Creating IRL Fantasies with Improv Everywhere

I've posted about Improv Everywhere before, but they were featured on last week's episode of This American Life (a rebroadcast from 2005) and I thought IE founder Charlie Todd had some really interesting things to say about what his group does and why they do it. For those of you who aren't familiar, Improv Everywhere is a comedic performance art group that stages "missions" (also known as pranks, depending on whom you ask) intended to cause "chaos and joy" in the most mundane of public spaces. (Random example: on an NYC subway car, someone gets on wearing a suit and coat without pants. A similarly-dressed person gets on at the next stop, and another at the next stop. Finally, a vendor boards the train selling pants.) In the interview, Todd explained the idea behind his group by saying something that really resonated with me -- that a lot of people enjoy fantasy and sci-fi stories, but that they're almost always relegated to movies and books. Improv Everywhere, on the other hand, tries to bring strange and improbable scenarios to real life. Here are some of my favorite "missions" from over the years, discreetly videotaped by various "agents" with hidden cameras.

Frozen Grand Central
Kind of a sci-fi concept: 207 people frozen in time, for five minutes, in Grand Central. Could be the cliffhanger for an episode of Flash Forward.

Subway Yearbook Photos
Would you let strangers on a train take your picture?

Best Game Ever
Agents pick a random little league game to root for, giving the kids the "best game ever." IE did a similar thing with "Best Gig Ever" and "Ted's Birthday," both with mixed results and hurt feelings. Let's hope everybody went home happy after this one.

Invisible Dogs
Hundreds of people walking invisible dogs in Brooklyn. Will observers think they're going insane? Or Brooklyn is going insane?

Where's Rob?

Tips For Baking Perfect Cookies

Perfect cookies are within your grasp. Just grab your measuring cups and get started. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education.

Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked

Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"


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