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Tom Shillue

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Don’t mourn the death of the Seattle No Pants light rail ride

The doors of a subway train open revealing pantless riders in colorful underwear during the 15th annual No Pants Subway Ride Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in New York. The group event has been going on since 2002. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Somethings never stop being funny. Joe Biden memes. That video of a guy dressed as a Stormtrooper falling down a flight of stairs. Other things stop being funny after the first couple times you see them. That’s the case with the Seattle No Pants transit rides.

Back in 2002, a group called Improv Everywhere started what some consider the original flash mob. A bunch of people, seemingly disconnected from each other, got on the New York City subway without pants on.

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The people on the train behaved normal. They didn’t acknowledge each other or the fact they were only wearing half of the usual amount of clothes. Other subway riders were confused and surprised. It was original and funny.

It was so original and amusing that people wanted to copy it. In subsequent years, people in other cities started to perform their own versions of the prank. The scope of people who were aware of the bit was still limited, so it was still kind of funny.

The Seattle No Pants prank

In Seattle, a group called Emerald City Improv really ran with it. Between 2012 and 2017, they created an annual Facebook event promoting a Seattle No Pants Light Rail Ride. They would do it the same day as other cities. It was usually a day in early January. It got a lot of press.

Every year since 2014, fewer and fewer people expressed interest in the event on Facebook. In 2017, only 17 Facebook users said they attended the event.

This year, Emerald City Improv didn’t create a Facebook event, even though this Sunday is the day other cities (like New York City, San Francisco and Phoenix) elected to participate. The Seattle PI basically declared the event dead.

There are a couple reasons this isn’t a bad thing. There’s a guy in every office who never knows when to stop making the same joke. Everyone else is tired of it, but he keeps going because he doesn’t know when to stop. The Seattle No Pants Light Rail Ride was basically that guy in the form of an event. It stopped being funny years ago, but people just kept doing it because they didn’t realize that.

The other problem: in Seattle, the prank wasn’t being executed well. Pantsless participants were getting on the light rail together all giggly, and it was obvious they were all friends who knew each other. The original prank was funny because the participants seemed entirely disconnected from one another and it left onlookers feeling like they were living in some kind of surreal dream world. In the Seattle iteration participants just looked like normal weirdos.

The Seattle No Pants Light Rail Ride is dead, but that’s a good thing.

 

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