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

Forget About Getting a Table Here

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, How to Pull Off a Prank, Instructionals, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The London restaurant so exclusive that no one could ever get a reservation. H/t Bob O’Keefe.

Bonus: Oobah Butler’s Vice play book on how he pulled it off.


‘The Shed at Dulwich’ was London’s top-rated restaurant. Just one problem: It didn’t exist.
By Eli Rosenberg
The Washington Post
December 8, 2017

It was a unique restaurant in London and certainly the hardest to get into. And it beat out thousands of upscale restaurants in the city to earn the top ranking on the popular review site TripAdvisor for a time, drawing a flood of interest.

There was just one small problem: It didn’t exist.

The restaurant was just a listing created this year by a freelance writer, Oobah Butler, who used his home — a shed in the Dulwich area in South London — as the inspiration for a high-concept new restaurant that he posted on TripAdvisor: “The Shed at Dulwich.”

With hardly more than some fake reviews — “Best shed based experience in London!” a particularly cheeky one read — and a website, it had gamed the site’s ratings in London, a highly sought after designation that could bring a surge of business to any restaurant, let alone one in major global capital.

The story has by now traveled around the globe and back, after Butler wrote a piece that exposed the ruse on Vice. It has been hailed as an incredible feat. But in an era increasingly influenced by disinformation online, it also has served as another reminder of the ease with which pranksters and other dishonest actors are able to manipulate online platforms to sometimes unthinkable results. Read more.

Tracing the Roots of Wishful Thinking

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin, The History of Pranks

As the year-end recaps gather on the horizon, many will attempt to make sense of Donald Trump’s ascent to the Presidency. Kurt Andersen’s book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire provides a fascinating road-map.

The Atlantic posted a long excerpt. This is from Delancey Place about the roots of our inbred susceptibility to advertising.


“Are Americans More Willing to Believe in Advertising?”
Delancey Place
December 4, 2017

From the earliest days, and continuing for decades and even centuries, promoters of the New World enticed colonizers with the promise of riches, causing the historian Daniel Boorstin to suggest that ‘American civilization [has] been shaped by the fact that there was a kind of natural selection here of those people who were willing to believe in advertising’:

“Although [Sir Walter] Raleigh never visited North America himself, he believed that in addition to its gold deposits, his realm might somehow be the biblical Garden of Eden. … A large fraction of the first settlers dispatched by Raleigh became sick and died. He dispatched a second expedi­tion of gold-hunters. It also failed, and all those colonists died. But Sir Walter continued believing the dream of gold.

“In 1606 the new English king, James, despite Raleigh’s colonization di­sasters, gave a franchise to two new private enterprises, the Virginia Com­pany of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth, to start colonies. The southern one, under the auspices of London, they named Jamestown after the monarch. Their royal charter was clear about the main mission: ‘to dig, mine, and search for all Manner of Mines of Gold … And to HAVE and enjoy the Gold.’ As Tocqueville wrote in his history two centuries later, ‘It was … gold-seekers who were sent to Virginia. No noble thought or conception above gain presided over the foundation of the new settlements.’ Two­-thirds of those first hundred gold-seekers promptly died. But the captain of the expedition returned to England claiming to have found ‘gold showing mountains.’ … In fact, Jamestown ore they dug and refined and shipped to England turned out to be iron pyrite, fool’s gold….” Read more.

Dance Liberation Front Declares Victory against NYC’s Anti-Fun Cabaret Law

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

Kudos to Rev Jen, Robert Prichard, Faceboy and everyone who contributed to this great act of civil disobedience in New York City!


Long Before Cabaret Law Repeal, ‘Dance Commandos’ Boogied for Justice
by Rev Jen
Chelsea Now
November 20, 2017

At the “Robot Dance Protest” at Federal Hall back in the early days of the Dance Liberation Front, from left, patriots John Foster, Rev. Jen, and Faceboy. Photo courtesy Rev. Jen.

It’s time for a victory dance! After 91 years, New York’s archaic Cabaret Law has been repealed in a 41-to-1 vote. So put on your dancin’ shoes, wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, head to your favorite watering hole, and shake your booty clean off. (We have to wait until 30 days until after de Blasio signs off on the legislation, but it’s never too early to practice your moves at home.)

This victory holds a special space in my heart, as I have been working on the law’s repeal since 1998 when I formed the Dance Liberation Front (DLF), along with fellow Art Stars Robert Prichard and Faceboy.

It all started one morning when I bumped into Robert Prichard, the proprietor of the now-defunct Surf Reality (172 Allen St., btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.). He told me that the previous evening, Baby Jupiter, a nearby club where I performed every Monday, was busted because their customers had been dancing.

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly.

“Dancing?” I asked.

Rob explained that in order to crack down on nightlife, Giuliani had dusted off a regulation from the 1920s called the “Cabaret Law,” which states that more than four people dancing in an unlicensed venue serving alcohol is illegal. Out of the thousands of bars in New York City, only a handful of the most well-financed clubs were able to obtain the dancing license.

It took a minute to process the Kafkaesque concept: Dancing was illegal in “Fun City.”

Rob suggested we create a group — the DLF — to bring to light the heinous crime Guiliani’s nightlife task force was perpetrating on the public. Read the rest of this story here.

Another James O’Keefe’s Failed Trolling Op

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Score 1 for investigative journalism on James O’Keefe‘s botched attempt to discredit The Washington Post on behalf of a Senate candidate and alleged pedophile.


“A woman approached The Post with dramatic — and false — tale about Roy Moore. She appears to be part of undercover sting operation.”
By Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites
The Washington Post
November 27, 2017

A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.

But on Monday morning, Post reporters saw her walking into the New York offices of Project Veritas, an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups. The organization sets up undercover “stings” that involve using false cover stories and covert video recordings meant to expose what the group says is media bias. Read more.

Well, Here’s a Novel Phone Prank… Threatening Pro-Trump Robocalls

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, You Decide

Gizmodo investigates confusing robocalls warning people to stop criticizing President Trump. Some of the recipients are harsh Trump critics, some aren’t. Some known political provocateurs may or may not be involved, and no one really gets it.


“People Are Getting Robocalls About Their ‘Derogatory’ Trump Posts”
by Kashmir Hill
Gizmodo
November 29, 2017

Brett Vanderbrook was driving for Uber last week when he got a call from an unfamiliar number. He let it go to voicemail and when he listened to it later, he got a shock: It was a recorded message telling him to stop making “negative and derogatory posts about President Trump.”

“It was kind of threatening. I was dumbfounded at first and then creeped out,” Vanderbrook, who lives in Dallas, Texas, said in a phone interview. “Then I was angry and that’s when I decided to share it.”

Vanderbrook makes progressive political posts on Facebook, voicing support for gun control, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant rights. None of his public posts mention President Trump or come across as “derogatory.”

Vanderbrook is not alone, though. Across the country, and even in Canada, people have reported on social media that they’ve received the same robocall. The earliest complaint dates back to July. The intensity of the calling campaign is hard to gauge; a search of complaints turned up 10 reports scattered across different platforms.

The reports, though, are all consistent. When the call goes to voicemail, as it did for Vanderbrook, the beginning of the recording gets cut off, but people describing the calls on Twitter, Facebook, and the telemarketer-reporting site ShouldIAnswer.com have said that the recording claims to come from “Citizens for Trump.” Read more.

Replacement Family Available. No Questions Asked.

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Illusion and Magic, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks

Why suffer through the ups and downs of real relationships when you can have the perfect friend, husband or father for a fee? This is a stunning tale of hyper-normalization in Japan.


“How to Hire Fake Friends and Family”
by Roc Morin
The Atlantic
November 7, 2017

Money may not be able to buy love, but here in Japan, it can certainly buy the appearance of love—and appearance, as the dapper Ishii Yuichi insists, is everything. As a man whose business involves becoming other people, Yuichi would know. The handsome and charming 36-year-old is on call to be your best friend, your husband, your father, or even a mourner at your funeral.

His 8-year-old company, Family Romance, provides professional actors to fill any role in the personal lives of clients. With a burgeoning staff of 800 or so actors, ranging from infants to the elderly, the organization prides itself on being able to provide a surrogate for almost any conceivable situation.

Yuichi believes that Family Romance helps people cope with unbearable absences or perceived deficiencies in their lives. In an increasingly isolated and entitled society, the CEO predicts the exponential growth of his business and others like it, as à la carte human interaction becomes the new norm.

I sat down recently with Yuichi in a café on the outskirts of Tokyo, to discuss his business and what it means to be, in the words of his company motto, “more than real.” Read more.

Today In Human Head Transplants

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

In the “quit while you’re ahead” department…


“World’s first human head transplant a success, professor says”
By Yaron Steinbuch
New York Post
November 17, 2017

The world’s first human head transplant has been carried out on a corpse in China, according to a controversial Italian doctor who said Friday that scientists are now ready to perform the surgery on a living person.

Professor Sergio Canavero, chief of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, said the operation was carried out by a team led by Dr. Xiaoping Ren, who last year successfully grafted a head onto a monkey’s body.

“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done. A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage,” Canavero said at a press conference in Vienna, the Telegraph reported.

“And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent,” said Canavero, who has gained a mix of fame and notoriety for his Frankenstein-like pursuits. Read more.

Canards For Humanity

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire

In what has become an annual American holiday tradition, the creative team behind the party game Cards Against Humanity is pulling a satirical marketing stunt. (In 2014, we talked with ringleader Max Temkin about the “Box of Bullshit” and his reverence for Abbie Hoffman.) This time, their gimmick carries a fresh and righteous political charge.


“Cards Against Humanity is the undisputed champion of holiday promotions”
by Lindsey Quinn
The Hustle
November 16, 2017

The world’s raunchiest card game has purchased a plot of vacant land along the Mexico-US border and has hired an eminent domain lawyer to make it “as time-consuming and expensive as possible” for the Trump administration to build its proposed wall.

To fund their effort, CAH offered a package of “six surprises” for $15 — all of which are now sold out.

Since the game was launched by 8 high school friends in 2011, it’s gained a reputation for pulling incredibly on-point PR stunts. Read more.

“Get Stuffed” Hook-Up Truck Holiday Special Event

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Spy Emerson’s Hook-Up Truck, a mobile meeting room advocating safe sexual adventuring, exercising sexual freedom as a human right, hosts an evening of live street theater… and a unique trunk sale.


When: December 1st, 5-8pm during Oakland’s First Friday
Where: Directly outside the Feelmore Adult Gallery on Telegraph Avenue at 17th Street in San Francisco

The “Get Stuffed” Holiday Special Event will present a lot of entertaining activities, including “Sexual Compatibility” Tarot card readings, games of Spin-the-Bottle and official Church of the SubGenius “short-duration marriages” performed by Dr. Hal Robins. Acknowledging both potential religious restrictions and modern dating rituals, the union provided by these ceremonies dissolves at an agreed upon time.

“A chameleon-like ability to flourish simultaneously in multiple art forms marks the Protean presence of Spy Emerson. No stranger to controversy, her installations and public performances create lively attention wherever they turn up. Her creations, lately the subject of national attention and commentary, are always socially acute and with the essential leavening quality of informed playfulness and humor.” –Dr. Hal Robins, Church of the SubGenius

(more…)

Watch the Movie the Mainstream Media Does Not Want You To See!

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Filed under: Art of the Prank - the movie, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

ART OF THE PRANK (the movie)
is now available for
Community Screenings
and on
VOD on iTunes, Amazon and more!

READ THE PRESS RELEASE HERE:
The Movie the Mainstream Media Does Not Want Anyone to See
Relight Films releases “Art of the Prank,”
an expose of the weaknesses of the news media.

Did Fake News Skew the Presidential Election?

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Prank News, Pranksters

UPDATE November 9, 2017: Paul Horner, the protagonist of this story, was found dead at home on September 18, 2017, possibly from a drug overdose. Poynter.org investigates how his websites have disappeared in recent weeks, plus other unanswered questions.


Among the myriad of influences on the presidential election results, a prominent and pervasive force has been fake news, propagated by unscrupulous merchants seeking traffic via social media. Here’s a quasi-confession of one such voice.

Here also, from NYMag.com is “An Extremely Helpful List of Fake and Misleading News Sites to Watch Out For“.


Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’
by Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post
November 17, 2016

imrs-sm

What do the Amish lobby, gay wedding vans and the ban of the national anthem have in common? For starters, they’re all make-believe — and invented by the same man.

Paul Horner, the 38-year-old impresario of a Facebook fake-news empire, has made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years. He has twice convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy; he also published the very viral, very fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year.

But in recent months, Horner has found the fake-news ecosystem growing more crowded, more political and vastly more influential: In March, Donald Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, even tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles. His stories have also appeared as news on Google.

In light of concerns that stories like Horner’s may have affected the presidential election, and in the wake of announcements that both Google and Facebook would take action against deceptive outlets, Intersect called Horner to discuss his perspective on fake news. This transcript has been edited for clarity, length and — ahem — bad language. ” target=”_blank”>Read more

Artificially Intelligent Chat Bots vs. Email Scammers

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

Netsafe’s Re:scam to the rescue! Email scammers– prepare for an AI email deluge.


This AI Bot That Messes With Email Scammers As Long As Possible Is Brilliant
Digg
November 8, 2017

Take their time, save your money

​Email scammers work in bulk, blasting out tons of emails in the hopes of getting a few bites which they can follow up on. To counter this, NetSafe, an online safety non-profit in New Zealand, built Re:scam, which messes with scammers automatically:

Watch the video:

To mess with a scammer, just forward a scam email to me@rescam.org:

Re:scam can take on multiple personas, imitating real human tendencies with humour and grammatical errors, and can engage with infinite scammers all at once, meaning it can continue any email conversation for as long as possible. Re:scam will now turn the tables on the scammers by wasting their time, and ultimately damage the profits for scammers…
The aim is to waste the time of scammers, without wasting a second of yours. When you forward an email, you believe to be a scam to me@rescam.org a check is done to make sure it is a scam attempt, and then a proxy email address is used to engage the scammer. This will flood their inboxes with responses without any way for them to tell who is a chat-bot, and who is a real vulnerable target. Once you’ve forwarded an email nothing more is required on your part, but the more you send through, the more effective it will be [Re:scam]

Suburban Camouflage

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Illusion and Magic, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, The History of Pranks, The World of the Prank

All’s fair in war, (and the love of deceit) including manufacturing urban landscapes. The podcast 99 Percent Invisible has built its audience on the power of paying attention to details that most people don’t think about… or even know. From its blog comes this tale of an aircraft manufacturing facility concealed within a fake neighborhood in Seattle.


“Prop Town: The Fake Rooftop Suburb That Hid a Whole WWII Airplane Factory”
by Kurt Kohlstedt
99 Percent Invisible
November 3, 2017

Boeing’s aircraft manufacturing facilities were critical to the World War II efforts of Allied forces. But the unexpected attack on Pearl Harbor stoked fears of potential aerial assaults by Japanese forces. Some factories put up camouflage netting to disguise structures, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took things a big step further on top of the Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle, crafting an entire faux neighborhood.

By the mid-1930s, Boeing’s old Plant 1 was becoming increasingly outdated. Interested in keeping the company local, an area truck driver offered to sell Boeing a large plot of land (for a nominal one-dollar fee) on which to build a new factory. Plant 2 was designed and erected to apply modern assembly-line technologies and speed up production.

This new complex grew and expanded, ultimately spanning 1.7 million square feet. It would come to facilitate the assembly of B-17 Flying Fortresses, B-29 Superfortresses, B-47 Stratojets, B-52 Stratofortresses and other aircraft through and beyond the war. Read more.

Richard Hambleton – RIP

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, The History of Pranks

Richard Hambleton, an artist credited with inspiring Banksy, passed away this week from unknown causes just days before his MoMA show and a month before the release of Shadowman, a new film about his life and work. Here’s an article about him from earlier this year.


The epic rise and disgusting flameout of the artist who ruled 80s New York
by Raquel Laneri
New York Post
April 15, 2017

In the early 1980s, a series of shadowy street paintings — life-size monsters and cowboys — loomed large over the East Village. Anticipating the works of Banksy by more than a decade, the unsigned figures were created under cover of darkness on buildings and bridges. They weren’t mere graffiti, but painterly works reminiscent of Jackson Pollock. Downtown residents buzzed about who could be behind them.

The art world knew who it was: a soft-spoken Canadian — often clad in a cravat and sunglasses — named Richard Hambleton.

At downtown galleries, his mysterious figures fetched thousands of dollars more than work by his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He attended parties with beautiful women on his arm, and Andy Warhol begged him, in vain, to sit for a portrait.

Hambleton canvased Manhattan with some 450 shadow men — and managed to get a few on the Berlin Wall, too. But by the 1990s, he was largely forgotten, living in a drug den on the Lower East Side. He was so poor that he would shoot himself up with heroin, then use the blood in his needle as paint. Read more here.

Bulgarian Superhero Shenanigans

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Bulgarian vandals are disrespecting Soviet military monuments, and the Russian government wants them to cut it out right now. H/t Naomi.


“Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Painting Soviet Monuments To Look Like American Superheroes”
By Staff
Earthly Mission
October 20, 2017

According to a report by the Moscow Times, pranksters in Bulgaria are repainting Soviet-era monuments so that Soviet military heroes look like American Superheroes. Needless to say, the Russians are not too happy about it.

Watch the video and then read more: