The Improv Everywhere people should be arrested. The whole idea of flash mobs is, from their perspective, to inject a little art and whimsy into unsuspecting people’s lives. To me, it’s a hostage situation. Take the video below.
How wonderful, right? Who could take issue with an impromptu checkout line serenade? Me. Imagine you were out trying to get your groceries and you’re under a very strict time constraint. If it’s me, I’m doing my grocery shopping on my lunch hour, right after work, or on the weekend with my baby. In each of those cases, I have a very specific time frame where I have to grab the crap on my list, get out, and get home or back to work. Now, imagine I am forced to be subjected to this self-indulgent display of “look at us, aren’t we artistic,” parade of nonsense. Oh great, you learned to make the bleeps and bloops into a capricious song. Meanwhile, I’m late to get back to work, I didn’t sign up to listen to your awful song, my baby needs to take a nap or eat or get her diaper changed, or I have frozen foods that are rapidly defrosting.
Inserting the credit card chip takes an irritatingly long time, how pleased am I going to be if you break out into song? I can barely restrain myself from throwing a can of low sodium kidney beans at someone who waits until everything is bagged and the total is ready to write a check. How much restraint do I have to exercise when the lights go out and the bag boy decides to beat box over the PA? Stop testing us.
That’s the problem with all of these flash mobs, you’re interrupting. It’s rude. It’s also rude to what you’re considering your art. They call it performance art, but not only do they value their art so little that they give it away for free, but they force it on to others. That’s how little they value their performance that they force people to witness it. If it had any value at all, people would be paying to see it, or at the very least, seek it out.
They’re also so smugly proud of inconveniencing people. Look at any flash mob video, the participants have the biggest, self-congratulatory grins. “Look at what we’re giving people. Aren’t we great. Hey, is everyone’s name in this flash mob Carter or Hayden?” They aren’t clever enough to be so proud of themselves. Great, you all showed up in a Best Buy and started dancing, how avant garde. At worst, they specifically target and terrorize people. There’s an episode of This American Life that details how they mindlessly terrorize people for their own enjoyment.
However, there is an important axiom someone told me, “don’t present a problem unless you have a solution.” In other words, if Improv Everywhere is an issue, then I propose they become “Improv in This Specific Location.” They rent or buy some black box theater and make their supposed art worth at least going to intentionally see. At the very least, ask yourself, “is my blandly, hastily rehearsed attention grab worth wrecking people’s already tight schedule?” Maybe do improv in improv theaters?
Normally I wouldn’t be against people having fun or generating what they think is fun, but for the love of god, be considerate. It’s on my family crest which is the personification of empathy and consideration tastefully dry humping each other while walking the neighbor’s dog.