In the fall of 2011, Andy was teaching at NYU and had created a speaker series for people who either had initiated, had helped carry out, had intended to carry out, or had given a whole lot of thought to the question of overthrowing unjust regimes... i.e. REVOLUTION.
First on the schedule—for Sept. 22, 2011, which turned out to be five days after the start of Occupy Wall Street—was one Ivan Marovic. At NYU, Marovic described how Otpor, the Serbian youth movement that he had co-founded, had employed humor and other creative means to undermine the authority of Slobodan Milosevic, which helped lead to his fall from power back in 2000. (The talk wasn't filmed, unfortunately, but you can see Ivan describe this whole story that spring—as well as the whole amazing saga of how revolution happened in Serbia.)
Ivan also described how he and his fellow Otpor leaders had gone on to found CANVAS, which consulted with revolutionaries worldwide—including those who would go on to lead the Egyptian revolt that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring of 2011.
After Marovic's talk, the whole audience, along with Andy and Ivan, walked down to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where a group of a few hundred mostly young people were tentatively beginning the occupation that would blossom into Occupy Wall Street. (We actually got lost on the way, as it was the first time Andy or anyone else had been to Zuccotti.)
After a few minutes of absorbing the atmosphere, we suggested Ivan get up and say something. Using the "human mic," he spoke to the occupiers, mostly assuring them they were doing something very important. Then, afterwards, Andy asked him what he thought, and what he thought we, the Yes Men, should do to help out here. Ivan's answer was clear: give them something to laugh about.
An occupation, he said, could get tiring, demoralizing. Right now things were exciting—but once the police began to crack down, morale might suffer. Goofballs like us could use humor to keep the occupiers entertained.
We got to work, or rather play, trying to think up goofy things that would be mischievous, fun to do, and (it seemed obvious) make fun of he police. We had a couple of false starts, but then we hit on it.
We brought a dozen thrift-store suits to Zuccotti Park, and asked for male volunteers to dress up as brokers. We explained quietly what it was we were going to do—and then, loudly, within easy earshot of the police, we made a human microphone announcement calling for volunteers for a "highly risky, very arrestable" action. (We didn't need volunteers; that was for the benefit of the police.)
Together with our brand-new police escort, we all headed towards the Wall Street Bull a few minutes south. We held up cardboard signs—mostly from empty pizza boxes that we'd collected from Occupiers—with slogans like "Get the bull!" and "Wall Street is our street." As we chanted these slogans, more and more police joined our procession.
Finally, as we approached the Bull, we reversed the signs we were holding and held them up proudly behind the phalanx of motorcycle cops, for the benefit of the two dozen photographers across the street: "POLICE AND BROKERS FOR THE OCCUPATION," the signs read.
At least a few of the photos were shared on Facebook thousands of times, and one appeared in a Long Island tabloid, without any comment, to illustrate an article about police overtime. There wasn't really much of a point to that image, besides to serve as a hilarious punchline in our movie. The main point was to give the Occupiers something to laugh about, as Ivan had suggested to us. And at that it was rather successful.