Most NYC subway riders are pretty blasé when panhandlers hit them up for cash between stations. When a panhandler announced he was collecting funds to build a time machine, riders chuckled at the odd request—until another man boarded the train and announced he was the inventor’s future self. He implored them not to give any money because time travel will ruin everything.
It sounds just like that X-Files episode (“Synchrony”) where a scientist travels from the future to stop his younger self from making the cryobiological compound that will one day enable time travel. But it’s actually an elaborate prank by Improv Everywhere:
For our latest mission, we staged an elaborate time travel prank on a New York City subway car with four sets of identical twins. A man enters a subway car and announces he is raising money to complete his time machine. At the next stop, his future self enters to try to talk him out of it. More and more time travelers convene on the subway car as the train rolls along, surprising the random commuters caught up in the middle.
This is the third time the troupe has used identical twins in their pranks. For 2008's “Human Mirror,” they filled a subway car with 15 sets of identical twins. And in 2013, two sets of twins dressed as Marty McFly and his girlfriend, Jennifer, staged an elaborate Back to the Future prank. So combining the two into time travelers on the subway seems like a natural progression.
The troupe staged the scene five times in total, all on the N train. And of course, they captured all the fun on video:
You can read more about how the prank played out here. But there’s an interesting philosophical question in all of this: would the riders’ future selves magically vanish, Looper-style, the minute the inventor resolves not to build his time machine after all?