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

Improv Everywhere: The Pirates of Central Park

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:


The Pirates of Central Park

For our latest mission, we staged a pirate invasion on the Central Park Lake, converting a rowboat rental into a pirate ship. Actors dressed as pirates from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction set sail on the lake, searching for the keys to their treasure chest. The pirates interrogated the New Yorkers and tourists on other rowboats and by the shore, much to their delight.

Enjoy the video and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.

Created and Directed by Charlie Todd / Produced by: Deverge / Music by Tyler Walker

Catching Up With Serial Fabulist Stephen Glass

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy

Hanna Rosin attempts to square up with her former bestie, one of American journalism’s most notorious bullshitters.

Bonus: Longform.org has a confounding collection of essays on frauds in journalism.


“Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry”
By Hanna Rosin
The New Republic
November 10, 2014

He nearly destroyed this magazine. Sixteen years later, his former best friend finally confronts him.

shattered-glass2

The last time I talked to Stephen Glass, he was pleading with me on the phone to protect him from Charles Lane. Chuck, as we called him, was the editor of The New Republic and Steve was my colleague and very good friend, maybe something like a little brother, though we are only two years apart in age. Steve had a way of inspiring loyalty, not jealousy, in his fellow young writers, which was remarkable given how spectacularly successful he’d been in such a short time. While the rest of us were still scratching our way out of the intern pit, he was becoming a franchise, turning out bizarre and amazing stories week after week for The New Republic, Harper’s, and Rolling Stone—each one a home run.

I didn’t know when he called me that he’d made up nearly all of the bizarre and amazing stories, that he was the perpetrator of probably the most elaborate fraud in journalistic history, that he would soon become famous on a whole new scale. I didn’t even know he had a dark side. It was the spring of 1998 and he was still just my hapless friend Steve, who padded into my office ten times a day in white socks and was more interested in alphabetizing beer than drinking it. When he called, I was in New York and I said I would come back to D.C. right away. I probably said something about Chuck like: “Fuck him. He can’t fire you. He can’t possibly think you would do that.”

I was wrong, and Chuck, ever-resistant to Steve’s charms, was as right as he’d been in his life. (more…)

Faking out the Foodies

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

Food prank!


“Idiot Foodies Pranked Into Lovin’ McDonalds”
by Tara McGinley
Dangerous Minds
October 22, 2014

mcdonalds-happy-meal-mascotTwo Dutch pranksters from Life Hunters TV decided to hit up the annual culinary food convention in Houten to see if they could deceive foodies and “high-end food experts” with their supposed restaurant’s new “organic” alternatives to fast food. All these two guys did was go to a local McDonald’s to buy some artery cloggin’ fixins, chopped up the Mickey D’s into neat little squares and then stuck some toothpicks into the food. That’s all.

So were the foodies impressed with this duo’s new line of organic fast food? You betcha! One “expert” remarked:

“I feel some warmth releasing in my mouth. There a lot of different tastes!”

Yes and all of those different tastes swirling around your palette have names that sound like something you heard in chemistry class…

You’ll be pleased to know that at least one of the “experts” tasting the McDonald’s fare thinks it:

“Tastes like chicken.”

Several thought it tasted even better than “real” McDonald’s!

Watch the video: Before hitting “play” on this video, please click on “settings” and then select “subtitles.”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qa6QXBxxWw&w=425&h=315]

Chainsaw Massacre Hoax

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Filed under: Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Watch the video:

Read about the hoax here

How’d they do that?

Watch Behind the Scenes with Vitaly Zdorovetskiy:

Reinflating the Balloon Boy Hoax

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, The History of Pranks

Reality-TV-obsessed Richard Heene, whose theatrical Balloon Boy hoax transfixed the nation back in 2009, is back in the media. His son Falcon (the one everyone thought was accidentally in the homemade “flying saucer” when it took off) and his brothers have formed a band and written a song called “Balloon Hoax No Hoax.”

When you’re out of helium, try hot air…


Watch the video:

Read an interview with the family from qz.com, “Catching Up With Balloon Boy and His Family, Five Years Later”

Banksy Bust Bomb

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks

Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist’s identity has been revealed
by Ella Alexander
20 October 2014
Independent.co.uk

Banksy has not been arrested, despite a report stating the contrary.

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

Banksy, AKA Paul Horner, seen here being taken into police custody.(AP Photo/Dennis System)

“The Banksy arrest is a hoax,” the street artist’s publicist, Jo Brooks, told The Independent.

However, the prank seems to have duped the internet, with his name quickly trending on Twitter.

A false story, published on US website National Report, alleged that the identity of the British street artist had finally been revealed and he had been arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police and is being held “without bail on charges of vandalism, conspiracy, racketeering and counterfeiting”.

The story claimed that Banksy’s London art studio had been raided, where “thousands of dollars of counterfeit money along with future projects of vandalism” were found, along with ID thought to belong to the famed anonymous street artist, which allegedly identified him as Liverpool-born Paul Homer.

However, a quick Google search shows that the quotes were originally published in 2013 on hoax website on PRLog. Read the rest of the story here.

Online Video Game Shooter Gets Swatted “Live on Camera”

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

UPDATE: A more indepth look, via Emerson Damerson, at “swatting” in the online gaming sphere — The dark side of livestreaming entertainment, by Richard Lewis, The Kernel, October 12th, 2014.


Live Stream Captures SWAT Team Charging Into Gamer’s Office
by Cate Matthews
The Huffington Post
August 28, 2014

When YouTuber Jordan Mathewson began his live stream Wednesday, playing a first person-shooter video game, he wasn’t expecting to end his session on the floor with real guns trained on him.

Watch the video from local Denver news:

Mathewson and the rest of his gaming collective apparently fell victim to a prank known as “swatting,” where hoaxers force an armed police response by calling in a false report on rival gamers.

Kootra Gets Swatted News Report YouTubeMathewson was about two hours into a game of “Counter-Strike” at the collective’s office in Littleton, Colorado, when he heard a commotion outside his door. A SWAT team was searching the place, and they were about to charge into his office. As seen in the video, he quickly picked up on what was happening. (more…)

Barbie Iconography

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Filed under: Parody, The Big One

Two Argentinian artists, Marianela Perelli and Pool Paolini, will present their take on popular culture with “Barbie, The Plastic Religion” on October 11 in Buenos Aires. Read more here.

Plastic prophets: Barbies become religious icons 5

Plastic prophets: Barbies become religious icons 3

via BoingBoing

True Detective’s New Cast Has Big Shoes to Fill

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Filed under: Parody

From Funny or Die: Tiny Detectives with Kate Mara and Ellen Page


The internet was unhappy with the casting of ‘True Detective’ season 2, so the creators have started from scratch with an entirely new show.

Watch the video:
True Detective new cast

via digg

Fame on a Budget

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Instructionals, Media Pranks, Pranksters

From Mark Borkowski:


How to become internet famous for $68
by Kevin Ashton
Medium.com

The secret of online celebrity Santiago Swallow.

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Santiago Swallow may be one of the most famous people no one has heard of.

His eyes fume from his Twitter profile: he is Hollywood-handsome with high cheekbones and dirty blond, collar-length hair. Next to his name is one of social media’s most prized possessions, Twitter’s blue “verified account” checkmark. Beneath it are numbers to make many in the online world jealous: Santiago Swallow has tens of thousands of followers. The tweets Swallow sends them are cryptic nuggets of wisdom that unroll like scrolls from digital fortune cookies: “Before you lose weight, find hope,” says one. Another: “To write is to live endlessly.”

His Wikipedia biography explains why: (more…)

How to Fakebook Your Vacation

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Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks

Dutch Girl Fakes a Trip to South East Asia
by Will Jones
GapYear.com
September 9, 2014

Fakebooking taken to a new level on this ‘gap year’ in South East Asia

Fakebooking Your Vacation

If you’ve ever spent a rainy evening thumbing through your Facebook newsfeed glaring with scarcely controllable envy at the seemingly endless torrent of pictures posted by unbearably smug friends who are backpacking through some country with scenes so vibrant you wonder if the saturation setting on your screen is faulty, relax.

It could all be a backpack of lies.

For five weeks Dutch student Zilla van den Born subjected her Facebook friends to the above, claiming to be travelling around South East Asia, when in reality she had never left her home city of Amsterdam. She went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion, which was fed to her friends and family alike. The only person who knew the truth was her boyfriend.

During her 42 day ‘break’ she did all the things you would expect of someone in her position.
(more…)

The Case for Giving Andy Kaufman a Rest

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Publicity Stunts, The History of Pranks, The World of the Prank

It’s 30 years later and Bob Zmuda, writing partner of the legendary prankster Andy Kaufman, won’t let his friend continue his quiet rendezvous with Elvis. Washington Post writer, Amy Argetsinger, ponders whether stoking decades-old rumors that Kaufman faked his death discredits the man and the astounding pranks he pulled while he was among us.


“Andy Kaufman: Why It’s Time to Celebrate the Comic and Bury the Death Hoax”
by Amy Argetsinger
Washington Post
October 9, 2014

Here we go again.

Thirty years after Andy Kaufman died too young of cancer — cutting short a brief, sensational career that changed the face of American comedy, and maybe even American irony — the old Andy Kaufman death-hoax theory is back.

It’s new and improved for the Internet era, going viral now that the ragtag community of Andy Truthers has been joined by a credentialed ally, Kaufman’s longtime writing partner Bob Zmuda. In a new book co-authored by Kaufman’s girlfriend Lynne Margulies, Zmuda recalls years of conversations in which his friend outlined plans to exit show business by faking his own death.

“He said to keep a lid on it for 30 years,” says Zmuda in a phone interview. “It’s 30 years now. . . . What I’m doing is sending a telegram to Andy: It’s time to come in from the cold.” (more…)

Projecting Solidarity for Hong Kong Protestors

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Messages Supporting Hong Kong Protesters Stream from Web to the Streets
by Adario Strange
Mashable
September 30, 2014

IMG_3844.JPGMessages supporting Occupy Central sent in to a Hong Kong art collective’s website are turned into a stream real-time, projected graffiti. Read the full article here.

image: Add Oil Machine for OCLP

Hazmat Suited Doctor Brings it Home

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Publicity Stunts

From CNN, October 5, 2014:

Doctor Gilbert Mobley wore a hazmat suit and strolled through the world’s busiest airport to make a point about Ebola.

Watch the video – Doctor: The CDC is lying about Ebola

The Wabuska Mangler: A Vintage Nevada Hoax

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

As Nevada turns 150, columnist Barry Smith celebrates a tradition of Silver State media malarkey.


“Nevada Newspapers Couldn’t Resist a Good Hoax”
By Barry Smith
Reno Gazette-Journal
October 5, 2014

shapeimage_3Nevada’s upcoming 150th birthday and National Newspaper Week make for a good opportunity to remind residents of one of this state’s seldom-celebrated contributions to journalism:

The hoax. The lie. Tall tales.

Mark Twain, of course, is our best-known example of a myth maker. But he’s not alone in the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame among Silver State journalists who didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

The pinnacle, as far as newspapers go, would be the Wabuska Mangler.

You may have passed through Wabuska on your way from Weeks to Weed Heights without realizing this tiny hamlet once had a feisty newspaper called the Mangler.

Well, it didn’t.

The Wabuska Mangler was entirely made up by Sam Davis, who was editor of The Morning Appeal in Carson City from 1879 to 1898, as a way to get outrageous opinions into the Appeal by attributing them to somebody else. (more…)