Thursday, August 24, 2006

Standing Still

Improv Everywhere is a flash mob group which recently did a mission at Home Depot with 225 people that's just too cool not to talk about—

Wait, wait... what you say? What's a flash mob?

A flash mob is:

...a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, do something unusual for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse. They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other digital communications networks.

I first heard about Improv Everywhere from this fascinating NPR interview on This American Life (Act 2), where they did an improv at Starbuck's consisting of "seven undercover agents meticulously repeating a five-minute slice of time for twelve consecutive repetitions. Starbucks employees and patrons were frightened, confused, and ultimately entertained as they found themselves stuck, without escape, in the middle of a time loop."

What makes Improv Everywhere so special is that they perform something magical and mysterious in an age devoid of magic and mystery in commonplace living. Of course, there are risks that the pranks—intended to be purely benevolent—can backfire horribly, but their usual result is to give their audience something to talk about for the rest of their lives (which is a reward worth the risk, in my opinion). What might only happen in a fantasy story suddenly comes to life, unexpectedly and without explanation. As with their Starbuck's mission, the customers (and staff) felt by the final repeating loops that they could actually predict the future! What childlike feelings that must invoke... and imagine how it would feel to shake your head when it's all over and wonder, "I just witnessed something truly magnificent, and perhaps might never see anything like it again."

Anyway, Improv Everywhere's latest mission was to enter a Home Depot store one Saturday with 225 people. Their goal was to have everyone in the flash mob—at precisely the same moment—act in slow motion for 5 minutes. Then go back to being normal for 5 minutes. Then stay completely frozen for 5 minutes. Then go back to being normal, and eventually leave the store.

See the results:

1 comment:

Susan Detwiler said...

Ross, I think you have fallen for a hoax. For one thing, are people really still doing flash mobs? And, the whole shopping in slow motion and then getting frozen- brother, that happens to me every time I go to Home Depot! The place just does not operate under natural principles.