About twelve years ago, comedy troupe Improv Everywhere started the now annual No Pants Subway ride in New York City. It wasn’t long before Philadelphia, and a few other cities, joined in on the event.
On Sunday, January 13th , Philadelphia’s own Urban Playground brought the No Pants Subway Ride to our city, and we decided to go along for the ride.
Philadelphians are no strangers to bizarre events like this. We’ve become adjusted to seeing hundreds of naked bike riders flood the streets for the Naked Bike ride, and watched as thousands of runners are annually doused in vibrantly colored dust during Philadelphia’s Color Run. However, the No Pants Subway Ride has certainly raised more than a few eyebrows.
We, like a lot of you, were wondering why people do this. What is the point of taking your pants off and riding on a subway car?
“I’m taking my pants off today because it’s fun, and it’s in the spirit of making people laugh on a dreary, Sunday afternoon,” said Connie Lin, of Urban Playground.
At 3 pm, we arrived at the giant dominos at Broad and Arch Streets, just as we were instructed. Despite the misty weather, a large group was already waiting as we arrived. Some were already down to their shorts, while others were still bundled up. A few minutes past 3 pm, Urban Playground leaders Richard Furstein and Connie Lin announced that it was time for our departure. We headed to City Hall.
When we boarded the first car, everyone began to strip. Some laughed, others looked horrified. When we asked a woman on board with a toddler and two teenage daughters if she was offended by all of the bottomless folks, she laughed and told us that she actually wanted to stay on board with us so that she could see what this was all about it.
As we exited Center City and headed towards West Philadelphia, reactions definitely began to change. Faces went from amused to horrified to downright angry. Dozens of, “what are you all doing?” and “why do you all have your pants off”, were coming at us from left and right.
“It’s fun. We also do it for the reaction of everyone in Philly. I mean, did you see the reaction of everyone on that trolly to 69th Street? They were so mad”, laughed Devon and Latrell , an adorable couple from Philadelphia. “We met at the Naked Bike ride last year, we love doing stuff like this, it’s so freeing.”
After we arrived at our final stop, 69th street, we all exited the train and got together for a giant group picture. A few smaller groups scattered off to go out for drinks together, while the rest of us headed back to Center City.
Before going on this ride, the No Pants Subway Ride was mysterious, strange and slightly silly, but to be part of a group who was doing something different and shocking bonded all of us, and for those short three hours, it truly did free us from our daily normal routines We were forced to embrace the reactions of the public, good or bad, and we faced them together.
“This is all about expressing oddness in our world. It’s a sort of social experiment, where we are playing with perception and we’re also having fun, “said David Baxter, of Philadelphia, “I also just happen to look good in my underwear”.