I watched the premier of NPR’s This American Life on Showtime (it’s possible to watch it online at this link). The title of the first episode was “Reality Check,” and I confess that sociologically I found this intriguing. When I saw the final segment, I couldn’t resist posting about it. It was about a group of people, called Improv Everywhere, that do various events/pranks as a kind of performance art, and one of their bits was to pick out a band that is just starting out and show up as rabid fans. Their post about the event is available here, and it is called “The Best Gig Ever.” They describe it this way:

Agent Lee approached me a few weeks ago with a wonderfully simple idea. “Best gig ever,” he said. “Pick a struggling rock band and turn their small gig into the best show of their lives.” We had already thrown a birthday party for a stranger; why not throw an awesome concert for an unknown band?

The band they picked out was called Ghosts of Pasha and was from Burlington, Vermont. They were doing a show in New York City, only there 4th show ever. The details about how the improv group pulled this off are provided at the above link, but the short version is that the group of almost 40 participants learned the songs, made t-shirts and temporary tattoos, and showed up as rabid fans. They sang along, requested favorites, and acted like they would with their favorite bands.

The band had no idea what was going on. When the concert was done, the “fans” quickly departed. It wasn’t until later that the band members found out that they were part of this performance/prank when a friend or relative emailed them the link to the Improv Everywhere site. Initially they were embarrassed, devastated, confused and more. Eventually they made their peace with it.

One of the questions they raise in the TV segment is whether or not the joy of the show that the band experienced at the time (“the best gig ever”) was worth the anger and pain that resulted from finding out that it was all a setup, that it wasn’t “real.” Of course this raises questions about what constitutes the real in the first place. It certainly was real for the band at the time. And what if they’d never found out? Would not knowing make it more real? Was it cruel or not?

NPR also did a radio program on this episode. That link is available under their show “Mind Games,” and it is possible to listen to it online.

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