News

Improv Everywhere amuses pedestrians with huge holiday light switch

Charlie Todd and the rest of his crew at Improv Everywhere had a particularly bright idea for their latest holiday stunt.

Closed Captioning
apply | reset x
font
size
T
T
T
T
color

Making spirits bright: Comedy group gives New Yorkers a yuletide surprise

Play Video - 0:50

Making spirits bright: Comedy group gives New Yorkers a yuletide surprise

Play Video - 0:50

More video

Todd, who founded the New York City-based group in 2001 with the hope of "causing scenes of chaos and joy in public places," oversaw a recent mission that filmed New Yorkers' jubilant reactions when they flipped a 7-foot-tall light switch that appeared to turn on holiday lights in a city park and pedestrians walking through it.

YouTube / Improv Everywhere
Improv Everywhere's latest holiday stunt teased New Yorkers with a giant light switch and no further instructions.
Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Improv Everywhere's latest holiday video shows random New Yorkers' jubilant reactions to flipping a giant light switch, which appears to turn on lights in a city park and pedestrians walking through it.

The related YouTube video called "The Light Switch," released late Wednesday, collected more than 122,000 views in just a few hours.

It's the latest in a series of the group's holiday-themed stunts, which include last year's "Epic Christmas Caroling," which surprised a suburban New Jersey family with Christmas carolers, a 20-piece brass band, multiple Santa Clauses and fake snow. Other holiday favorites include 2013's "A Christmas Story in Real Life," which featured a boy pretending to get his tongue stuck on a subway pole in front of riders who weren't in on the joke, and 2009's "Guerilla Handbell Strikeforce," for which a 13-member handbell choir offered surprise accompaniment to a Salvation Army bell-ringer in Manhattan.

"I love the month of December in New York," Todd, 36, told TODAY.com via email. "The air is crisp and brisk and there's a special energy in the city. The cold is a fun, new thing that hasn't worn out its welcome yet. I think it's a really special time, and it's really fun to be a part of the excitement by creating something fun like this."

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Charlie Todd, who founded Improv Everywhere in August 2001, explains the "Light Switch" mission parameters to participants before the stunt is pulled off.

According to the "Light Switch" mission log, I.E. volunteers — recruited through a group email list — prepared for the event in a church basement across the park at Father Demo Square in New York City's West Village.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Cameron Sun was the first Improv Everywhere volunteer to try on the holiday lights for the group's "Light Switch" stunt.

Once volunteers positioned themselves in the park, the giant light switch was "installed" at the entrance, with no additional instructions for passersby.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
A young pedestrian flips a giant light switch for Improv Everywhere's 2015 holiday stunt.

But eventually, pedestrians decided to give it a flip.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Two girls try out the giant switch used for Improv Everywhere's 2015 holiday prank.

When the switch was flipped "on," the results were rather illuminating — and literally stopped volunteers in their tracks to add to the photogenic event.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
For Improv Everywhere's 2015 holiday video, a giant light switch appeared to light an entire New York City park.

"The [light] board operator was able to see our camera angles on a monitor as well, which was helpful," Todd told TODAY.com. "The church let us use their roof, which provided the awesome overhead angle."

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
A 7-foot-tall light switch in New York City’s Father Demo Square was the bright idea for Improv Everywhere's 2015 holiday prank.

Once the switch returned to its "off" position, the lights followed suit and volunteers resumed their activities in the park.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Improv Everywhere's "The Light Switch" video had been viewed more than 122,000 times within hours of its posting on YouTube.

"The video doesn't show the selfies," Todd told TODAY.com. "There were plenty of selfies. Some people didn't even flip the switch; they just posed with it. How sad! Fortunately most people kept their cameras in their pocket and had a blast interacting with it."

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
This couple appears to be surprised by Improv Everywhere's 2015 holiday stunt, "The Light Switch."

Over the years, the group has documented about 150 missions, including viral hits "Frozen Grand Central," which had hundreds of participants silently stop simultaneously in the landmark train station; "Even Better Than The Real Thing," which pretended U2 was performing on a rooftop across from their show at Madison Square Garden; "Food Court Musical," which presented a surprise musical before unsuspecting diners at a mall food court; and "No Shirts," which showcased shirtless men of all shapes and sizes walking through an Abercrombie & Fitch store that featured a topless male model by the front door.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
More than 3 miles' length of holiday lights were used in Improv Everywhere's "Light Switch" stunt.

Todd made a point to thank Target, which also sponsored last year's holiday mission, for helping with "The Light Switch," as the company assisted the group with supplies, a permit to pull off the stunt in a public place, and the funding to create the giant light switch.

Arin Sang-urai / Improv Everywhere
Volunteers for Improv Everywher's "Light Switch" stunt ranged in age from 7 to 70, according to founder Charlie Todd.

Added Todd, "Their support is how we could afford 50,000 Christmas lights."

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

TOP