The importance of April Fools’ Day in our civilization shouldn’t be underestimated. Aside from Easter and Passover—who’s the prankster always hiding the eggs or the afikoman?—it’s the only day on which we’re encouraged to play pranks on our unassuming friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers.
For those of you who are ready to put on your pranking hats (you can pick yours up at CVS with a printout of this blog post!—um, just kidding), settle down. Before you go unscrewing the caps of salt shakers or emailing your best friend’s girlfriend a fake marriage proposal, you might want to take some time to figure out what kind of prank you’d like to pull. After all, carefully considering your choices could not only save you a lot of time but also a lot of money in unforeseen legal fees. Here are some ideas.
1. The Mostly Harmless Prank
This is by far the easiest and therefore most common prank to pull off on April 1. It tends not to cause much physical or psychological pain among your victims but could leave you with a smug grin on your face. At least until April 2.
For this prank, you need to think small. A few years ago, my co-worker got to the office extra early and placed a piece of tape on the underside of my computer mouse. After turning on my computer, I tried to get straight to work (read: check my March Madness brackets) but was unable to move the cursor on the monitor. I tried everything I could think of, including shaking the mouse, banging it against my desk, and then calling IT.
My co-worker emerged soon after laughing his ass off, and I was left having to explain to my boss why she’d need to buy me a new, preferably optical, mouse for my computer.
2. The “This is Not a Prank” Prank
One of the comical byproducts of April Fools’ hoaxes is that they sometimes make people doubt real occurrences that had the misfortune of happening on or around April 1. It happens all the time.
The April 2004 launch of Gmail was widely believed to be a hoax by Google. I even half-believed that the assignment to write this very blog post was an April Fools’ Day prank orchestrated by Washingtonian.com.
And five years ago, when I went to my doctor’s office on April 1 for an appointment, he told me I might have cancer.
“Ha ha, good one, doc!” I told him. “April Fools! Not a very appropriate joke, though.”
“No,” he replied, “this is not an April Fools’ prank. I wish it were.”
Here’s the lesson: Sometimes things that are hard to believe just happen to occur on April 1. So while not being gullible serves you well, don’t automatically believe that everyone is out to get you.
And FYI, the same doctor told me two weeks later that I did not, in fact, have cancer.
3. The Telephone Prank
This was once considered a classic April Fools’ prank, but with the proliferation of caller ID and cellphone users’ tendency to rely heavily on texting, it has become a much tougher one to pull off. Still, it remains one of the benchmarks of a great April 1 prank.
When I was 15 years old, my friend and I invented Telephone Baseball, a game in which we would dial random people from the phonebook, wait for them to pick up, and then count the number of times they said “hello?” before hanging up.
The number of hellos corresponded to a baseball value (e.g., one “hello?” equaled a single, two an out, three a double). I seem to remember that he usually won.
To this day, when I answer the phone, I will only say one “hello?”
4. The Prank Gone Awry
This is everyone’s favorite prank (unless, of course, it happens to you).
You’ve picked your victim, you know the scam, you facilitate the outcome, and then ... splat. Everything that could go wrong goes wrong.
Last year, J. Peter Segall, a public-relations executive and lawyer, placed an obituary in the Washington Post announcing the sad passing of his friend of 30 years, Edward M. Gabriel, former US ambassador to Morocco.
In the notice, Segall wrote, “Though I no longer have you as my partner, this day will always be OUR anniversary ... I could never quit you.”
The only problem? Gabriel was not dead. In a retraction the next day, Segall admitted he “engaged in a very stupid and ultimately cruel April Fools’ joke against a man that has been my best friend for 30 years.” The very much alive Edward M. Gabriel had spent April 1 fielding calls from friends who thought he had died. One woman said she cried for two hours after seeing the ad.
5. The Perfect April Fools’ Day Prank
Like the Holy Grail or a tourist who knows to walk on the left of a Metro escalator, this is the prank that eludes us all. But it is precisely why you must keep trying to prank your friends, pull a fast one on your coworkers, or make fools of strangers.
But then again, if you fail, there’s always Easter or Passover.
What are your ideas for great April Fools' Day jokes? Tell us about them in the comments!