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Viral prank coordinator Charlie Todd to share secrets in Utah

Published August 9, 2013 10:42 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utahns, prepare to get a crash course on chaos.

That's the avowed specialty of Improv Everywhere founder Charlie Todd, whose large-scale pranks have been viewed more than 300 million times on YouTube. Antics often involve large numbers of people acting strangely, in coordination, in public. For instance, groups: Froze in place at Grand Central Terminal for five minutes; wore blue shirts and khaki pants to emulate employees at Best Buy; and annually went pantsless in the middle of winter on the subway.

Todd, who is coming to Thanksgiving Point to share his secrets on Aug. 15, founded Improv Everywhere on Yahoo GeoCities in 2001 and says the key to generating viral content is to do something you believe in. In his case, that's manufacturing "chaos and joy."

"It was something I created because I was passionate about it," he says. "I never dreamed of it being my job. I think that sense of authenticity shines through."

He's he's never been to Utah before, but he's aware that his No Pants Subway Rides have inspired synchronized undress on Salt Lake City's Trax lines. Todd's workshop, "Cause a Scene," costs $5. It starts at 4 p.m. in the Mammoth Screen auditorium at the Museum of Ancient Life.

He finances his projects largely through YouTube's profit-sharing program — in which video creators earn 55 percent of the money from advertising — but also through appearances like this one. According to a news release, Thanksgiving Point invited Todd for "his expertise in curiosity," in advance of the Museum of Natural Curiosity's 2014 opening.

Todd will also serve as the keynote speaker for a $125 per plate dinner in the Thanksgiving Point Show Barn at Aug. 15.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper