Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

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Pranks Defined

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Filed under: Definitions, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The Prank as Art

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This definition of pranks is from V.Vale’s introduction to his formative book PRANKS, published in 1987 by RE/Search Publications. I’ve always loved this essay. He has graciously allowed us to reprint it here. In 2006, RE/Search Publications released a follow-up book called Pranks! 2 that is equally seminal in its approach to the subject -JS


PRANKS. According to the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, a prank is a “trick . . . a mildly mischievous act . . . a practical joke . . . a ludicrous act.” The best pranks invoke the imagination, poetic imagery, the unexpected and a deep level of irony or social criticism—such as Boyd Rice’s presentation of a skinned sheep’s head on a silver platter to Betty Ford, First Lady of the United States. Great pranks create synaesthetic experiences which are unmistakably exciting, original, and reverberating, as well as creative, metaphoric, poetic and artistic. If these criteria be deemed sufficient, then pranks can be considered as constituting an art form and genre in themselves.

However slighted by Academia, pranks are not without cultural and historical precedent. (more…)