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

Unsanctioned Bust of Edward Snowden Erected (Briefly)

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

From Deborah Thomas:


There’s a Massive, Illicit Bust of Edward Snowden Stuck to a War Monument in Brooklyn
by Bucky Turco
AnimalNewYork.com
April 6, 2015

Illicit statue of Edward Snowden erected in Brooklyn

While most people slept, a trio of artists and some helpers installed a bust of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Brooklyn on Monday morning. The group, which allowed ANIMAL to exclusively document the installation on the condition that we hide their identities, hauled the 100-pound sculpture into Fort Greene Park and up its hilly terrain just before dawn. They fused it to part of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a memorial to Revolutionary War soldiers. As of press time, the sculpture was still there.

Read the full story of the erection on AnimalNewYork.com and the very quick removal by City park officials on NYDailyNews.com.

Watch the video:

The 30th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade Marches On!!

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Filed under: Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

To celebrate April Fools’ Day in New York City, SinoVision’s Cosmo Times, a lifestyle TV show available to over 10 million international viewers, featured an April Fools’ Day Parade planning committee meeting preparing for today’s festivities. Problem is, they were covering a planning meeting for a parade that doesn’t exist.

Huffington Post covered the story: Chinese News Agency SinoVision Falls For Joey Skaggs’ 30-Year-Old April Fools’ Day Prank

Happy April Fools’ Day!


April Fool’s 2015 Geeky Gags from the Tech Sphere (Roundup)

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

It’s April Fool’s Day, and TechCrunch is sending mixed signals. Yesterday, it published a rant about timely corporate PR stunts echoing the grumpy, contrarian style of the blog’s departed founder Michael Arrington.

And yet, today, it posted a fun gallery of its industry’s most clever gags, including a steam-powered gaming console, a reddit community dedicated to remixes of the Space Jam theme, and much more.

Is it attempting to drum up controversy? Who even knows anymore!


“April Fool’s 2015: The Mega-Roundup Of The Best Gags”
By Greg Kumparak
TechCrunch
April 1, 2015

Space Jam /r/listentothisIt’s that time of year again! The time when a massive chunk of the tech industry drops what it’s doing and puts all of its collective effort into getting a few laughs. As we do every year, we’re gathering up the best/worse/most cringe-tastic efforts in one place for your perusal. We’ll be updating this list as the day goes on, so check back in later! Read more.

April Fools’ Day 2015 Prank Round-up

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News

April Fools’ day is upon us and the Internet is awash with well-funded corporate pranks, with Google once again leading the pack. For example, check out Google reversed at http://com.google. And, the Google Japan Panda product launch here. Or, you can play Pac-Man on your very own street at http://maps.google.com.

And, oh… Google says Australia is moving north

Beyond the all-seeing, all-knowing world of Google, there’s much, much more funny stuff all of which will be updated throughout the day on The Telegraph’s Best Spoofs and Pranks in Pictures; LifeHacker’s April Fools’ Day 2015 Spoilers: All The Fake Stories And Pranks Revealed; and Gamespot’s Video Game Joke Roundup.


Celebrate New York’s 30th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade!

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Filed under: Satire

NYC April Fools' Day Parade jesterWe’re 30 and proud of it! New York’s spectacular April Fools’ Day Parade kicks into its fourth decade of hilarious irreverence, poking fun at the past year’s public displays of hype, hypocrisy, deceit, bigotry, and downright foolishness. Nothing and no one is sacred. Our satire knows no bounds. In honor of our 30th year, we’ll be giving 30 lucky revelers free cartoon interpretations of their favorite taboo religious icons, picked at random at the end of the parade in Washington Square Park.


New York, New York — The 30th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade will begin at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street at 12 noon, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Rain or shine, the parade will march down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square Park for the climactic selection of the King of Fools from the costumed marching look-alikes.

NYC Annual April Fools' Day ParadeThe theme for this year’s parade is “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. The Grand Marshall will be Mayor Bill de Blasio wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt. He will lead the NYPD Marching Band playing Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me”, however, they will be marching backwards in a continuing show of disrespect for the Mayor. Special guests will include Ebola-infected volunteers recently returned from West Africa who have ignored their quarantines. Color commentary will be provided by NBC’s Brian Williams making it up as it happens.

The first float will be a Mobile Carnival Shooting Gallery where police officers are firing at young minority targets. Then comes a Three-Story Glass Elevator float featuring President Obama on the 3rd floor with armed civilians; Beyoncé’s sister Solange ferociously assaulting Jay-Z on the 2nd floor; and NFL star Ray Rice dragging out his unconscious fiancée on the ground floor. Next are 2016 Presidential Hopeful Clowns riding in a hot-air balloon inflated by their own boasts and flatulence. They will be tethered to a voracious media circus. This will be followed by the Sarah Palin Bar Brawl float, packed with family members slugging it out with bar patrons. Next are several cattle trucks filled with the first wave of 11 million illegal immigrants en route to deportation, followed by a brigade of Russian soldiers en route to the Lower East Side’s Ukrainian neighborhood in order to annex it. Bringing up the rear will be an International Search and Rescue float looking for missing Malaysian flight 370. All floats will be powered by recalled GM vehicles. Parade organizers are not responsible for any injuries or deaths. (more…)

Truman Capote’s Last Write: A Fake Non-Fiction Masterpiece

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes

Reprinted from 1992 by Longform.org, here’s the fascinating unraveling of Truman Capote’s mysterious and clearly fake “non-fiction account of an American crime”.


Hoax: Secrets That Truman Capote Took to the Grave
by Peter and Leni Gillman
Sunday Times Magazine
June, 1992

Uncovering the real story behind a supposedly true account.

Truman Capote

Joe Fox was astounded. On his desk, this late autumn day in 1979, was a manuscript bearing the name of Truman Capote. Two months before, Capote had promised Fox a “surprise,” but Fox had been unimpressed: as Capote’s long-suffering editor at the New York publishing company, Random House, he had grown weary of his endless promises. Now Capote had delivered a manuscript to rank with his masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

Published 13 years before, Capote’s true-life account of the murder of a ranching family in Kansas had brought him literary acclaim, with status and royalties to march. Yet Capote had written nothing to match it since. He had supposedly been working on a novel, Answered Prayers, but for more than a decade Fox had watched deadlines come and go with nothing from Capote but a series of excuses.

The gossip-mongers of the literary world were proclaiming that Capote was burnt out, his sources of inspiration dissipated by alcohol and cocaine. Now Capote had confounded them all by delivering a sequel to In Cold Blood. He called it Hand-Carved Coffins, adding the potent subtitle: “A non-fiction account of an American crime.”

Read the whole story here.


Can You Spot the Fake Self-Help Books?

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Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Pranksters, Satire

“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.”
– George Carlin

centaurWriting shallow self-help volumes is the last refuge of the soi-disant expert who hasn’t managed to crank out a livelihood doing anything more useful.

The genre rose with the Human Potential Movement and is still around to give us an endless litany of reasons to be miserable. If you want to improve your circumstances and adjust to these times, try developing some skepticism.

Self-help has always been a fat target for pranksters and satirists. One wily redditor carries on the tradition by creating his own glaring fakes and sneaking them into bookstores alongside the “legitimate” titles. Have a look! Is there really much of a difference?

So far, the top comment reads, “Joke’s on you. You have people interested in these books that want to buy them.”


Molla Nisreddin: A Classic of Iranian Satire

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Satire, The History of Pranks

Yes, you read that correctly.


“When Satire Conquered Iran”
Adapted by the Editors from Slavs and Tatars Presents: Molla Nasreddin: The Magazine That Would’ve Could’ve Should’ve
New York Review of Books Blog
September 18. 2012

MOLLA-move-forward-nocapPublished between 1906 and 1930, Molla Nasreddin was a satirical Azeri magazine edited by the writer Jalil Mammadguluzadeh (1866-1932), and named after Nasreddin, the legendary Sufi wise man-cum-fool of the Middle Ages. With an acerbic sense of humor and realist illustrations reminiscent of a Caucasian Honoré Daumier or Toulouse-Lautrec, Molla Nasreddin attacked the hypocrisy of the Muslim clergy, the colonial policies of the US and European nations towards the rest of the world, and the venal corruption of the local elite, while arguing repeatedly for Westernization, educational reform, and equal rights for women. Publishing such stridently anti-clerical material, in a Muslim country, in the early twentieth century, was done at no small risk to the editorial team. Members of MN were often harassed, their offices attacked, and on more than one occasion, Mammadguluzadeh had to escape from protesters incensed by the contents of the magazine. (more…)

The Amazing Story of Mingering Mike

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Urban Legends

The mystery of Mingering Mike: the soul legend who never existed
by Jon Ronson
The Guardian
11 February 2015

When a ‘crate-digger’ found a massive vinyl collection at a flea market, he couldn’t understand how a soul star who’d released over 100 records could just disappear. But the truth turned out to be even stranger. Jon Ronson goes in search of Mingering Mike

Intensely shy ... Mingering Mike at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photograph: Jocelyn Augustino for the Guardian

Intensely shy … Mingering Mike at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photograph: Jocelyn Augustino for the Guardian


This story begins with a record collector unearthing something extraordinary at a flea market one dawn in 2003. His name is Dori Hadar. He worked as a criminal investigator for a law firm in Washington DC and he’d been up all night with a client at the jail next door.

“It’s a miserable place to be, the DC jail,” Hadar tells me. “It’s stuffy and muggy and everything’s old and decaying.”

“Do you remember what your client had been accused of?” I ask.

Hadar shakes his head. “It’s basically drugs, guns and murders. Mainly.”

Hadar finally left the jail at 5am, just as a nearby flea market was setting up. He was a regular there – a “crate-digger” – for ever rifling through boxes of secondhand soul and funk albums, hunting for rarities. “It’s very competitive, the crate-digger world,” Hadar says. “People guard their boxes, they don’t want you to see, they pull the records out really fast.”

But Hadar had never been at the flea market at 5am before, and was thrilled to find no other crate-digger in sight. “And suddenly this enormous collection turned up. There must have been 15 boxes of albums.”

“As a crate-digger, that must be …”

“It’s the dream.”

All artworks courtesy the artist/Smithsonian American Art Museum

All artworks courtesy the artist/Smithsonian American Art Museum


Hadar was a true soul aficionado, with an encyclopaedic knowledge and 10,000 records at home. Which is why he was so amazed to discover 38 albums by a soul singer he had never heard of. His name was Mingering Mike. Hadar stared at the record covers. He read the liner notes. There was Mingering Mike’s 1968’s debut, Sit’tin by the Window. The cover art was a painting of a young man in a green T-shirt, good-looking, serious. The comedian Jack Benny had written the liner notes, calling him “a bright and intelligent young man with a great, exciting future awaiting him”.

So it transpired. There were greatest hits collections and a Bruce Lee concept album and movie soundtracks – including one for an action film called Stake Out. And there were live albums, like 1972’s Live from Paris, The Mingering Mike Review: ‘Their biggest show ever,’ read the liner notes. ‘What a night that was.’

Most of the song titles were upbeat and optimistic, like There’s Nothing Wrong With You Baby and Play It Cool, Don’t Be No Fool, Get Your Thing Together and Go Back to School. But other records had darker themes, like The Drug Store and Mama Takes Dope. Some were still wrapped in their original cellophane, price tags intact.

Hadar pulled out a few discs to see what condition they were in. Which was when he discovered to his enormous surprise that they weren’t vinyl. They were black-painted cardboard, with fake labels and hand-drawn grooves.

What had begun to dawn on Hadar was now totally apparent: Mingering Mike did not exist. He was somebody’s hugely detailed fantasy.

Read the whole story here.


Mingering Mike’s prodigious album collection is on exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2nd floor South, 8th and F Streets, N.W., February 27, 2015 – August 2, 2015


Afgan Artist Angers Her Harassers

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Afghan artist dons armour to counter men’s street harassment
by Emma Graham-Harrison
The Guardian
12 March 2015

Kubra Khademi’s eight-minute walk in Kabul wearing steel armour that emphasised her body shape inspires anger and death threats

 Kubra Khademi was surrounded by a mainly male crowd, which threw insults and stones during her walk. Photograph: Twitter

Kubra Khademi was surrounded by a mainly male crowd, which threw insults and stones during her walk. Photograph: Twitter


It took a month for Kubra Khademi to get the armour made exactly to her design; hours spent with a quiet, patient metalworker who usually made stoves.

The performance artist was an unusual customer on a street of dusty workshops in Kabul, where she chose her craftsman for his lack of curiosity about the outrageous steel plates she sketched out.

In a deeply conservative country where women are expected to shroud their figure and almost every inch of bare skin beyond hands, face and feet, she wanted steel armour that slipped over and emphasised her breasts, belly, crotch and bottom.

“He was a quiet man,” she recalls. “He didn’t question me at first, maybe because of my attitude. Then he asked: ‘What the hell is it?’, because other people were asking him.”

It was in fact part of a vanishing occurrence in the Afghan capital: a piece of performance art, planned by 27-year-old Khademi. The armour would be both protection and a defiant rebuke to the men whose groping hands and leering remarks make Kabul’s streets uncomfortable for almost any woman who walks them unchaperoned.

Photograph: Massoud Hossaini

Photograph: Massoud Hossaini

It was also an almost unimaginable provocation in a city where pornography may be avidly consumed in private, but women’s appearance is fiercely policed in public. Her performance lasted less than 10 minutes, but pictures soon ricocheted around social media, drawing anger and death threats – genuine worries in a country where women have been murdered for working as news anchors, actors and singers.

Read the rest of this article here.


Looking Back at Some Superstar Scambaiters

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

419 scams (a/k/a “NIGERIAN PRINCE” emails) have long, long fascinated certain quarters of the internet. They’ve flooded inboxes with outsider poetry and inspired satire and scambaiting, a prankish and dangerous literary subgenre explored at length in the fascinating work of journalist Eve Edelson.

Craigslist killers, social media “catfishing” scams, and the internet vigilantes of Anonymous now get much more attention, making 419ers look like relics, at least by internet standards. And yet, great work still emerges from the scambaiter milieu.

Here’s the absurd story (from 2013) of how a few intrepid 419-eaters orchestrated the cover of Vice, for posterity.


“How We Got the Skammerz Ishu Cover”
By Mishka Henner
Vice
December 17, 2013

Scam-baiting is a form of internet vigilantism in which the vigilante poses as a potential victim to expose a scammer. It’s essentially grassroots social engineering conducted as civic duty or even amusement, a cross-cultural double bluff in which participants on separate continents try to outdo each other in an online tug-of-war for one’s time and resources – and the other’s private banking information.

The baiter begins by “biting the hook” – answering an email from the scammer. The “victim” feigns receptivity to the financial lure, engaging the scammer in a drawn-out chain of emails. The most important element of baiting is to waste as much of the scammer’s time as possible – when a scammer is preoccupied, it prevents him from conning genuine victims.

Vice Skammerz IshuThe cover of the issue you’re looking at is a trophy from the most elaborate bait I’ve ever been involved in. Three scammers, spread across Libya and the United Arab Emirates, set the con. They posed as a widow named Nourhan Abdul Aziz, a doctor named Dr. Ahmadiyya Ibrahim and a banker going by Ephraim Adamoah. From Nourhan’s initial contact with my associate, Condo Rice, to Ephraim’s actually donning an Obama mask and shooting our cover for us, 7,000 words were exchanged over nearly four months of emails. During that time, Condo and I negotiated our way through a labyrinthine network of fake websites, bogus documents and broken English, and ended up with the weirdest photograph I’ve seen in a long time. Read the actual email correspondence here.


John Law Reminisces with Broke-Ass Stuart

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

An Interview With John Law on ‘The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart’
by E.D.W. Lynch
Laughing Squid
March 9, 2015

Broke-Ass Stuart interviews Laughing Squid partner John Law about his adventures in the San Francisco underground including The San Francisco Suicide Club, Cacophony Society and Burning Man on a live episode of The Kinda Late Show with Broke-Ass Stuart.

Watch the video:

College Rejection with a Sense of Humor

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Filed under: High School Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Somebody Give This High Schooler An Award For Her (Fake) Harvard Rejection Letter
by Ryan Grenoble
Huffington Post
March 6, 2015

The “Harvard rejection letter” that went viral earlier this week? Yeah, it’s fake. But you should still read it.

Molly McGaan, the letter’s author and a student at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, wrote the cheeky piece of satire for her school’s humor publication, “Citizen Poke,” and it viral — for obvious, hilarious reasons:

Fake Harvard Rejection Letter

Read more about this here.


The Legendary Hollyweed Sign

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

Los Angeles has an obnoxious habit of neglectfully erasing its own history. Before Hugh Hefner helped restore it in 1978, the city’s iconic Hollywood Sign had fallen into disrepair. It was during this low point that a few tenacious pranksters (and recreational drug enthusiasts) decided to temporarily alter it.

In the words of redditor bmwnut, “I do wonder where they put a 45 foot letter on which to practice.”


“In 1976, pot-head pranksters made ‘HOLLYWEED’ out of the iconic Hollywood sign”
By Rusty Blazenhoff
Dangerous Minds
February 27, 2015

On January 1, 1976, Tinseltown’s iconic sign read “Hollyweed” after art student Danny Finegood and 3 of his college pals used $50 worth of dark fabric to transform the famous Hollywood landmark temporarily. They had practiced it first on a scale model Finegood had crafted.Hollyweed

It was more than a simple practical joke, Finegood considered it a statement on the relaxed California marijuana law that went into effect that day.

Read more here.


Banksy Does Gaza

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody

Banksy has posted a new tourism video welcoming world travelers to the wonders of Gaza:

Some of the images:

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Watch the video:

More about this piece here.

More about Banksy here.