On March 8th, 21 members of ImprovAZ gathered at Sky Harbor Airport to try and execute the Welcome Back prank that Improv Everywhere did so well. We scouted out the location a few weeks back, and the plan was to loiter near the place where limo drivers picked up clients and wait for someone with a clear name we could use.
We came equipped with balloons, banners, and signs, all partially filled out – waiting for our target’s name! When we scouted out previously, there were plenty of drivers and names to choose from. This night, however, some companies had big events planned so all the drivers were just holding corporate logos – no names! For over an hour we scouted, waited, and began to wonder if this was going to work…
Then just as we were discussing going to a backup plan to find someone, anyone, needing a welcome back, the winds of fate abruptly shifted! A driver stood by himself, a hand written sign in his hand, welcoming back “Debbie Knauss”.
The team sprang into colorful markered action, filling in Debbie’s name wherever we could and running back down to the driver. Debbie could be coming any second, and we wanted to be ready. We had a small bit of genuine improvising to do when we reached her driver and pretended to be her dear friends, because we misread her last name as “Knause” and had to hurriedly change our signs.
We made an impressive sight as we waited for 15 minutes or so for Debbie. Passengers and employees looked and smiled, and many laughingly said they wished they were Debbie. Debbie’s driver, Amet, even held one of our signs that read “WE LOVE U DEBBIE!” We made up replies to where she was coming from when we were asked, and poor Debbie ended up being everything from a returning Army vet to a long lost family member as we waited. A few industrious souls searched for Debbie’s picture online, and thanks to the power of Teh Google, we had an idea what she looked like by the time she arrived.
When she showed, we whooped and hollered, and Debbie was absolutely stunned. She kept wanting to know if we were really there for her, and every time we assured her, it was only good for about 15 seconds before she wanted to know again. She even had her ID out to show that yes, she was Debbie Knauss, just like our signs (mostly) said.
After giving her flowers and balloons, we let her in on the joke. She was still a little perplexed, but had a good laugh and wanted to know what we had in store for her next trip to Phoenix. Even the airport employees got into it at the end, because just as we gave Debbie a big group cheer the greeting “Welcome back, Debbie!” came over the Terminal PA system!
We could not have asked for a better subject than Debbie, who laughed and smiled after getting over the initial shock. She thanked us all, posed for a few pictures, and then went on her way with her driver… still smiling. We hope she had a wonderful trip to Phoenix.
Huge props to the ImprovAZ agents who showed out in such force and waited patiently while we waited for a suitable subject. Lastly, thanks to the people working at Sky Harbor that night for helping us with our fun.
Be sure to check out more great pictures from the event on Flickr. If you were at the event, please leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you would like to get involved in ImprovAZ activities, you can follow us on Twitter or join us on the Urban Prankster network!
Update: Another video is online with a bit more of Debbie’s reaction.