possible. A few shoppers who walked in after 3:36 p.m. did not even flinch at the human displays; some even thought they were real mannequins.
Todd instructed his group that they were to leave the store immediately if an employee asked them to. But Gap's loss prevention manager decided not to approach anyone, according to Todd, opting instead to call 911. NYPD officers arrived on the scene and immediately began to handcuff and detain the performers. The security manager had told police over the phone that a "flash mob" was in the store; Todd later found out that authorities interpreted "flash mob" to mean that a robbery was taking place.
After reviewing the situation, police allowed everyone to leave the store.
"I had long talks with several cops and apologized for wasting their time," Todd wrote on the website. "After the initial hysteria, they were all very nice and professional. One cop actually told me he had participated in our Mp3 Experiment last summer. Despite the massive response to what was a harmless, funny performance, I understand that from their perspective they were responding to a 911 report of a robbery."
Although arrests and lifetime bans to the store were averted, Todd cautioned that, "You never know how a store is going to react to an unauthorized performance on their property."
As for the public, there seems to be an overwhelming positive reaction to Improv Everywhere's latest stunt. Video of "The Mannequin Mob" hit YouTube Tuesday and has about 181,000 views.
- Charlie Todd