Charlie Todd On Improv Everywhere’s Latest Stunt: The Mute Button

By Megan O'Neill Comment

If you haven’t seen the latest video from Improv Everywhere, the NYC-based performance group known for its strange public displays and flash mobs, then I suggest you stop everything you’re doing and watch it right now.  It’s called ‘The Mute Button’ and it’s one of their best pranks to date, if you ask me.

‘The Mute Button’ features a group of people standing at the entrance to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, periodically muting themselves like a television show.  I had the opportunity to ask Improv Everywhere founder Charlie Todd some questions about the prank, which was done as part of the Guggenheim Museum exhibition stillspotting nyc.  Read on to find out more about the prank, the Guggenheim project and watch the video.

Before we get to my interview with Charlie Todd, check out ‘The Mute Button’ prank in the video below.  Pretty awesome, right?

The video is only four and a half minutes long, but I was curious about how much actual time was spent at the entrance to Prospect Park, shooting footage for the final video.  Charlie told me, “The project lasted about 45 minutes.  We had planned to stop after 20 and regroup and see if we needed to make adjustments, but it went so well from the start that we just kept going.  We shot with four small, discreet cameras.”

Frequently Improv Everywhere finds their participants through sending out mass emails and seeing who shows up.  This time, Charlie tells me they handpicked the actors.  “For all our smaller projects we cast actors we know.  The performers in this piece were mostly from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which is where I perform on Saturday nights.”

Charlie has been doing Improv Everywhere videos for a while and he appears in many of the videos, explaining the “mission.”  I asked if he has ever had people recognize him during the pranks and figure out that way what’s going on.  He said it happens very rarely.  “I had a couple of personal friends walk by the Mute Button and spot me, but they knew to play it cool.  New York is such a huge city.  It’s very easy to blend in.  Also, I’m only occasionally featured prominently in the videos, so you have to be a big fan of Improv Everywhere to really know what I look like.”

Finally, I asked Charlie to tell me a little bit more about the Guggenheim’s stillspotting nyc project.  He told me, “stillspotting nyc is a two-year multidisciplinary project that takes the Guggenheim Museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs.  They approached me about being a part of it earlier this year.  We have plans to make a few more videos over the course of the next two years.”  You can find out more about stillspotting nyc on the Guggenheim website.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.