'20/20' Friday: What Makes People Happy?

Charlie Todd understands that kind of satisfaction. He finds flow and spreads joy by shocking complete strangers. "I try to do things that are pranks, but while often pranks are about humiliating someone, I try to do things that are about making people happy, making someone's day, giving someone an awesome story to tell."

Todd is the founder of a group called Improv Everywhere whose Mission Statement is to "cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places." They are a New York based comedy troupe devoted to staging elaborate stunts, or what Todd likes to call "missions."

An annual Improv Everywhere Mission is their "No Pants Subway Ride" where every January several "agents" ride their subway in their underwear. They pretend not to know each other, and a few stops later, a man boards -- selling pants.

Other subway missions included a fake marriage proposal, where Todd and his co-conspirators recruited random strangers on the subway to help pop the question, a surprise birthday party, and an annual haunted Halloween train.

Socializing = Joy

Improv Everywhere doesn't limit themselves to underground transit -- they use all of New York City as their stage; from taking over the window space in a large commercial building on Union Square Park to organizing a giant game of twister with 800 strangers on the lower Manhattan waterfront, Todd's troupe forces strangers to interact with themselves and their city in unexpected and comical ways.

"I just love that moment because something that is unusual might scare an individual, but when you commiserate with other people around and realize there are other people who are also experiencing this it becomes fun and funny."

It may seem silly or frivolous, but it represents the sixth and final fundamental, as summed up by Gilbert; "If you could only know one thing to understand human beings it would be this; human beings are social animals. Almost every one of our greatest sources of joy is a social source of joy, something about our interaction with or relationship with another person."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 4087250.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...