Moustache Man’s handiwork (image via

If you’ve walked around New York, odds are you’ve seen Joseph Waldo’s work, even if you didn’t know who was behind it. The artist “defaced” city advertising by adding not the traditional scribbled pen mustache, but a script version of the word itself inscribed under victim’s noses. But now the comedic artist has been “arrested on charges including felony criminal mischief and possession of a graffiti instrument,” according to NBC New York.

“He was arrested at Eighth Ave. and 47th St, and according to news reports admitted to at least one of the cursive assaults on the subway billboards,” adds Examiner. Police officers apparently spent two months monitoring Waldo’s cursive crimes, whose damage cost an estimated $1,500. No word on the cost in police man hours to track him down.

According to my own imperfect observations, Waldo’s mustaches cropped up quite often in L Train subway stations and also made an appearance on one particular cardboard cut out figure advertising the lottery on Manhattan Ave in Greenpoint. The surfaces he “defaced” were ads, commercial visual noise that usually benefited from Waldo’s sense of humor.

Waldo explained his motivations for the project in an extensive interview on the Subway Art Blog:

At it’s simplest level, it’s a quick joke meant to give commuters something to smile about while they’re waiting for the subway, coming off from a long day at work, or getting stabbed on the D train. And that’s certainly how it started. But for me it’s evolved into part of this broader movement of subverting advertisements. Especially in New York, where we’re bombarded with ads everywhere we go, it feels more and more like we’re part of a one-sided conversation.

Like Poster Boy, Waldo’s only crime was making our world more interesting. The artist has been made to apologize for the work and to promise to never do it again, making our urban environment that much more mundane. Fortunately, Musings of an Irate Commuter has a remembrance of the high times of the moustache marauder, as well as a series of photos of his work.

RIP Moustache Man!

Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

3 replies on “NYPD Knows the Answer to “Where’s Waldo?””

  1. this is a felony!  wow.  you human persons are very bored, and silly.

    we think everyone should carry sharpies with them in solidarity, and also in the hopes you may find an unattended advertisment to improve upon…

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