By now we’ve all heard about the new subway etiquette placards the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out earlier this month. As part of a new campaign focused on improving quality of life for all commuters, the signs are designed to dissuade riders — via colorful, faceless, stick-figure renderings — from participating in a number of new “don’ts,” including pole-dancing, manspreading, and grooming. Since the campaign was launched in December 2014, the ads have received considerable attention in the media — and now two New Yorkers have taken it upon themselves to bring them to life.
Inspired by the ubiquitous green and red stick figures the MTA has used in its subway ads over the years, Christian “CJ” Koegel and his partner Chris Zelig donned full-body suits (of red and green, respectively) to re-create the MTA’s Courtesy Counts campaign.
Koegel (a/k/a Mr. Don’t) tells the Voice that the idea came to them last week during all the buzz about the pole-dancing subway ad, which happens to be Koegel’s favorite. So it is no surprise that the ad is the first act out of the eight placards Koegel and Zelig decided to take on.
“I’m one of those people that appreciate [subway performers] and I’ve learned that those moves are harder than they look,” Koegel, 30, says of the dancers, infamous for gyrating on poles on express trains. He adds that the young New Yorkers could be doing much worse things with their time — like wasting time in the streets. “Usually they are young kids, and I’d rather see them on the train dancing.”
The 59-second video, filmed on January 17 while the pair rode the A train, is set to the song “Good Time Gal” by Ron Komie. It is a humorous nod, Koegel says, to the MTA for helping millions of people get around the city every day. It draws attention to the agency’s new civility crusade, while initiating a few laughs at the same time. “We think the campaign is clever and funny,” he says. “People should have manners and be nice to each other.”
Of all the discourteous behaviors that NYC straphangers are wont to display, Koegel, a Florida native who has been residing in the Flatiron District for the past three years, says he most detests people not offering their seats to old folks and pregnant women. “Chivalry is important,” he says.
Unable to find all twelve new subway ads, the duo also resurrected old ads such as “Don’t Become a Statistic. Stand Back.”
This is not the first time Koegel has created an unconventional video to raise awareness for a cause. In November 2014, he and his friends had a female colleague walk through the city with a hidden camera above her bum to remind “gentlemen to check out their butts” for prostate cancer. The video went viral, with over 10 million YouTube views. “My friends and I like to have fun and do good,” Koegel says.