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OSU’s flash mob club strives to make a scene

One club at Ohio State just wants to make a scene.

The OSU Flash Mob and Social Improvisation Club has surprised crowds with public stunts 40 times since last spring, said Jon Krabacher, president of the club and a third-year in security and intelligence.

The club’s goal is to devise entertaining public scenarios, and it goes beyond spontaneous dance routines such as the one at the Union last spring that went viral online with its synchronized routine to the “Glee” version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

“If someone says, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ then we did our job right,” Krabacher said.

The inspiration for the club came from New York City-based comedic prank group Improv Everywhere, Krabacher said. That group has also produced viral videos, such as one in which dozens of pranksters clad in blue polo shirts and khaki pants invade a Best Buy in Manhattan, causing a clamor among the similarly dressed store employees.

One of the OSU club’s stunts last year mimicked an Improv Everywhere flash mob. Dubbed “Operation Look Up More,” about 60 people gathered in the William Oxley Thompson Library. Standing behind glass panels that line six floors of the library’s lobby, they suddenly began to dance. Someone on the ground floor signaled the dancers to change positions.

The best reaction was from a family, said Max Snyderman, club secretary and a second-year in math. He said he remembered a father and his young daughter watching from the bottom floor. The girl asking what was going on. The father answered, “It’s OSU,” he said. “Probably some type of protest.”

The club also carried out “Operation Freeze Frame” in Oxley’s Café last year. About 35 people suddenly froze throughout the café for three minutes while standing in line, eating food or talking. They synchronized their cell phones to vibrate at the same time as a signal to freeze and unfreeze, Snyderman said.

The latest mission, “Operation Chemistry Mayhem,” occurred during the first week of a Chemistry 121 class this fall. About 40 group members coughed, shuffled papers, crossed their legs, sneezed and held up copies of The Lantern in synchronization with each other. At one point, they all brought apples to the teacher’s desk.

Nobody seemed to notice until the sneeze, Krabacher said. Then the professor looked up and, in a questioning tone, said, “Bless you.”

Tyler Tierney, a first-year in biology, was in the classroom. She had just joined the club but had not been part of a stunt yet.

“People were absolutely confused,” she said.

Although club members aim to have fun with their distractions, they make sure their operations are legal, Snyderman said.

“We always go within our boundaries and ask around,” he said. “We’d never do anything harmful.”

The club’s Facebook page includes more than 1,500 members, but Krabacher said the Web popularity is probably because people think the club organized the flash mob at the Union. Even though it wasn’t, Krabacher isn’t bitter about the other group’s popularity.

“If anything, we’re grateful,” he said.

Krabacher credits the Union Flash Mob with attracting members to the club, saying it would have taken years to gain nearly 1,600 Facebook fans.

“We embrace (the attention gained) because what they did was well-organized,” Snyderman said. “Then we think, let’s make it better.”

Club leaders hinted that something might happen during Michigan week — perhaps even at the game — but would not reveal details.

“I’m not at liberty to divulge that information,” Snyderman said. 

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