It’s time to take your pants off on the subway, again! Sunday was the fourth annual No Pants! Subway Ride, emulated all over the world thanks to its originators, New York City’s Improv Everywhere, and organized in Toronto by Improv in Toronto.
The concept is simple: take off your pants on the subway and pretend it’s not weird. Six groups of about thirty brave participants gathered in Queen’s Park to plan the route and when to drop trou, then marched over to Museum Station to let the wild pantlessness begin. At its peak, the majority of subway passengers were pantless participants—or reporters observing the pantless. There was pantless busking, pantless knitting, and pantless Harvey’s burger–eating. And for the most part the unwitting TTC riders were amused. We even observed a TTC employee posing for pictures with some half-naked guys. In fact, we only saw two people change seats to get away from the bare legs, and that was after the group had reached a critical mass; apparently a few pairs of exposed legs are more offensive than a subway full.
Before you get your panties in a bunch commenting about how “that’s not improv” or asking “what’s the point?” read on. We’ve covered this event every year, and every year the post gets the same melange of haughty indifference, questioning of morals, and unabashed encouragement of pantlessness.
So we went over our coverage from the last three pantless subway rides and chose the top five questions and complaints that you, dear readers, posed about the pantlessness of it all and put them to No Pants! Subway Ride organizer Cole Banning.
Torontoist: It’s not improv: One of our commenters asked, “Is it really improv if it happens like clockwork once every month or two?”
Cole Banning: Our name, Improv in Toronto, is not specific to what exactly our events are. The improv in our name refers to how we deal with specific situations within our events. When someone asks what we’re doing, we use improv, we play it cool, and stay in character. During the No Pants subway ride, you are bombarded with the question “What is going on? Why aren’t you wearing any pants?” At this point people use improv; you must put yourself in the role where you literally don’t have pants, and you must explain why. With that said, we know as well as you do, not all our events use “improv.” But just like Toys “R” Us doesn’t just sell toys, we’ve branched out from our name as well.
It’s pointless, and why not give it a point by going pantless for charity?: “One of my favourite moments was definitely when two lady senior citizens asked if this was being done on behalf of Princess Margaret Hospital and us pantsless ones just looked at THEM in confusion and said we had no idea what they were talking about. LOL.”
The whole point of Improv in Toronto is to add some joy and excitement into society. We do this because as citizens we know we ourselves would enjoy experiencing these things. So running events purely for the sake of charities defeats that purpose. It just turns us into a marketing company. We want to run events for the people, without putting a cause or company behind the event. Now that I’ve argued that side, we actually have done an event for a charity organization, the pink bra flash mob, which was in support of breast cancer research.
It’s inappropriate: “This country doesn’t have any morals anymore.”
We are wearing exactly what one would wear to the beach, if not more. Other than that, I can’t exactly argue this. Everyone has different morals, and if this offends you then that’s within your right. But you can’t expect society to remain at your personal level of comfort.
It’s unoriginal: “It’s so commercial nowadays—back in the day it was all about the pantslessness…”
I can flat out disagree with this. It is still all about pantlessness. Everyone attending the event came for no other reason than to take off their pants on the subway, confuse some people, make some friends, and hopefully make some people smile. The event is not sponsored or affiliated with any companies; we do it because we want to do it.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK. HEAD EXPLODE: “Part of me says, ‘Hey, if they are having harmless fun, leave them alone.’ but another part of me thinks they are a group of shameless attention-seeking geeks who think some lame group activity is their only way to do something ‘fun’.”
I would almost agree with this. Many who attend our events are shameless attention-seeking geeks. But is that really so wrong? I don’t think so. Like you said, it’s harmless fun; if you aren’t amused by it, that’s fine. But there are countless people who are confused and surprised when they see pantless riders everywhere. I’ve heard from countless people, who enjoyed seeing our event take place, and it’s for them that we do it (and our “attention-seeking” selves).
Photos by Pete Morawski from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.