In the 21st century, not much cultivates as much internet karma as hilarious pranks uploaded to YouTube. Well, apart from cats and perhaps Dave Grohl, but for the most part guerrilla pranks rein supreme on social media.
Some are quite provocative (see staged ‘social experiments’ which actively goad a dangerous reaction from onlookers), but most are quite harmless and fun. Improv Everywhere, an improv group based in New York City appear to have taken a healthy dollop of inspiration from The X-Files to pull off their latest ‘time-travel’ escapade.
Filmed on a NYC subway carriage, a relatively normal looking fella shakes his cup asking for change to assist in in building a time-machine, as onlookers recoil in horror (as you do when you’re cornered for money on a packed Tube). Moments later his twin (posing as his future self), sporting a crazy attitude and beefy beard bursts onto the train to warn the commuters of his dangerous project.
Chuckles ensue as the commuters think the joke is over return to scowling at their phones. But wait! The two ‘passengers’ who were intrigued by this madman have twins too, and they also warn them against the ‘time-machine’ plan. A smattering of laughter spreads through the carriage but it’s the arrival of a final twin – one who played the role of an interested commuter that really gets the train rocking with laughter, before they announce that they have not invented a time machine. Shame.
I mean we like it – but we prefer The X-Files episode where this whole shenanigan basically happened, but with added David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. In the episode ‘Synchrony’ from 1997, a scientist returns from the future to warn his past self to stop working on a valuable compound which eventually makes time-travel possible. Less people spontaneously burst into flame in this prank, but it’s still pretty good.