Truth that’s Stranger than Fiction

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Stand-up Comedians Regroup Against Trump’s Shade

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Parody, Political Challenges, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Satire has always been our front line of defense against the insanity of our so-called leaders. But with Trump’s alternative reality reaching such exalted new heights, comedians need new strategies.

As we approach the first summer of the Trump presidency, comics are realizing their job isn’t figuring out the perfect way to skewer President Trump—their job is to find the humor that pushes us past him, his acrimony, and his chaos. If that’s even possible.


Funny, How? Inside Stand-Up Comedy’s Donald Trump Problem
by Burt Helm
GQ
June 2, 2017

The absurd usually makes for great comedic fodder. But when the source of that ridiculousness is the man tasked with, you know, running the United States…is it still funny? Everyone from Jerrod Carmichael to Michael Che to Lena Dunham is trying to figure that out.

On a Monday night in January, people looking to escape the gloom and chaos of Donald Trump’s first two weeks in office gathered at Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory for Michael Che’s Secret Show. Tickets to the special comedy event, which benefitted Planned Parenthood, went on sale five days after the inauguration and four days after the Women’s March became one of the largest-scale protests in American history (also, three days after the birth of “alternative facts,” two days after the President pushed false voter fraud rumors, and one day after the first reports of his impending refugee ban). The show sold out in under an hour. As soon as Cipha Sounds, a New York City-based DJ and comedian, took the stage and started spinning, heads in the crowd were bobbing, expectant smiles on their faces. “Out of the five fingers on your hand, which one do you feel represents your feelings toward Donald Trump?” asked Cipha, cranking the volume on CeeLo’s “Fuck You.”

“It’s not about an agenda. It’s more about bringing you guys a fun fucking show,” Che said, welcoming the audience. He brought up a comedy Dream Team: Kevin Iso, Mike Birbiglia, Amy Schumer, Colin Quinn, Lena Dunham, Leslie Jones, John Mulaney, and Che’s partner on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” Colin Jost. But this was not a night for liberals to forget their woes. None of the performers could finish his or her set without referencing the political climate. They went dark; they looked for bitter laughs. (more…)

In the White House, Fake News Is Good News

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

The Trump Administration loves good satire at its own expense… as long as it doesn’t get the joke. #45 isn’t just parody-proof; he’s literally unbelievable. Satire is dead.


“White House Shares Parody Article as Real News in Daily Briefing”
by Ryan Grenoble
The Huffington Post
March 17, 2017

On Friday, as part of its regular “1600 Daily” email briefing, The White House included a roundup of links of news friendly to President Donald Trump’s administration, as it regularly does.

First on the list was a Washington Post article titled, “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why.”

If that headline sounds suspiciously servile to you, there’s a good reason why: It’s satire.

The column, written by Washington Post humorist Alexandra Petri, employs a clearly satirical tone in an attempt to justify President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to various departments.

“We don’t need to fund historic sites,” one section reads. “Those parks have sassed the administration enough and they must get what is coming to them.”

So either the Trump administration didn’t bother reading the actual article itself, or, even more troubling, read it but failed to distinguish it as parody. Read more.

Teaching People to Become Bullshit Detectors

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

“Calling Bullshit” is a college course designed to identify & combat bullshit. We need more of these!


From Current Affairs, Science, January 27th, 2017: Two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, have created a website meant to accompany a potential college seminar entitled “Calling Bullshit.” Here’s how Bergstrom and West explain the premise of their course. It’s worth quoting them at length.

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit of the second order. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We’re sick of it. It’s time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combating it with effective analysis and argument. More…

Visit the Calling Bullshit website.

Get your Bullshit Detector Watch website here.

Journalist Who Posed as Middle Eastern Tycoon Gets Prison Term

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

UK journalist Mahzer Mahmood didn’t let ethics or truth get in the way of a hot scoop, and now he’s headed to prison. It’s a story that beggars belief, involving politics, pop star drug scandals, royalty real and fake. We’re left to wonder what’s up with the screen rights.


“British Reporter ‘Fake Sheikh’ Jailed for 15 Months”
by Danica Kirka
AP
October 21, 2016

aotpmazhermahmoodA judge sentenced a British journalist who often posed as a Middle Eastern tycoon in sting operations to 15 months in prison on Friday, after the tabloid reporter was convicted of perverting the course of justice in an effort to get scoops.

Mazher Mahmood, a tabloid reporter nicknamed the “Fake Sheikh,” was found guilty earlier this month of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drug trial of pop star and actress Tulisa Contostavlos. The case against Contostavlos originally was based on interviews Mahmood, 53, conducted for the Sun newspaper.

The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing another 25 convictions linked to Mahmood’s work and has dropped active criminal cases in which Mahmood was to be a witness.

As he was led away to prison, a man in the crowd shouted, “Your turn now, Mazher.”

One of his most famous scoops involved the wife of Prince Edward, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II. Edward’s wife. Posing as an aide to a Saudi Arabian prince interested in hiring her public relations company, Mahmood charmed Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, into making indiscreet comments about the British government in 2001.

The countess also was caught on tape describing then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, as “horrid, horrid, horrid.”

For the sting involving Contostavlos, Mahmood posed as a film producer and discussed a movie role with her that would have her share screen time with Leonardo DiCaprio. Prosecutors said Mahmood gave evidence to police that led to Contostavlos being charged with supplying illicit drugs. Continue reading.

The Time of Our Lives?

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Challenges, Spin, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a lovely duet:


Trump and Hillary: Time of my life – LuckyTV

Announcing the 2016 Ig Noble Awards

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Filed under: Prank News, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Organized by the Annals of Improbable Research, the Ig Noble Awards offer ponderous hilarity every year without fail.


From Collecting Flies to Putting Pants on Rats, Here Is This Year’s Ig Nobel-Winning Research
by Mark Pratt
AP
September 22, 2016

ig-nobel-awards-2016(BOSTON) — A Swede who wrote a trilogy about collecting bugs, an Egyptian doctor who put pants on rats to study their sex lives and a British researcher who lived like an animal have been named winners of the Ig Nobels, the annual spoof prizes for quirky scientific achievement.

The winners were honored — or maybe dishonored — Thursday in a zany ceremony at Harvard University.

The 26th annual event featured a paper airplane air raid and a tic-tac-toe contest with a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist and four real Nobel laureates.

Winners receive $10 trillion cash prizes — in virtually worthless Zimbabwean money. Read more here and here.


Step 1: Crack a Raw Egg Open into a Glass; Step 2: Hatch a Chick?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, You Decide

Thanks Andrea Marini (director of Art of the Prank, the movie) for this tip.


“Did Japanese students really hatch a chick outside a shell?”
by Robert Ferris
CNBC Science
June 8, 2016

103700352-maxresdefault.530x298A video making the rounds on the internet depicts a group of Japanese students cracking an egg, dropping it into a plastic pouch, and incubating it until a baby chick emerges several days later.

The video has received about 50 million views on Facebook, and other versions have popped up on YouTube and other platforms.

A video making the rounds on the internet depicts a group of Japanese students cracking an egg, dropping it into a plastic pouch, and incubating it until a baby chick emerges several days later.

The video has received about 50 million views on Facebook, and other versions have popped up on YouTube and other platforms.

Though questions remain surrounding the video’s authenticity, the process is possible, according to E. David Peebles, a professor of poultry science at Mississippi State University. In fact, this is not the first time such a thing has been attempted.

“I remember seeing a similar kind of thing when I was in a lab North Carolina State University,” Peebles told CNBC in an interview. “They had relatively limited success with it, but they did have some success.” Read more here and watch the video below.

When Life Imitates Satire: Israeli Newspaper Spooked by The Onion’s Prescient Report

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Filed under: Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

‘Netanyahu cheered up by US missile offer’: how the Onion scooped Haaretz
by Jessica Elgot
The Guardian
July 21, 2015

Satirical site’s joke about the US offering missiles to the Israeli prime minister to appease him over the Iran nuclear deal turned out to be uncannily accurate

Binyamin Netanyahu‘US Soothes Upset Netanyahu With Shipment of Ballistic Missiles’ sounds like a headline from the Onion. And it is – except that this time it’s true. International media organisations have regularly been caught out by the satirical news site, fooled into thinking that Kim Jong-un really was voted the world’s sexiest man, or that Americans would prefer a beer with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than Barack Obama.

But this time editors of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz were spooked by a story in the Onion from the previous day that matched what they had heard as fact.

Last week, the paper reported a senior US official as saying that Obama had spoken to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, offering to “begin immediate talks about upgrading the Israel Defence Forces’ offensive and defensive capabilities” after US negotiators reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, which was condemned by Israel. But the day before, the Onion had published a tongue-in-cheek piece announcing that the Israeli government would receive “a nice, big shipment of ballistic missiles” to help them come to terms with the Iran deal.

The piece included jokey quotes from a “State Department spokesperson”, which said: “Bibi always gets a little cranky when he sees us talking to Iran, but a few dozen short-range surface-to-surface missiles usually cheer him right up … At least we’ll have a couple months of peace and quiet around here.”

Life does not entirely imitate satire: Haaretz reported that the Israeli leader has said he would not accept the offer, because to do so would imply that the Iran deal had been tacitly accepted, though Israeli army radio on Monday quoted unnamed defence ministry officials as saying they would discuss compensation from the US.

Read the rest of this article here.


Danish Parliament’s Message: Vote or Else! [English & Danish]

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

This cartoon was intended to encourage young people to vote in the European elections and was published on the Danish Parliament’s YouTube channel.

votemancartoon

In it, a superhero called Voteman finds himself in bed with a group of women before jetting off on a pair of dolphin waterskis to punch and kick non-voters all the way to the polling station. The video was withdrawn the day after its launch after a barrage of criticism…

Watch the video:

Fiddle File #10

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Prank Busters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

fiddler-75Editor’s Note: Ask The Fiddler is a lifestyle advice column that aims to remedy more chaos and confusion than it creates. Questions may be submitted to us here at Art of the Prank, and good luck.


The Fiddle File #10

Here we go with another madcap roundup of hoaxes, scams and damn fool idiocy making the rounds these days. Take heed. Some of these fiddles may soon be showing up on your computer, phone or even up close and personal. Check it out:

Kentucky & Etc: Take it off? You got a gig serving burgers and fries. Now the restaurant manager is ordering you to submit to a strip-search. Here’s the history of a very bizarre hoax, pulled time and again.

FaceBook: What makes you click? Here are some hoax headlines that have steered the curious into a marketing scam: Huge plane crashes into bridge? – Terrible roller coaster accident! – 99% Can’t Watch More Than 15 Seconds – Half Girl Half Snake! – Terrible accident with pencil! – HUGE pimple explodes – Shark eats living man! – Spider lives under skin!

plane-crashes-bridge

FaceBook, email: Here’s another example of the “What makes you click?” hoax. (more…)

Protestors Accused of Terrorism Hoax

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Glitter-Covered Banner Got These Protesters Arrested for Staging a Bioterror Hoax
by Molly Redden
Mother Jones
December 17, 2013

Energy giants have lobbied police to treat environmental activists like potential terrorists. Looks like it’s working.

glitter-protest

It’s not uncommon for environmental protesters to face arrest, but here’s an apparent first: On Friday, Oklahoma City police charged a pair of environmental activists with staging a “terrorism hoax” after they unfurled a pair of banners covered in glitter—a substance local cops considered evidence of a faux biochemical assault.

Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson, members of the environmental group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, were part of a group of about a dozen activists demonstrating at Devon Tower, the headquarters of fossil fuel giant Devon Energy. They activists were protesting the company’s use of fracking, its role in mining of Canada’s tar sands, and its ties to TransCanada, the energy company planning to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. As other activists blocked the building’s revolving door, Warner and Stephenson hung two banners—one a cranberry-colored sheet emblazoned with The Hunger Games “mockingjay” symbol and the words “The odds are never in our favor” in gold letters—from the second floor of the Devon Tower’s atrium.

(more…)

‘Fake’ interpreter at Nelson Mandela Memorial?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

An apparently fake deaf interpreter takes the stage (man to right of speaker) at Mandela’s memorial. No word on who he is or how he got there yet.

FakeDeafInterpreterMandela

Watch the video:

For the full story visit http://limpingchicken.com/2013/12/10/

Cockroach Cure-all, Deja Vu

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

From Larry W.: Perhaps the legend of Dr. Gregor and his Metamorphosis cockroach cure, a hoax propagated by Joey Skaggs in 1981, finally made it to China and kick-started an industry.


Cockroaches: the new miracle cure for China’s ailments
by Malcolm Moore
The Telegraph
October 24, 2013

Cockroach farming is booming in China as the country looks for new, cheaper medicines for its rapidly ageing population

a-fistful-of-roach_200The correct way to eat a cockroach, at least in this corner of northern China, is to fry it not once but twice in a wok of smoking hot oil.

“The second time makes the shell crispy and the inside succulent,” said 43-year-old Wang Fuming, as he tipped a bowl of freshly harvested bugs, one or two of their legs still twitching, into the sizzling pan.

Mr Wang is the leading cockroach farmer in Shandong province, with more than 22 million of the insects living in a series of nondescript, concrete bunkers in the suburbs of Jinan.

After cooking, Mr Wang gently ladled them onto a plate, their bodies plumped with the oil and their wings slightly spread, before sprinkling a packet of instant noodle powder – pickled cabbage flavour – over the dish.

“It would be better if we had some chilli,” he apologised.

The cockroach, whose innards resemble cottage cheese, has an earthy taste, with a slight twinge of ammonia. But they have become popular in China not for their taste, but for their medicinal benefits.

“They really are a miracle drug,” said Liu Yusheng, a professor at the Shandong Agricultural university and the head of Shandong province’s Insect Association. “They can cure a number of ailments and they work much faster than other medicine.”

Read the rest of the article and watch the video here.

Related:

  • Cockroaches, A Race Above, Joey Skaggs, 1981
  • Cockroaches could help combat MRSA and E.coli, The Telegraph, 2010
  • Fiddle File #2

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    Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Prank Busters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    fiddler-75Editor’s Note: Ask The Fiddler is a lifestyle advice column that aims to remedy more chaos and confusion than it creates. Questions may be submitted to us here at Art of the Prank, and good luck.


    The Fiddle File #2

    Here we go with another madcap roundup of hoaxes, scams and damn fool idiocy making the rounds these days. Take heed. Some of these fiddles may soon be showing up on your computer, phone or even up close and personal. Check it out:

    scream-197Los Angeles: Quality medical care … The surgeon pranks your face while you are under anesthesia.

    Tennessee: Children At Play… Torching neighborhood sewers.

    San Francisco Bay Area: Clear the house, we’re from the government, inspecting for poisonous snakes (and stealing anything of value).

    Disney World: Pardon us, we’re heading for the front of the line with our hire-the-handicapped helper.

    Nationwide: You’re due a bundle in unclaimed cash, just give us all your personal info. Story is from Vegas but the scam is running around the country.

    Colorado: It’s the old jump screaming from the closet prank. Bang! You’re d-e-a-d.

    St. Louis: Here’s a tip … You’ll never see the whopping big tip the insanely generous customer scribbled on the bill.

    Nationwide: Wrap your car with ads while we empty your bank account. This report is from California but it’s happening wherever the hustlers find a willing victim.

    Florida: Flush with cash? Don’t invest in toilet fans.

    Spotted a hoax or scam deserving mention in our next roundup? We’d be happy to hear from you Art of the Prank. You might save some reader a heap of hurting (or give them wild ideas for their next fiddle).

    “Almighty God” Arrested Preparing for the End

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    Filed under: The Big One, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    Almost 1,000 doomsday cult members arrested in China
    BBC News China
    December 20, 2012

    The BBC’s Damian Grammaticas says police are likely to detain suspected cult members for several days

    Police in China have carried out further arrests of members of a doomsday cult for spreading rumours about the imminent end of the world, state media say.

    Almost 1,000 members of Christian group Almighty God have now been detained.

    Read more here

    image: Huffington Post