Drop Your Pants and Hold On!

For the seventh year in a row, hundreds of strangers will drop trow on the subway this Saturday, and The Observer will be there to watch (and participate, as per the organizer’s instructions).

Last year Improv Everywhere, a 70-person performance troupe whose stated mission is to “cause chaos and joy in public places," assembled over 300 people for “No Pants 2k7," and founder Charlie Todd is looking forward to another big turnout this year–600 Facebook members have already signed up.

We chatted with Mr. Todd on the eve of “No Pants 2k8” about what motivates a bunch of strangers to ride the subway in their skivvies.

“It’s not a secret anymore, it’s just a fun afternoon for people to ride the subway without their pants on,” he said. “People participating always have a blast and we get all different kinds of reactions from riders, but the goal is to make people laugh.”

The annual mission has gotten a lot of media attention since it began in 2002, with just seven pantless riders. In 2006, a police officer stopped the subway, and escorted eight passegers to jail in their underwear and handcuffs. Last year, they got a suprise but welcome police escort.

Improv Everywhere’s other pranks are not made public until after the fact. A standout was placing tuxedoed, mint-dispensing bathroom attendants in the bathrooms of McDonald’s and telling tourists they were part of a new corporate promotional campaign.

Mr. Todd says people of all “ages, shapes, and sizes” are welcome to particiate on Saturday, but warns that No Pants 2k7 is not "watching television."

"If hundreds of people are taking their pants off, you better too," he said.

This includes the news media, said the instructions on the Web site, which warns people not to show up if they do not plan on disrobing and "keep a straight face about it."

Here are some further instructions:

"When you enter, act as you normally would. You do not know any of the other pantless riders. If questioned, tell folks that you ‘forgot to wear pants’ and yes you are ‘a little cold’. Insist that it is a coincidence that others also forgot their pants. Be nice and friendly and normal….You can wear fun underwear if you like, but nothing that screams out ‘I wore this because I’m doing a silly stunt.’ Wear two pairs of underwear if it makes you feel more comfortable. Don’t wear a thong or anything else that might offend people. Our aim is to make people laugh, not piss them off."