New York’s Annual No Pants Subway Ride: Do Pranks Stir Mischief or Attract Social Engagement?

Being a 2011 Graduate of what OC Register labels as “the nation’s most Vietnamese American high school” that sends off approximately 90% of its graduates to college matriculation and has the 10th highest API score in comparison to all other Orange County High Schools (friendly FYI: I failed my peeps and didn’t contribute to that high score, by the way), I never knew how conservatively strict my high school was until I entered the liberal world of college (Crisostomo, 2015).

Ever year nearing the date of the senior graduation ceremony, the Administrators send a public announcement warning the senior class that there will be major consequences if a senior prank was to be brought out…and every year, a handful of (harmless) rebels poke fun at that warning and do it anyway.

The question is: did our 2011 senior class prank cause too much ruckus? Or did it bring together a group of extremely diligent students who just desired to have a good laugh before embarking on their next life chapter?

Before you answer the above two questions, let’s take into consideration New York’s Annual Pant-less Subway Ride.

Sponsored by Improv Everywhere comedy collective, the 16th Annual No Subway Ride kicked off in NYC yesterday around 3 PM. The originated 2002 prank has jumped a long way from its roots of an initial mere seven male participant prank, with the event now drawing in nearly 5,000 people in NYC alone, with thousands more participating in major cities such as: Boston, Sydney, Paris and Shanghai (Hoell & Lam, 2017).


“We want to give New Yorkers a reason to look up from their papers, from their phones, and experience something that’s a little different than their average run-of-the-mill stuff,” said Jesse Good, one of the event’s organizers (Annual No Pants Subway Ride, 2017).

Temperatures were in the twenties in various cities in New York yesterday…would you have joined these participants in hopping into a subway pant-less? (Call me a party-pooper, but this sunshine spoiled California girl would have opted out. I just came back from 24-degree weather in Oregon. Faux fur coat, snow boots, an oversized beanie from the men’s section at Target and, let’s not forget to mention, I was CERTAINLY wearing pants…yeah, I didn’t last more than 10 minutes outside my warm heated car).  

The concept of the prank is rather very simple: random passengers, who are all required to wear winter clothing, enter a subway at separate stops. The participants behave as if they do not know each other. What’s the odd thing? Their lack of pants (The No Pants Subway Ride, 2017).

After riding with their new (nearly nude) friends, the 5,000+ New York participants met up in Union Square to head over to a nearby bar for the 5th Annual No Pants Subway Ride After Party. The DJs played some tunes, peeps mingled in their undies, countless pictures taken, etc. (Charlie, 2018).

Considering that there were most likely little ones on these subway rides, was it appropriate for these youngsters’ innocent eyes to see strangers in their underwear?

Or, do you think this annual prank unites people from all over the world and formulates newfound friendships?

Per, humor generally serves to link groups of people together.

“Pranks, however, are rarely billed as a group bonding experience, nor is that the perpetrator’s motivation. Often, the main purpose is simply to poke fun at someone or something…” says Giselinde Kuiper, an Anthropologist and Sociologist at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “In this way pranks can be a relatively nonthreatening way to mock bosses, leaders and others in charge.”

Larry Ventis, a Psychologist at The College of William and Mary, shares that many pranks have a mild undertone of aggression to them. Pranks are comparable to the intention of two puppies engaging in play fight at the local dog park. Neither party engages with the intention of inflicting serious damage; both parties seem to normally enjoy the good-natured exchange.

As for whether pranks stir up unnecessary mischief, Kuiper says not everyone can view a prank in a graceful and empathetic manner. “As for the victim of a practical joke…recovering requires a shift in his or her mind-set, from taking the situation seriously to understanding that everything happened was in good fun”.

“In order to laugh along with a joke that’s been played on you, you have to at least be able to temporarily put yourself in other people’s shoes and look at yourself from their point of view,” Moira Smith, an Anthropologist at Indiana University Bloomington says, “which isn’t always easy. “It’s hard to get the distance to laugh at something when you’re actually…[the brunt of the joke],” she says (Arnold, 2011).

To conclude: in a world where severe pranks along the lines of bullying can sometimes unfortunately lead to victims committing suicide, do pranks cause too much misconduct? Or should pranks be grasped with more empathy as a mechanism to provide more social connection among strangers?

C. (2017, January 09). No Pants Subway Ride 2017 Details for New York. Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

H.(2017, January 08). Straphangers brave the cold, drop pants for 16th Annual No Pants Subway Ride. Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

Leal, F. (2015, April 26). Inside Westminster’s La Quinta High School, the nation’s most Vietnamese American high school. Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

Press, T. A. (n.d.). Annual No Pants Subway Ride Hits Cities Around the World. Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

No Pants Subway Ride, New York City – Photos – No pants subway ride 2014. (2014, January 12). Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

The No Pants Subway Ride. (2017, January 09). Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

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