Can I Get A Napkin Here?
March 10, 2008 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Can I Get a Napkin Here? A food court musical brought to us by the fine folks of Improv Everywhere . For more musicals in public places, check out "Reach! A Lecture Musical!" and "Reading on a Dream: A Library Musical" both from Prangstgrup.
posted by Del Far (43 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is why theater students must be stopped in high school or earlier.
posted by interrobang at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2008 [6 favorites]

Somewhat disappointing that they asked and received permission from the mall first.
posted by mrnutty at 3:13 PM on March 10, 2008

It won me over when the security guard, who ostensibly showed up to end the shenanigans, joined the song.
posted by PM at 3:58 PM on March 10, 2008

"This is why theater students must be stopped in high school or earlier."

That just made me laugh, I know waaaay to many theater majors, and some need to just be stopped.
posted by Del Far at 3:58 PM on March 10, 2008

Wow, i really needed a smile today, and this did it.

My favorite part was the "janitor" breaking out in song; if I were there, that and "security" would have totally taken me by surprise.
posted by ShawnStruck at 3:59 PM on March 10, 2008

posted by dersins at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Uh, I did enjoy it, though.
posted by dersins at 4:19 PM on March 10, 2008

The illusion was (somewhat) spoiled for me when I recognized MetaFilter member Jesse Thorn sitting by the fountain. Sadly, he never got his own solo.
posted by ColdChef at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2008

(uh, and by "fountain", I mean...big plant thing in the middle. He's the guy in the suit who catches the janitor's broom.)
posted by ColdChef at 4:22 PM on March 10, 2008

So few smiles. So much visible annoyance. This is a sad documentary of the despairing souls inhabiting our nation's food courts.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:31 PM on March 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

I would wager the visible annoyance was in part at the off-tune singing. The singing, okay. Being off-tune while performing is just grating. Sing in your own range dammit.
posted by Phire at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2008

I like Improv Everywhere. I hate terrible musical theater.
posted by DU at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2008

Good luck with your semi-reality tv show, kids. Never seem to get enough of those things.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2008

Too long; didn't watch. Could somebody let me know if they ever got napkins?
posted by ottereroticist at 4:41 PM on March 10, 2008

They got at least one napkin thrown at them and another handed to the first singer during the climax of the song. Don't know if that last napkin was staged.

While I personally quite liked it, as dersins so eloquently put it, this isn't "improv". You can't have rehearsals for improv.
posted by WalterMitty at 4:48 PM on March 10, 2008

While flawed in several ways (the singing, for one), I thought this was great.
posted by grouse at 4:56 PM on March 10, 2008

What the video doesn't show is the food-court diners who stood up and started singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." Now, that was creepy. And didn't go with my burger and fries at all.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's not "improv", it's "Improv" capitalized. I watched a lot of "Evening at the Improv" as a child. This has both brick walls and offers a comparison between how black guys and white guys dance. It fully complies with the word Improv.
posted by Gary at 5:22 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Whaa? "The Improv" is a comedy club in LA; the capitalisation is part of the name. Improv(isation) is a type of theatre. One takes issue with the idea of a group called "Improv Everywhere" staging rehearsed, prepared performances; it's not improv if it's rehearsed and scripted.

The capitalisation is utterly irrelevant.

I would suggest that location is irrelevant to improv, it's the nature of the performance rather than where it's staged that makes it improv.

Still, they seem good at what they do, singing aside.
posted by WalterMitty at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2008

Improv? No, scripted. But fun.
posted by CWODave at 6:08 PM on March 10, 2008

The Prangstgrup singing was commendable.
posted by PM at 6:09 PM on March 10, 2008

Damn, I thought I'd seen everything, but a comedy-troupe-related post from Del Far? Never!

(I kid)

This is fun, even if the group didn't do everything with it that they could have (it's not that hard to take music to over-the-top climax, which is clearly what this called for.)

In any case, I liked it if only because the dude with the hat and mustache looked exactly like jonmc to me, and that makes me giggle.
posted by My Bloody Pony at 6:18 PM on March 10, 2008

I am as cynical a douche as they come, yet.....I found myself grinning like an idiot by the end of this, in much the same state I found myself at the end of "Love, Actually".

Spying YoungAmerican was a treat!
posted by tristeza at 6:36 PM on March 10, 2008

In other news, the script for Improv Everywhere's Mefi Meetup prank musical is leaked:

I'm sitting down at my computer...
On a site called MetaFilter...
Browsing subjects great and small.
There's something here for one and all.

Hamsters, torture, and fun flash games...
Hoaxes, scandals, the sturm and drang...
Cyberculture's flow and ebb.
It's all the best stuff on the web.

So seeing this torrent, I re-a-lize!
That silence and lurking would be unwise!
D D E# E
I can't stand by...
E E F-F#
I must reply...

D G-G G G-G F# E D D
Soooooo I'm posting on Mefi and I feel fine!
D G-G G G G F# E D D
You wanna post too, bud? Then pay the fine!
D-G-G G G-G F# E-D-D
Together our comments will intertwine!
D D-E#-E
And satisfyyy...



D G-G G G-G F# E D D
We're posting on Mefi and we feel fine
D G G G G-G F# E D D
We'll try to be civil, not moan and whine
D G G G-G-G F# E D D
With luck our discussion won't cross the line
D D-E# E
And instead beee...
E E F F#
The best blog weee...
F#-B-D G
Contribute tooo...

D D E#-E
I will supplyyy...
E E-F F#
A comment slyyy...
F #B D G
And you can tooo...



posted by Rhaomi at 6:50 PM on March 10, 2008 [7 favorites]

also cocks
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:56 PM on March 10, 2008

Uh. Fucking Columbia. Fucking theatre people at Columbia. I'm exhausted.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:57 PM on March 10, 2008

Wow. That was annoying. Why did they ever think that anyone would want to hear that annoying, boring music? Of course people were frowning! They're lucky they didn't get hit with a tray. The chick behind the counter made my ears bleed.

If you want to act and it in a theater. Then the public can DECIDE whether or not they want to listen to your "art." Otherwise, let us eat our soft pretzels in peace. thanks.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:00 PM on March 10, 2008

You can't have rehearsals for improv.

I have frequently rehearsed for improv. Of course, it had to be different every time.
This? No.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:02 PM on March 10, 2008

I have to say, mad props to the mall and Hot Dog On a Stick for helping out with this one. The janitor and security guard are hilarious! But I have to say, I like some of the other missions better, largely because they're not quite so dependent on singing ability. (No offense if you're reading this, Hot Dog Lady and Mustard Guy! I couldn't do it either!)
posted by bettafish at 8:48 PM on March 10, 2008

Gee wiz... a lot of anger in here. Why? Seems a bit much.

Anyway, as ColdChef noticed, I indeed played a part in the mission. I look like a bystander because I was playing one, until I joined in the singing and dancing -- that was the MO of everyone involved. You don't see my solo in the video (some of the song was cut out), but you do see me again in the tableau at the end.

As far as the improv/not-improv issue is concerned, Charlie Todd, the boss/creator of IE (and the guy who handed the singer a napkin at the end) is a teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York and a member of the UCB Touring Company, so I'm pretty confident he knows what is and isn't improv. So maybe let go of that semantic obsession.

As far as the quality of the singing... the goal was to have real people burst into song, not singers perform a broadway-quality musical number. Thank goodness, because otherwise I could never have participated. We did meet with a choreographer and singing/piano guy the night before, and we tried out the choreography that morning before the mall opened.

As far as where it went... there were some technical issues capturing things, which I think led to most of the dancing being cut out of the final product. There was a BIG Busby-Berkley-style finale, trust me.

Anyway, this was one of the most fun things I've ever done, and it was really a special chance to be part of IE, which I think is a really great organization that's all about fun.
posted by YoungAmerican at 9:05 PM on March 10, 2008 [4 favorites]

Food court lady: Can I get a napkin pleeeeeeeeeaase?

Michael Scott: BOOM! Agent Michael Scorn, I see through your ruse! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! ["shoots" people in improv scene]

Now improv.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:38 PM on March 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just because a group is called Improv Everywhere doesn't mean that they're going to only be doing improv, does it?

Or that they're going to be improving EVERYWHERE!

Stay out of my bathroom, Improv Everywhere!
posted by geekhorde at 10:01 PM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

How fun! It's always been my secret dream to burst out into a musical production during my everyday life.

If I'd been an innocent bystander @ the Improv Everywhere performance, I would've peed myself with joy and perhaps I would've joined them in the revelry.

In contrast, if the chap from Prangstgrup had decided to burst out into song at my university's library, I would've punched him in the face. Unapologetically. I can't put my finger on it, but something about him just pisses me off. Maybe it's the locales he chose; maybe it's the *jaaaaazzzzz haaaaands*

Can you imagine what would happen if he pulled this stunt during finals week?

/former theater geek/show choir kid
//we are a strange breed, indeed
posted by chara at 11:16 PM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, not exactly improv. And I too was disappointed to learn that they got coöperation from the mall and HDoaS. But still, this was absolutely great. Those things are only disappointments because I came into it expecting something slightly different.

I'm still wondering what it says about society that we do things like this. Or is it just YouTube that lets us know how much of this goes on, and before YT it still happened but wasn't recorded? I know I've taken part in elaborately-prepared surrealistic pranks that probably left no record except the memories of the few score strangers who saw them. So, I dunno. Were people doing this in 1500s France? Ancient Greece? Or is it a reaction to, say, the way that most media sort of make people experience life in the third person?
posted by hattifattener at 11:52 PM on March 10, 2008

Or is it a reaction to, say, the way that most media sort of make people experience life in the third person?

That puts me in mind of The Really Terrible Orchestra - giving normal people like you and me the opportunity to be in an orchestra rather than just listening to it.

I'm all for bringing theatre to the public, really. After all, if people are still allowed to blow their second-hand cigarette smoke in non-smokers' faces, singing and dancing in full public view should certainly be fine; it ranks way down on the annoyance scale compared to smokers.

Even if it's not improv.
posted by WalterMitty at 1:17 AM on March 11, 2008

Improv is kinda crap. I don't know why anyone who does prewritten sketch work would sully themselves with the label. I like my laughs like i like my music, well crafted with a great hook and not 'Jimmy Jazzholes Cosmic Expedition through the Circle of Fifths And The Navigator is out sick so no one knows what magical island we'll end up on but I'll betcha a smile you'll love the trip with Butthole McCoy on fretless bass and Tomas Treble and Carlotta Clef exploring the erotic dance of percussion.'

Man, I hates me some improv.
posted by bunnytricks at 3:55 AM on March 11, 2008

In my experience, people who hate improv haven't seen good improv. Improv is at the core of the american comic tradition -- at least half of our greatest comic performers came from improvisation. That said, this mission wasn't improvised.
posted by YoungAmerican at 8:01 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

They seem to work primarily out of New York... anyone know if there's a group doing similar work in the San Francisco Bay Area?
posted by Robson at 11:08 AM on March 11, 2008

damn right Young American, I thought improv was just "who's line is it anyway" short form and it smelled something awful to me, then I went to see improv at the UCBTheater and everything changed. You haven't seen actual improv
posted by Del Far at 11:16 AM on March 11, 2008

bunnytricks, it's unfair to compare improv to written sketch comedy. They are two different animals and, like every other art form, both have more than their share of crap. Improv is just that - improvised comedy that is created in the moment. It's not meant to be repeated over and over like a pop song or a DVD. When you watch a live improv show, the rules are different than sketch. The audience is not sitting there with their arms folded demanding flawless comedy. Rather, they are rooting for the improvisers, aware that they are winging it. Yeah, of course some of it falls flat, but when it works, it's that much more rewarding for both parties. Many of the sketch artists you see on TV and the internets also work in improv. There's just no money in improv, and it's a great catalyst/tool for sketch ideas. Likewise, many of those great hooks you love in songs come from the musicians improvising.
posted by hellbient at 11:19 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Other comedy troupe names we're mad about:
Kids in the Hall - they're not kids, hall is barely featured.
Saturday Night Live - 11:30 timeslot means most sketches technically air Sunday morning.
Monty Python - Not a real guy.
posted by Gary at 11:23 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

It's not meant to be repeated over and over like a pop song or a DVD. When you watch a live improv show, the rules are different than sketch.

I think it's the live part that needs to be emphasized. On the few occasions I've seen improv live it has been quite fun. Even when it was performed by amateur groups. Televised improv is usually a mixed bag. Maybe it's because the tv shows are normally edited (quite noticeably) and all the risk is gone as well as all the participation.
posted by Gary at 11:32 AM on March 11, 2008

Robson -- Charlie is expanding beyond NYC, check out the IE Worldwide website for more info.
posted by YoungAmerican at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2008

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