Once More With Feeling 

Even Better Than the Real Thing

When dealing with Improv Everywhere, the first rule is that it's not a prank, it's a "mission." The devoted faithful of this New York based improv/acting/mayhem ensemble have been pulling missions all over their city and gaining a pretty sizable following in the process. So when the biggest band in the world, U2, came to town, their "Even Better Than The Real Thing" mission was born. In what took weeks to put together, the group staged a remarkably authentic "U2 concert" on the roof of their apartment building, which just so happened to be right next to Madison Square Garden, where the real U2 was about to play. Despite a Korean-American guitarist playing the Edge, a band who barely had one practice, and NYPD storming the building, the mission was a success, bringing hundreds into the streets of New York and bottlenecking traffic. Improv member Charlie Todd talks about what it takes to perform one of the greatest pranks, er, missions, in musical history, and what happens after they were almost arrested for doing it.

Due to the elaborate nature of this mission, did you have doubts about whether or not you could pull it off?

I was very nervous about how loud it would be. We finally did a sound check the week before the prank, and thankfully the guitar and bass amps were plenty loud. I knew I would have a large group of people "in on it" to form the base of the crowd. Once you have a group of people looking at something in NYC, everyone else wants to stop and look as well. By the end of the performance, there were around 300 people watching.

Do you think the onlookers and people in the street ever bothered to question the quality of the music being played? Or were they just caught up in the moment?

People always believe what they want to believe. They wanted this great New York story of seeing the number one band in the world performing for free, so they believed it. The point of the event was to make people laugh and smile, not necessarily to trick them. We certainly ended up tricking way more people than I thought we would.

You were handcuffed and almost arrested for doing this; did you have to go to court? Pay a fine?

Eight of us have to appear in court on June 21. The cops told us we would probably pay a $10 fine.

Do you think U2 heard about the concert?

I'm not sure. I hope they did. I think they would appreciate our attention to detail. Plus our prank made the Arts section of the New York Times. I bet Bono reads that.

To see the amazing video of the mission, go to http://waxy.org/random/video/improvanywhere_u2.mp4

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