September 2021


mp3 Experiment: Berlin

Wow—despite the fact that I was in Berlin for less than 24 hours, I had a busy and fabulous time: the mp3 Experiment was lots of fun—although a bit confusing.

Here’s the thing: I accidentally cheated.

I’d already listened to the mp3 Experiment a month ago. It was after the first mp3 Experiment of the year was held over in New York City. I’d downloaded the track, put it on my iPod and then one night, in bed, I listened to it, imagining all the while that I was in New York City, participating. I had no plans to be in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or Toronto, so I saw no harm in listening to the track.

So when Snooker and I arrived in Alexanderplatz at 2:15, complete with our umbrella and balloon ready to go, I had a vague notion of what was about to happen with the 200 or so participants waiting to press play at 2:30.

Now I seemed to be about 3-4 seconds behind everybody else—I’m not sure how that happened—so I was constantly playing catch up (never mind poor Snooker who was about 9 or 10 seconds behind me). It was interesting—people didn’t seem to listen to all the directions, so when Steve asked everybody named Sarah to shout out their names, some of the guys near me shouted out Sarah.

It was somewhere in here that I started to think that I had made a dreadful mistake and uploaded the New York City version of the file to my iPod.

We were instructed to divide ourselves up and end up either at the northern end of the field or the southern end of the field—considering Alexanderplatz is covered in concrete, the term field clearly did not apply. We were also instructed to approach each other and stop 20 feet apart—which is when I really started to panic—wouldn’t a Berlin version use meters? Finally I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of lying down in Alexanderplatz for—as Snooker noted—it has a coating of pee (human and hound) and vomit–something Snooker refers to in her report.

After it was over, I quizzed Snooker and she assured me that it was the same as the one she had downloaded—the instructions were, as far as I could remember, identical to the instructions given in New York City. That honestly surprised me; I expected some level of modification for site specific issues.

Perhaps the most amusing moment was when we were instructed to form into squares of people, touching shoulder to shoulder—and then assemble the squares into Tetris like shapes. Nice idea, but apparently few people remember Tetris (or maybe even heard of Tetris), because it quickly devolved into get everybody of the same color together.

I’m really thrilled that I was able to, at last, participate in one of the group’s capers. They have a brilliant history—although I have to confess I have the vague feeling that the group has gotten too large for its own good. Many of my favorite stunts are the oldest ones: Romantic Comedy Cab involved three or four people; The Moebius needed no more than 15 people; and the Hypnotist created mass confusion with only 5 or 6 participants.

Sure you can do a lot with large groups, but quantity does not always equal quality.

And in the case of Improv Everywhere, I cannot help but wonder if success and fame has hurt.

6 comments to mp3 Experiment: Berlin

  • Are there pictures or video of this?

  • @Scott: There will probably be video/pictures posted at the Improv Everywhere website sometime in the next week or so… Snooker posted a couple photos on her website, and when I am not jetlagged, I will probably have a couple in my Flickr Stream.

  • […] in Berlin, before heading to the mp3 Experiment, Snooker and I stopped by the new Exile gallery located near Hallesches Tor. To read about it […]

  • I’ve been reading some German bloggers who were there. It seems to be the general opinion that the German version of the “what to do” text running through their Mp3 players got really confusing at times.

    One even went so far as to say that afterward they listened to both the English and the German and felt that the translation into German was just “saublöd” (damn stupid).

    This might explain the inappropriate shouting and bad Tetris shapes. Maybe the translator didn’t know what a Tetris shape would be… even though I’m quite sure that the average participant was very knowledgeable.

    Nonetheless the whole thing was quite fun!

  • @Snooker: That would explain a lot… it’s too bad that care wasn’t taken with the translation. 🙁

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