ben bankas toronto

Blow-up dolls confuse and delight TTC riders on random Toronto subway trains

Today in marketing stunts that hinge on reaction from users of crisis-plagued public transit systems, we have Toronto-based comedian and podcaster Ben Bankas with some 20 blow-up dolls stationed across the TTC's Yonge-University subway line.

"As a public humour project for the good of Toronto, we ask the question: You know what is ridiculous? The TTC cannot keep our transit system safe," said a PR rep for the comic in a press release issued Monday afternoon.

"We all deserve a safe transit system and maybe permission to laugh during this difficult and stressful time for daily TTC riders."

While true that everyone deserves safety in public and could benefit from some humour, some might argue that it's crass to put nearly two-dozen sex dolls on Toronto public transit vehicles after several weeks of high-profile assaults.

Bankas (and presumably those who share his sense of humour) saw the stunt as a welcome distraction — albeit one also meant to promote the comic's forthcoming live shows.

According to his public relations team, Bankas "came up with the idea of providing a safety doll who you can hug, talk to or simply smile at on the subway today " to make people laugh and encourage a spirit of love.

"We need protection, and I hope that our dolls will give a message to the TTC to send us some safety love in time for Valentine's Day," said the comic in his release, which also cites a recent Nanos poll about lagging public transit safety perceptions in Canada.

Meanwhile, the TTC, City of Toronto, and Toronto Police Service continue to express acute awareness of the need for increased safety on public transit, devoting resources to the problem at breakneck speeds atypical of most government-funded agencies.

We were tipped off in advance this morning that TTC riders might be surprised by some "blow-up dolls" — as in the cheap, cheesy inflatable props best-associated with bachelor parties — during the afternoon commute on Monday.

The "safety dolls" are said to have boarded various subway trains from Dupont Station between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday.

It was the aftermath of this prank that really caught the attention of people online, however, when commuters started noticing and posting photos of dolls left behind in various states of destruction.

As the commute progressed on Monday evening, funny photos of the abandoned sex dolls started popping up on online; one of them ensnared by an escalator at Dupont, one mushed into the subway well at Yorkdale Station... more, I'm certain, that didn't get captured on film but no doubt gave commuters a chuckle during an otherwise pretty intense time to be using public transit.

However you take the stunt, it's hard not to smile at the strange sight of a deflated blow-up doll floating aimlessly around a TTC station.

Lead photo by


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