||| Reddit /r/Kickstarter |||

Hi, we're The Yes Men. Ask us anything. We'll be taking your questions for 3 hours 11am-2pm (right now).

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The Yes Men - Wikipedia

The Yes Men Are Revolting - newest film

theYesMen.org + theYesLab.org

film// The Yes Men + film// The Yes Men Fix the World

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Proof it's us: https://twitter.com/theyesmen/status/268021441935593474

Andy - http://oi49.tinypic.com/205321k.jpg

Mike - http://i47.tinypic.com/1zytsgg.jpg

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UPDATE: We want to thank everybody for participating - this is a great example of how internet technology as a tool can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our connections to each other over the long run. We're running a Kickstarter campaign at the moment to fund our next documentary The Yes Men Are Revolting, which is also a launchpad for our Yes Lab-related Action Switchboard. We hope to start a network of people to carry out Yes Men type actions in their locales. Join US! If you fancy it, kick us some cash and help us get it up and running!

Thanks again, you all. Some really intriguing questions. We'll keep answering your questions, so if you still have them, don't give up! Join the Revolt!

Comments: 545 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

stephentheh95 karma

I really enjoyed your film Yes Men Fix the World, and especially that you allowed a version of it to be distributed via peer-to-peer networks. Thank you for all you do, you're an inspiration!

Questions:

  • What people and/or events inspired you to get started as the Yes Men?
  • What would you tell someone who wishes to follow in your footsteps? Any lessons to pass on?

Andy_Bichlbaum63 karma

In my case, long story, but ACT-UP had something to do with it. As for footsteps, you might want to find your own footsteps, but please do borrow any of ours that you like. For example: Be funny! Be revolting! More specifically, one fun exercise when you're taking on some evildoer is to really pretend to be them, and actually defend their (insane) cause as they might have to if they were just a little more conscious of and up-front about their insanity. A lot of jokes will automatically come out.

mikebonanno29 karma

In my case, for the inspiration part, i think got interested in some strange art / media projects back in the day. I picked up the RE/Search publication called "Pranks" in 1988 and realized that some amazing people were very serious about stuff that I never imagined you could be serious about, but was super interested in. That's a really fun book - check it out if you get a chance.

Andy_Bichlbaum24 karma

Oh yes! I did too. I used that textbook for a freshman comp course I taught back around then (1990 I think). Great book. For an updated version of that sort of thing, check out Beautiful Trouble - there's tons in there to get inspired by. Also Actipedia.

actorsspace64 karma

Have you ever gone to an event under your aliases and been discovered or pointed out before you could get up to the podium or do whatever you came to do?

Andy_Bichlbaum75 karma

No! We've always been able to get all the way through things. We have however been ushered forcefully off the slide, once. http://theyesmen.org/hijinks/vivoleum

AkinaYamito20 karma

As someone who's home town is Fort McMurray I feel like I get cheated whenever someone just says "Alberta's oil sand" or "Northern Alberta." Anyway I would love to see you guys up here at a Syncrude or Suncor event.

mikebonanno23 karma

YES! do you have any ideas on how to participate? You can always contact us directly to discuss. Too bad we didn't know you before we went there a few months ago. Very, very surreal place!

Andy_Bichlbaum29 karma

I would add to this that YOU could do what you'd like us to do at the Syncrude or Suncor event. This isn't rocket science, and we'll be glad to coach and help. But this does sound really fun, regardless.... Maybe we should head back up there. Hm.

espaceman10 karma

As someone who works for Suncor (it helpdesk), not even the people who work in the oil sands camps make the difference sometime. I assume they are outside people.

Andy_Bichlbaum12 karma

I know! That's what we discovered when we were up there. A lot of the folks whose world is being totally destroyed by those companies are also working for them - there's not much alternative. Ugh.

xadet47 karma

Where can I buy my very own SurvivaBall?

Andy_Bichlbaum44 karma

Why on earth would you want a Survivaball?

TaserWieldingBear24 karma

How are you guys coping with your rising fame? That is, I'd imagine that networks and such are getting wise to your press releases and tricks and are much more wary about having you on. So how are you finding new ways to get the media to pay attention?

Andy_Bichlbaum28 karma

We're just thinking them up! For example, last year some folks did this project (with advice and stuff from us): http://yeslab.org/threestrikes Offering free Happy Meals™ as rewards for NYPD brutality™ is one new way.

GoddamnGoats19 karma

Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop by Reddit.

What would you think if Reddit coordinated with one of your pranks/activism?

Andy_Bichlbaum10 karma

Faaaaaaantastic!! Any ideas?

pandaman30618 karma

I loved The Yes Men Fix The World and I have to ask, when did you decide to go for satire as a strategy for fixing the world/trying to change things?

Did you start of as comedians and decide to put your skills to a good cause or start as outraged citizens and found comedy to be a good medium?

Andy_Bichlbaum32 karma

Nope. I for one started as a geek - games programmer, one of the first two working on what later became the Sims. Then they transferred me to another game, SimCopter. Then they wouldn't give me time off to mend my heartbreak. Then I did something funny. Then they fired me for it. Then I told a reporter friend and it blew up. Then I thought: this is fun! I want more! In more detail: http://vimeo.com/10788590 (I haven't watched this, no idea if it's good) http://www.afterelton.com/blog/lylemasaki/the-man-behind-simcopters-gay-easter-egg

loudmouse31210 karma

[deleted]

Andy_Bichlbaum9 karma

Ha! Hilarious. I'm always surprised to hear people played it.

theyukes17 karma

Have you ever been sued for any of your actions?

Andy_Bichlbaum15 karma

Thanks! That's a "yes." Getting sued is very disappointing, very boring. For three years it's kinda just sat on some judge's desk, it would seem. Here's the page with full briefs and sub-briefs and so on. https://www.eff.org/cases/chamber-commerce-v-servin

BrooklynHipster16 karma

Hi guys! I’m such a huge fan it’s difficult to summarize, so i’ll leave it at this: you have inspired me more than any other living artists / activists.

So here’s my question: Who are some artists / activists that inspire YOU?

Andy_Bichlbaum17 karma

Tons! I for one was/am very inspired by ACT-UP. They were super-creative and intense and sometimes funny, and they won. Otpor is another example. Often funny. Won. Inspiring.

mikebonanno12 karma

Hey- also if you are in Brooklyn, come do some stuff with us some time! We are in NYC most of the time these days...

Andy_Bichlbaum11 karma

Oh yes, good point! We're doing this Yes Lab thing at NYU these days - and anyone's welcome to stop by. We usually do them Fridays 4-6, but check in beforehand to get on the list. http://www.yeslab.org/nyu Also check out our speaker series: http://www.yeslab.org/cat

NotJimCarrey14 karma

I was surprisingly disappointed by seeing answers other than 'yes'

Andy_Bichlbaum26 karma

Yes.

Thistlemanizzle13 karma

What change have you effected through your actions? I hear of your pranks from time to time, but I never hear of any positive outcome (aside from drawing attention to issues that are already somewhat public).

Andy_Bichlbaum26 karma

This is a very long answer I'll answer very shortly.

There's an action that'll be in our new film, The Yes Men Are Revolting, in which we impersonated the largest lobbying organization in the world, the US Chamber of Commerce, and we convinced the world the Chamber was no longer opposing climate change legislation.

A real Chamber spokesman burst into our conference, and the ensuing drama was viewed by tens of millions of people thanks to the mainstream media's daylong coverage.

We think this is one of many reasons, much opposition of all sorts, that led the Chamber to reverse their opposition to the cap-and-trade bill two weeks later. It was the efforts of many thousands of people that made it impossible for the Chamber to stick with their suicidal position - and we were among those people.

BUT here's where the answer gets really, really long: the only reason politicians like Bloomberg can make political calculations like the one where he endorsed Obama and cited climate change for the reason, is because tons of activists have put climate change on the map. OK, that's the start to the answer. Part of the rest of the answer is in this book: Hope In the Dark.

Regular_Hipster13 karma

Which scam, farce, prank, mission or whatever you call them would you describe as most successful?

which was the most fun?

FactorGroup8 karma

Follow up: Which was the least fun or gave you the most trouble? Are there any that you regret doing/trying to do?

Andy_Bichlbaum54 karma

Most successful, probably: BBC/Bhopal action. Funnest: usually the last one, or the one being worked on currently. I actually don't have a better answer offhand!

I don't totally regret any of our actions, but there are a couple we definitely did at the time - like when we impersonated the Bush campaign at a weird culty conference called by something called the International Web Police (soon thereafter disbanded by the FBI, who were investigating our action at the behest of the IWP). People at the conference totally cottoned on to us and chased us out the door, before calling the police, who called the Secret Service, who I guess called the FBI, etc. They actually physically threatened us and tried to grab our equipment. We were so terrified we found a dumpster to ditch all our props. We were even going to change our flights out of Florida - and then Mike suggested we go to DisneyWorld instead. We did, and had fun.

Mr-Crasp12 karma

Do you have any more upcoming documentaries?

BrooklynHipster11 karma

What's your long term vision for The Yes Lab?

It it more of a networking tool for activists? Or is it like a decentralized open source university? Or maybe both?

Andy_Bichlbaum22 karma

Ultimately we hope it'll kind of morph into something we're calling the "Action Switchboard," which is a human-staffed platform that will give users a way to plug directly into ongoing direct actions, or get help starting new ones. It's sort of match.com for social change, but with a human matchmaker...

We're working on the Action Switchboard now, doing design work and trying to raise money for it. Until then, the Yes Lab is a kind of workshopping system to help make projects happen. Which is what it'll be with the Action Switchboard as well, but remotely, with a staff, for bigger volume....

cyburai9 karma

In regards to funding, get a kickstarter (or one of the other fundraising platforms) going. I'd give in a minute.

Edit: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1194236337/the-yes-men-are-revolting found this.

AActivist11 karma

I submitted a project idea to your website and it interested you enough that Andy talked to me about it a little bit. I haven't been able to get over my fear, as I am known and recognizable in this town as an activist. Is the safest thing to hire a lawyer up front to vet the action for what laws I might be breaking and learn how to prepare for that?

Andy_Bichlbaum20 karma

Well, that's a tough question. I'd instead just informally ask a lawyer, maybe over a beer, what kind of trouble they think you'd get into. And then ignore them. The best way to get over fear is to work with someone, and you tell each other not to be afraid - or, if it seems appropriate, goad each other into paroxysms of terror. That's fun too. But in our (now lengthy) experience, there's really nothing to be afraid of, besides fear itself I suppose. And even that's not so scary.

MarmotChaos11 karma

Andy - I'm a lawyer, and I would love to have my advice ignored by the Yes Men pro bono.

Andy_Bichlbaum6 karma

Fantastic!! You're hired. Please write to us - via yeslab.org, or at people at theyesmen dot org. And please fill out a profile on yeslab.org!

MarmotChaos10 karma

Graduating law school < Getting federal clerkship < Hearing "You're hired" from the Yes Men. Career apex reached; downhill starts now.

Andy_Bichlbaum10 karma

Hahahahaha. No no, you really are hired. Uphill starts now.

ShoutingAtTheTV10 karma

Those of us without the skillz of Anon, nor the courage to get arrested -- what can we do to help?

Andy_Bichlbaum6 karma

Hm. We certainly don't have the skillz of Anon. And we don't really like getting arrested, and have never gotten arrested doing an action of the sort we're known for. So I guess one answer would be: the sort of thing we've done! Not that you should do that. There's so much to do.... See http://actipedia.org for a few examples. And http://beautifultrouble.org/.

Stanger039 karma

Wow, an AMA I actually care about!

I actually convinced my government teacher to play one of your movies in class a few years back after finding out about them. I really like you guys' movies and what you do.

I was wondering how often you guys get recognized in public for who you are? Thanks so much!

Andy_Bichlbaum2 karma

Thanks so much!!! That's awesome. The next movie will be even more useful we think.

We get recognized quite a bit when we walk around together in places students congregate. I guess those are called universities.

NoUrge2BingeAndPurge8 karma

Hey guys!

I love your approach and I really hope more and more people will start appreciating it!

What's your next action? Could you give us a hint? I'd like to see a charity event for Mitt Romney. We could donate 47% of all profits to his next campaign.

Andy_Bichlbaum6 karma

Our next action is yours! These days we're mainly focusing on helping others do actions: http://yeslab.org/

NoUrge2BingeAndPurge3 karma

On a more constructive side, I'd like your opinion on an action I organized with a couple of my friends in Mostar.

After a few hundred football (soccer or whatever you wanna call it) hooligans decided to kick the sh!t out of each other in the center of the city, we replied with an event called Chocolution where the idea was for people to meet up and share chocolate (instead of punches) with perfect strangers.

The thing went viral in our country and we had some international support from our friends (as you can see on the blog). About 500 people showed up at the same place the hooligans clashed just 3 days after the event was scheduled. There was chocolate all over the place!!

We are currently planning the next year's event and I was wondering if you think participating in the Yes Lab could help us out?

Cheers!

Andy_Bichlbaum4 karma

Wow!! This is hi-la-ri-ous. You should add a page to the new encyclopedia of creative activism, Actipedia.

NoUrge2BingeAndPurge2 karma

Thanks! I'll most definitely add it to Actipedia.

Andy_Bichlbaum2 karma

Fantastic, thanks!!

Omnishambles_18 karma

Are you ever open to ideas from people? (i.e myself) Also i love your work, have been following for some time now!

Andy_Bichlbaum10 karma

Yes!! Right now we're very few, and have way much on our plates. But we're in the process of developing (together with engineers from Mozilla) a human-staffed platform that will give users a way to plug directly into ongoing direct actions, or get help starting new ones. We're calling in the "Action Switchboard." It'll be a kind of okcupid for social change, but with a human matchmaker...

HORRIBLY_BAD_ANALOGY5 karma

I'm curious why it needs to be human staffed?

For example, I am currently building a website that allows people to post and view activities currently happening in their area (or the area they select). It could easily be adapted to be specific to "direct actions."

Andy_Bichlbaum6 karma

I'd love to hear/see more about that!

The thing about this is: people need a bit of guidance to do these projects, usually. For example, you'll notice that some people on this AMA have said they're afraid of legal consequences. It takes human attention to reassure people there's not a risk, or not much of one. It's comforting to hear a person telling you this, rather than some text on a website.

Also, helping people figure out what they need in order to do a project, or helping them figure out how to improve a project idea, is something that requires humans.

The Action Switchboard will be fairly low-tech. Components of it will be sophisticated we hope, but mainly it'll work a bit like our Yes Lab workshops work, but remotely.

Omnishambles_12 karma

In effect you'll just have people like myself 'winking' ideas. Omnishambles_1 sent you a virtual gift. 1 Democracy token. Collect as many as you can to control this group. Welp I've ruined this....

Andy_Bichlbaum5 karma

Hahahaha. The key is really the "human-staffed" part. Less winking. Less virtual giftery. More figuring out how to do shit.

Hugsandloveforever7 karma

You guys came to NYU to give a presentation and you're awesome, and I just wanted to say thank you!

Andy_Bichlbaum9 karma

Thanks! I actually teach at NYU! Take my class next semester - it's in Steinhardt, under the name "Jacques Servin" (weird, I know).

See also http://yeslab.org/nyu for how to get involved in other stuff we're doing there.

Ighnaz7 karma

so what's next for you guys?

Andy_Bichlbaum7 karma

scuby227 karma

Have you ever been physically threatened/attacked for any of your events?

Andy_Bichlbaum14 karma

Yes! Search on "International Web Police" in answers above. And also once when we impersonated Exxon at a fancy oil luncheon in Calgary the organizer had to come up and physically push us off the stage (it's a scene in The Yes Men Fix the World, available on P2P).

laserpilot6 karma

I actually shot a few clips of you guys for Fix the World (they didn't end up getting used unfortunately but I might have made it in the credits?).

I'm not actually a huge fan of what you do, but I think it probably stems from a misunderstanding. There is definitely an annoyance factor there for sure and I think there is a disconnect for me to see the "point" of this kind of annoyance activism...it sort of gets peoples attention, but does it end up effecting change in the long run as far as you can tell? I think its a combination of that and occasionally your arguments can feel a little heavy handed or one sided

Andy_Bichlbaum4 karma

Good question! The answer is: yes, it does effect change in the long run, as far as we can tell. See also the "This is a very long answer" answer below.

NebulonicAlchemy6 karma

Would you be able to infiltrate the corporate scientific community and expose how much damage they are doing? Thanks in advance.

Andy_Bichlbaum8 karma

cyburai6 karma

How did you settle on "the Yes Men" as the name of your group? It's brilliant.

Andy_Bichlbaum7 karma

yes-man - a person of unquestioning obedience. stooge, flunkey, flunky · follower - a person who accepts the leadership of another. pushover

Next question?

nblinder6 karma

Have you guys ever pulled off a prank which resulted in the opposite reaction you were expecting/hoping for? Like, have you guys ever thought of something so preposterous that you expected to be forcibly removed from an event but instead found everyone completely embracing your fake message?

Andy_Bichlbaum9 karma

Oh yes. That's the norm.

BACULUMFOREVERYONE5 karma

What was the worst legal repercussion that you faced as a result of impersonating a company/individual?

Andy_Bichlbaum7 karma

Worst: anytime we didn't get attention. We crave repercussions! This is a good article on why.

reallifesaulgoodman5 karma

Do journalists still fall for your phony press releases? I figure they would wise up by now.

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

Oh yes, they do. For example.

thiev5 karma

Can you give us a clue as to what/when your next project might be? Like what time we should turn on Fox Business or something? I'd love to watch it live.

NoUrge2BingeAndPurge4 karma

It would be great to schedule it ahead on a service like this

moxanot5 karma

That would be a smokin' idea. I was just thinking that maybe it would alert the fact checkers and interns that are searching the internet for anything posted about them and might give them away. But if it could be done un-searchably, I'd advocate that too. Totally wish I'd been able to see some of their interviews and press releases in real time. ( I just started with them. )

Andy_Bichlbaum9 karma

Hm. Maybe we should capitalize on the fact that those people just aren't very bright. There was this action in Barcelona where they convinced the cops there was this big thing planned, and they showed up en masse. More about that here: http://leodecerca.net/

SpaceBasedMasonry3 karma

Any thoughts on that independent bond trader, Alessio Rastani, who last year said Goldman Sachs would love a recession? The media seemed to settle on the fact that he was one of you guys (which a few minutes of research could flatly refute).

Seems interesting that they'd use you guys as a scapegoat for a uncomfortable comment by an interview subject.

P.S. Culture jamming is pretty awesome. Keep up the good work

galacticpornstar3 karma

[deleted]

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

Oh wow! I assume that was me, since he does weirdly look like me.

unampho3 karma

You've said you're antiglobalization. Is it really globalization that bothers you? To me that's like fearing guns, but not murderers. Would antineoliberalism be closer? Or does the "not in my backyard" mentality + globalization count as its own evil?

Edit: Now I understand that schoolgirl giggle feeling people say they have when an ama'er answers their question.

Andy_Bichlbaum7 karma

"antineoliberalism" would indeed be closer. "antiglobalization" is sort of an old word at this point anyhow - now we're allowed to say "anticapitalist." Which, too, is less precise than "antineoliberalism," but ugh, I can barely even read that word.

samvimesmusic3 karma

Do you believe there will be a revolution in the developed countries at some point or will change happen step by step?

Andy_Bichlbaum9 karma

Probably step-by-step. But we need revolutionary energy to make that happen. It's mainly through intense public pressure that shit really changes.

Effex3 karma

Firstly, I think what you guys are doing is awesome. I haven't gotten around to watching the second movie, but I certainly will.

As for my question - Are there any crazy, behind the scenes stories that you can share?

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

Oh, tons. Search on "International Web Police" above. That's the tip of the iceberg. Some of this more embarrassing stuff will be in our upcoming movie.

cyburai3 karma

I actually witnessed the BBC interview in real time. And I totally bought it. So did many of their investors. Well done. And the newspaper gag was Brilliant!

Was there any backlash or fallout for you guys personally for doing these? How bad did it get?

Andy_Bichlbaum6 karma

Ha! Cool! Were you in the UK? That's wild. We talk about the backlash and all that in our last film, The Yes Men Fix the World. Short answer: there was a lot of really good fallout, if such a phrase is possible. It did not get bad, only good.

kayriss3 karma

Has there ever been an idea for a project that you invested time and energy into, then thought better of? Something that was too "out there" or dangerous for you to take on?

Andy_Bichlbaum4 karma

Nope. We've sometimes changed course in the middle of thinking about a project. For the Exxon "vivoleum" project (that's in our last film), we originally were going to serve up a big bbqed pig carcass configured to look like a human being. We then realized that made no sense, and made some human-flesh candles instead.

bonny_peg_o_ramsey2 karma

Were you guys ever based in Milwaukee? I recall this mysterious storefront that had "The Yes Men" on a sign but they were obviously not a business. I thought something sinister was going on in there...

Andy_Bichlbaum4 karma

No! That was some kind of ad agency. Very odd because the filmmakers who made the Yes Men ("our" first movie) lived in Milwaukee.

qwf2 karma

Did you ever try to pursue collaborations with other social change organizations? What was the reception from the more established well known organizations?

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

Yes, that's pretty much all we've been doing for the last 3 years - see http://yeslab.org/

bluedistraction2 karma

What drives you do to this? I think what you do is amazing, and I just wonder what kind of motivation you need to follow through.

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

Well, a sort of confidence that doing something matters, for one thing. For another, the fun and adrenalin and all that can be quite intense.

RealityIsMyReligion2 karma

You guys have definitely become recognizable. There is no way you can pull these stunts off without getting caught anymore.

Will you be using volunteers to help do your bidding, or are you going for a new approach with your new-found fame?

And if you are using volunteers, how do I sign up?

Andy_Bichlbaum4 karma

www.YesLab.org/get-involved! And soon, the Action Switchboard (see other answers for more about that).

[deleted]2 karma

What do you see as the advantages of your style of prankster, culture-jamming protest vs. straight direct action/civil disobedience... And how much of a line is there really?

Andy_Bichlbaum2 karma

There's no line! So many forms of activism, so many ways to do things, and they all overlap. Any good activism is creative - civil rights actions, the famous ones that involved civil disobedience, were super-creative. You can really get a sense of this by checking out the case studies in Beautiful Trouble.

Dizigen2 karma

There's a 1 word term for Yes Men, why not call yourselves "Sycophants"?

Andy_Bichlbaum3 karma

That works! But it's missing the word "Yes," which is such a nice word.