The World of the Prank

The artist as social provocateur and activist incorporates humor, satire, irony, political commentary and/or direct action to provoke critical thinking. Pranks challenge convention and the status quo and expose prejudices and biases.

Blog Posts

White House Email Prankster In His Own Words

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, How to Pull Off a Prank, Instructionals, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Here’s a playful and illuminating interview with the anonymous prankster who humiliated Donald Trump’s powerful son-in-law Jared Kushner and ex-Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci with duplicitous emails. It touches on the literary merits of email pranks, the repercussions of sending them, and pointers for engaging recipients in high places.


“How to Prank the Rich and Powerful Without Really Trying”
by Adrianne Jeffries
The Outline
August 4, 2017

On Tuesday, a bright spot appeared in this dark, cruel world when CNN first reported that an anonymous mischief maker had tricked multiple White House officials into responding to prank emails.

The Email Prankster, as he’s branded himself, isn’t worried about getting in legal trouble, he told The Outline in an interview Thursday. He duped several high profile targets earlier this year, including Barclay’s CEO Jes Staley, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat, and was not contacted by law enforcement.

He was, however, suspended from his job this morning. His company, which knew about the banker pranks, suspected he was involved in this latest round of hoaxes and opened an investigation. “I think they’ll get me on misuse of IT,” the prankster said. “I did send an email to the White House from my work email address because I forgot to switch the email account over in the drop down.”

It’s unclear if the prankster did anything illegal. He did no spoofing or hacking, and lawyers we spoke to in the U.S. and U.K. said it would be difficult to make a criminal case against him. The prankster merely registered addresses that looked semi-legitimate, such as reince.priebus@mail.com and jonhunstmanjr45@gmail.com, made sure his character’s name would show up in the “From” field, and thought up an intriguing subject line. He registered email addresses in the names of senior advisor Jared Kushner, Ambassador-to-Russia designate Jon Huntsman, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump, and had them email various White House staff.

The highlight of these pranks was an exchange between the fake Reince Priebus, whose real counterpart had just been ousted, and then-White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. The exchange, a testy back-and-forth that played on the real rivalry between the two men, ended with Scaramucci telling the person he thought was Priebus to, “Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello.” Scaramucci was ousted the next day, and The Washington Post called the prank “a final indignity.” Read more.

Is Trump Full of Hot Air?

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Ever wonder what it would feel like to blow up Donald Trump? Thanks Alexa and Nancy


Giant inflatable rat bearing resemblance to Trump appears on Fifth Ave.
by Kerry Burke and Christopher Brennan
New York Daily News
August 14, 2017

New York City’s rats have gotten much bigger … and blond.

A giant inflatable of President Trump, in the style of labor unions’ blow up rodents, is greeting Midtown residents and tourists Monday afternoon at Fifth Ave. and 59th St.

The grotesque model of Trump was claimed by gallery Bravin Lee, who said that the inflatable rat is “an enduring sign of resistance and ridicule.”

“I was always passing by these non-union construction sites on my bike and I saw these inflatable rats. I was amazed at how effective they were. I marveled at how disgusting they were,” gallery owner John Post Lee told the Daily News.

The inflatable protest was funded through a Kickstarter, and Lee said that it was [designed by artist Jeffrey Beebe and] made in Brunwick, Ohio.

Gallery owner John Post Lee said that he was inspired by labor unions using inflatable rats.

Bravin Lee said they plan to keep the “rat” scurrying around to different events.


Gone Phishing at the White House

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Filed under: Phone Pranks, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Email prankster, @SINON_REBORN, went phishing at the White House and caught some big ones.


White House officials tricked by email prankster
by Jake Tapper
CNN
Monday, July 31, 2017

A self-described “email prankster” in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official’s private email address unsolicited.

“Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August,” the fake Jared Kushner on an Outlook account wrote to the official White House email account of Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert. “It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible (sic) quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening.”

Bossert wrote back: “Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is” (redacted).

Bossert did not respond to CNN’s request for comment; the email prankster said he was surprised Bossert responded given his expertise. The emails were shared with CNN by the email prankster.

White House officials acknowledged the incidents and said they were taking the matter seriously. “We take all cyber related issues very seriously and are looking into these incidents further,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN. Read the rest of the story here.


Belgian Performance Artists, Captain Boomer, Beach a Whale in Paris

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Nobody expected to see a whale beached along the Seine last Friday…


“Elaborate ‘Dead Whale’ Stunt Takes Parisians By Surprise”
by Nina Golgowski
Huffington Post
July 23, 2017

It wasn’t a sight for the fainthearted.

On Friday, Parisians woke to find a massive sperm whale beached along the river Seine, drawing some shock and concern from some passersby.

Fortunately for animal lovers, the giant carcass, which was seen being tended to by people in white jumpsuits, was a fake ― though the object of a very real concern.

Belgian artist collective Captain Boomer, which took responsibility for the stirring display, said they carried out the performance art to raise awareness about the beaching of whales and dolphins and how humans play a role.

To assist in delivering this message, artists dressed up like forensic scientists and pretended to perform tests on the animal while others interacted with the public. (more…)

Vetting Who’s Calling is Kinda Important When You’re the U.S. Energy Secretary

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Filed under: Phone Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters

Ooops. “Jerky Boys of Russia” prank-call U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. (h/t James)


US Energy Secretary Rick Perry duped into fake interview with Russian comedians
by Timothy Gardner
Reuters
July 26, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry optimistically discussed expanding American coal exports to Ukraine and other energy matters during a lengthy phone call this month with a Russian prankster who Perry thought was Ukraine’s prime minister.

Perry actually was talking with comedians known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement.

Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are sometimes called the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” after an American duo who put out recordings of their prank phone calls in the 1990s. They have made faux calls to British singer Elton John, who thought he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others.

“These individuals are known for pranking high-level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine,” Hynes said.

During the 22-minute call on July 19, Perry, whose department oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons program, discussed a range of topics in a business-like tone, including sanctions against Russia and helping Ukraine develop oil and gas. Read the rest of this article here.

Unsanctioned Street Signs Caution Minneapolis Citizens

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Pranksters

Fake street signs warn of ‘easily startled’ police in Twin Cities
by Erin Adler
Star Tribune
July 24, 2017

At least two orange street signs reading “Warning: Twin Cities police easily startled” were seen in the Twin Cities Sunday.

A fake street sign mounted on the same pole as two legitimate ones at the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Aves. Sunday evening in Minneapolis. Erin Adler, Star Tribune

Joe Morino brought an incredulous friend to see the orange street sign he just spotted in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The official-looking metal sign read: “WARNING: TWIN CITIES POLICE EASILY STARTLED.” It featured a graphic silhouette of a police officer, a gun in each raised hand, shooting in both directions.

“There’s a side of truth to the sign,” Morino said after snapping a picture of it. “That tells you there is something wrong with the system.” (more…)

Spectacle TV Without the Spectacle…

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Publicity Stunts

Olympian Michael Phelps unsurprisingly lost his Sunday race against a simulated great white shark.


“Twitter users blast Michael Phelps for not racing a real shark”
by Chris Perez
New York Post
July 24, 2017

Can you blame him?

Social media users were tearing Michael Phelps to shreds for his “race” against a Great White shark on Sunday night — calling it a “scam” — after he chose to swim side-by-side with a simulation, instead of the real thing.

“Don’t say Phelps is racing a shark if you’re not going to put him against an actual shark,”
tweeted Breyanna Davis, who was one of countless viewers to get confused over the way the televised swimming competition went down.

“So you mean to tell me Michael Phelps didn’t even race a real shark? It was just a simulation. I’m mad. More like Shark WEAK!” said Frank Costa.

User @M_Frosti added, “smh Michael Phelps isn’t actually racing a shark. He’s just racing a simulation of a shark. Biggest scam of 2017.” Read more.

Portofess: The Church Must Go Where the Sinners Are!

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, The Big One, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

The Story of the ‘Portofess,’ the Prank Confessional Booth at the 1992 Democratic Convention
by Sarah Laskow
Atlas Obscura
July 14, 2017

Artist Joey Skaggs fooled everyone and pedaled off.

Father Anthony Joseph (aka Joey Skaggs) pedals his Portofess to the 1992 Democratic National Convention, courtesy Joey Skaggs Archive

At 1992’s Democratic National Convention, a Dominican priest showed up on a tricycle. Attached to the back was a confessional booth, with a sign that read “Portofess.” The priest said he biked to New York, where the convention was held, all the way from California. The church, according to the priest, needed to take a “more aggressive stance and go where the sinners are.” He was ready to take confession from any politician who wanted or needed it.

The Portofess made papers all over the country. But soon enough Reuters revealed that the Archdiocese in California had never heard of this priest, who called himself Father Anthony Joseph or, sometimes, Father William. All other efforts to find him after the convention failed, as well, because he wasn’t a priest at all, but a character conceived by artist and activist Joey Skaggs, who has perfected the art of pranking the media.

Skaggs’s works include “Fish Condos” for upwardly mobile guppies, “Santa’s Missile Tow,” which featured Santa and his elves bringing a missile to the United Nations, and many other sculptures and performances. He talked to Atlas Obscura about what it took to create the Portofess and what reactions he got from the police, protestors, and the public. Read the full interview here.


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…)

Airport Charging Station Prank

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire

Prankster gives travelers desperate for a charge serious sticker shock.


This Man’s Hilarious Airport Prank Is So Perfect and So Evil
by Reegan Von Wildenradt
Men’s Health
June 15, 2017

He hit airport travelers right where it hurts

Is there anything as beautiful as spotting an unused outlet in a crowded airport just as your phone battery reaches 1 percent? Of course not. So when one guy decided to violate that sacred moment for countless airport travelers by dotting a crowded airport terminal with fake electrical outlet stickers, we both cringed with the victims and applauded the sheer genius of one of the most hilarious pranks we’ve seen in a while.

The mastermind, @JustBasicDave, was traveling from Miami International Airport to London when he apparently decided that instead of just grabbing a book and finding a nice comfortable piece of hard plastic chair while waiting for his flight, he would turn the nightmare that already is traveling into an even sadder time for a number of airport travelers. (If you’re looking for an airport terminal you wouldn’t mind spending some extra time in, though, here are the 10 best.) Dave, as we are assuming his name is, pulled out some fake electrical outlet stickers and stuck them to spots throughout the terminal. Then, he sat and waited for his prey to fall into his devious trap. Read the rest of this article here.


Veteran Crank Yankers Celebrate the Lost Art of the Prank Call

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

In the ’90s, Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers showcased popular comedians and kept alive the hallowed cultural tradition of the phone prank. Here, stars Adam Carolla and Jim Florentine reminisce and reflect.


“Crank Yankers’ Adam Carolla and Jim Florentine on the ‘Lost Art’ of the Prank Call”
by Jake Lauer
Paste
June 1, 2017
There’s something nostalgic about prank phone calls. They’re the product of a bygone era, and if you were born before the invention of caller ID, they were likely a part of your childhood.

“Maybe there’s a nostalgic feel to them because you can’t do them anymore, says Jim Florentine, one of the stars of Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers and the voice of fan-favorite character Special Ed. “Now you get harassment charges. It’s really a lost art.”

It’s been 15 years since comedians Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel introduced the world to Crank Yankers, the hilariously offensive show where puppets, voiced by comedians, harass unsuspecting people with prank phone calls. The show was a huge hit, running for four seasons—three on Comedy Central and one on MTV 2.

Crank Yankers featured some of the biggest names in comedy, including Dave Chappelle, Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan and Dane Cook (before he became a household name). Carolla, who produced the show with Kimmel, voiced Mr. Birchum, a crotchety Vietnam War veteran who berated anyone who spoke with him.

Paste spoke with Carolla and Florentine about Crank Yankers’s 15th anniversary, the art of the perfect prank call and the unaired calls that went too far. Read more.


And You Thought that Doggedly Fanatic Approach to Accuracy Was Working…

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Prank News, Pranksters

Turns out the accomplished academic Dr. Olivia Doll, who sits on numerous medical journal editorial boards, is a terrier. Huh? H/t to Ed Coll.


“The Perth Dog That’s Probably Smarter Than You”
by Cathy O’Leary
PerthNow
May 21, 2017

Move aside quokkas and black swans, Perth is now home to the world’s smartest dog, at least on paper.

Local “academic” Dr Olivia Doll — also known as Staffordshire terrier Ollie — sits on the editorial boards of seven international medical journals and has just been asked to review a research paper on the management of tumours.

Her impressive curriculum vitae lists her current role as senior lecturer at the Subiaco College of Veterinary Science and past associate of the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studies — which is code for her earlier life in the dog refuge.

Ollie’s owner, veteran public health expert Mike Daube, decided to test how carefully some journals scrutinised their editorial reviewers, by inventing Dr Doll and making up her credentials.

The five-year-old pooch has managed to dupe a range of publications specialising in drug abuse, psychiatry and respiratory medicine into appointing her to their editorial boards.

Dr Doll has even been fast-tracked to the position of associate editor of the Global Journal of Addiction and Rehabilitation Medicine.

Several journals have published on their websites a supplied photo of Dr Doll, which is actually of a bespectacled Kylie Minogue. Read more.

A Vintage Vino Hoax

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, The History of Pranks

You may think academics will fall for anything. But have you met any wine snobs? Here’s a hoax flashback…


“The Winning Wine List That Wasn’t”
by Dan Lewis
Now I Know
May 23, 2017

If you’re a wine fan, Wine Spectator is probably on your go-to list for magazine reading. Fifteen times a year, it hits newsstands and subscriber mailboxes with ratings and reviews of various vintages and types of wine. And once a year, the magazine announces its “Restaurant Awards,” an honor for — you guessed it — restaurants. Wine Spectator’s website sets it up thusly: “Attention restaurateurs: If you’ve got a good wine list, you deserve the credibility and publicity that comes with a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award.” For example, here’s a screenshot of Milan restaurant Osteria L’Intrepido’s honor on the Wine Spectator website from 2008:

The cuisine type, the price range, a top-line summary of the wine available, and of course, some contact information for the restaurant itself. If you’re looking for a $70 dollar dinner for two while in Milan, and you’re willing to fork over a moderately extra amount for the wine, Osteria L’Intrepido may be for you. With more than 250 wine selections, you’re likely to find something that enhances your experience — or at least, that’s what the “Award of Excellence” would imply. Read more.

Gender Studies Hoaxers Kick an Academic Hornet’s Nest

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

Skeptic magazine reveals an Alan Sokal-style hoax on the journal Cogent Social Sciences–an attempt to mock both what the authors perceive to be the excesses of feminist academia and open-access or pay-to-publish journals. So far, they have at least succeeded in getting a lot of attention, pro and con.


“The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies”
by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsey
Skeptic
May 19, 2017

The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

That’s how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a “paper” consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.
This paper should never have been published. Titled, “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” our paper “argues” that “The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct.” As if to prove philosopher David Hume’s claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. (In case the PDF is removed, we’ve archived it.)

Assuming the pen names “Jamie Lindsay” and “Peter Boyle,” and writing for the fictitious “Southeast Independent Social Research Group,” we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn’t be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what “post-structuralist discursive gender theory” actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. Read more.

Doctor Humor

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Office Pranks, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Because we could use something light-hearted…


“Laughter really IS the best medicine! Photos reveal the hilarious – and occasionally inappropriate – pranks that doctors pull on their patients”
by Martha Cliff
Daily Mail
May 4, 2017

Let’s face it, no one enjoys a visit to the doctors – however these GPs are determined to add some humour to their practice.

A collection of images compiled by BoredPanda has revealed the hilarious and sometimes wildly inappropriate gags pulled by medical professionals.

One sign pointed out to those complaining about waiting that they were the lucky ones as their condition doesn’t warrant them in danger enough to be seen first.

Another endearing photo sees a young girl playing a game of Operation with her nurse ahead of a serious operation.

So whether you deem these photos amusing or unprofessional – they were sure to ease the nerves of the patients. Read more.