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

Movie Review: If You’re Reading This, You’ve Already Been Conned…

by
Filed under: All About Pranks, Art of the Prank - the movie, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

The Observer welcomes Joey Skaggs back to New York and ponders his relationship with the media.


If You’re Reading This, You’ve Already Been Conned: Joey Skaggs Doc Premieres in LES
by Spencer Roth-Rose
The New York Observer
June 13, 2016

Film documenting media hoax artist opens up LES Film Festival

skaggs-nyobserver_review

Good God, we’re easy to fool.

It feels a bit counterintuitive to be writing, in the media, about media hoaxer Joey Skaggs. Skaggs, who was interviewed this past week by the Observer, has made a name for himself since the 1960s through elaborate pranks that aim to highlight the absurdity of our media culture. So how’s a writer to know he’s not being punk’d by a man who describes fooling the media “as easy as a bowel movement”?

A new documentary detailing the greatest hits of Skagg’s hoaxing career opened up the Lower East Side Film Festival on Thursday night. Art of the Prank, directed by Italian newcomer Andrea Marini, is both an upbeat summary of decades of mischief (a confession booth on the back of a tricycle, a brothel for dogs, cockroaches that hold the key to the human immune system, each one eagerly lapped up by hasty news outlets), and an intimate portrait of an earnest man earnestly engaged in the business of tomfoolery.

Read more…

The King of Comment-Section Trolls Unveiled

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Pranksters, Satire

Meet Ken M, an uncommonly sharp internet troll whose mix of surreal humor and remarkable tenacity has helped him build a fanbase.

“The world’s greatest internet troll explains his craft”
by Phil Edwards
Vox
May 6, 2016

“How does an internet troll build his own following?

That’s a question that Ken McCarthy, a.k.a. Ken M, can answer: He’s the subject of a dedicated subreddit with more than 150,000 fans, as well as popular Facebook and Twitter pages. And that following is all for … leaving comments. As the above video shows, those comments are funny enough to create a legion of devoted fans.

Calling Ken a troll is a bit of a category error — though he does lure in commenters with false premises and hilariously mistaken information, his act is more like a new kind of improv comedy. To my critical eye, he’s an internet love child of early Smothers Brothers and Jack Handy, with a dash of Greg Packer, too. (Packer is a non-comedian famous for showing up as the “man on the street” in countless news articles, the same way Ken M is likely to pop up in comment sections.)

Ken experiments a lot. His persona easily transforms from that of a confused old man to a punctilious professor, but the result always has the same absurd sense of humor. Though his audience changes as well — he shifts between news comment sections and branded Facebook pages, among others — he adapts to each with jokes that he constructs on the fly.”


ART OF THE PRANK (The Movie) to Open the Lower East Side Film Festival

by
Filed under: Art of the Prank - the movie, Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Prank News, Pranksters

It’s a homecoming! Andrea Marini is interviewed by Kavitha Surana of Bedford + Bowery about his new film ART OF THE PRANK and about working with Joey Skaggs as he and Joey head towards Joey’s haunts from the 60s for the film’s New York premiere at the Lower East Side Film Festival June 9.


“Meet the King of All Media Hoaxes at the LES Film Festival”
by Kavitha Surana
Bedford + Bowery
June 2, 2016

skaggsposter‘Tis the season for festivals, apparently, and the Lower East Side is not one to be left in the dust. Along with an art festival in Bushwick, music festivals in Brooklyn, and more coming up in the next weeks, the Lower East Side Film Festival is coming to the nabe from June 9-16. It’ll hit the Sunshine Cinema, natch, as well as Hotel Indigo, the new Ludlow House and The Standard, East Village.

The headliner for opening night is the premier of The Art of the Prank, about a mischievous LES artist who loves nothing more than exposing the media’s hunger for sensational story with outrageous tall tales that sound just (barely) plausible enough to swallow. Lambasting the media has certainly been in fashion this election season, but no one has been doing it longer and in better style than Joey Skaggs (sorry, “Settle for Hillary” guys).

“I can connect with Joey’s art because at the end of the day, it’s the essence of storytelling to me,” said director Andrea Marini, who co-produced the film with Judy Drosd. “Keep it simple, keep it meaningful, keep it strong, immediate, and you’ll get people.”

Indeed, Skaggs “got” many people over a remarkable history, repeatedly pranking major news networks with weird fake stories, such as cockroach vitamin pills, fat squad “commandos,” and a brothel for dogs. (Marini said he was first inspired to create hoaxes after a newspaper completely misinterpreted one of his early performances against the Vietnam War.) As Skaggs says in the trailer, “People want an easy answer, they want a pill, the magic pill.” Read more.

Now You See the Louvre Pyramid, Now You Don’t

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic

“JR at The Louvre” at Musée du Louvre, Paris from May 25 – June 28, 2016, presented by French Street Artist JR


This Summer, the Louvre’s Pyramid Will “Disappear”
By Erin Blakemore
Smithsonian.com
March 15, 2016

A French street artist promises a tantalizing trick of the eye

Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s grand pyramid brought controversy, modernity and a new entrance to the Louvre. But is it time for the pyramid to disappear? Kind of: As Henri Neuendorf reports for artnet News, a French artist will eliminate the pyramid through a mind-bending optical illusion this summer. Read the full story here.


James O’Keefe’s Phone Prank Fail (and the Rise of the Professional Political Pranksters)

by
Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation

Starting with an astounding botched sting operation from James “ACORN Pimp” O’Keefe and his team Project Veritas, The New Yorker goes in depth exploring the status of American political dirty tricks in a particularly nasty and absurd election year.


“Sting of Myself”
by Jane Meyer
The New Yorker
May 30, 2016

As Dana Geraghty recalls it, March 16th was a “rather quiet Wednesday.” That afternoon, she was in her cubicle at the Open Society Foundations, on West Fifty-seventh Street, where she helps oversee the nonprofit group’s pro-democracy programs in Eurasia. The Foundations are the philanthropic creation of George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire, who is a prominent donor to liberal causes, including Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid. Soros, who has spent nineteen million dollars on the 2016 Presidential campaign, is regarded with suspicion by many conservatives. National Review has suggested that he may be fomenting protests against Donald Trump by secretly funding what it called a “rent-a-mob.”

Geraghty, who is twenty-eight, had programmed her office phone to forward messages from unfamiliar callers to her e-mail inbox. She was about to review several messages when she noticed that one of them was extraordinarily long. “Who leaves a seven-minute voice mail?” Geraghty asked herself. She clicked on it.

AOTP_OKeefe“Hey, Dana,” a voice began. The caller sounded to her like an older American male. “My name is, uh, Victor Kesh. I’m a Hungarian-American who represents a, uh, foundation . . . that would like to get involved with you and aid what you do in fighting for, um, European values.” He asked Geraghty for the name of someone he could talk to “about supporting you guys and coördinating with you on some of your efforts.” Requesting a callback, he left a phone number with a 914 area code—Westchester County.

She heard a click, a pause, and then a second male voice. The person who had introduced himself as Kesh said, “Don’t say anything . . . before I hang up the phone.”

“That piqued my interest,” Geraghty recalls. Other aspects of the message puzzled her: “Who says they’re with a foundation without saying which one? He sounded scattered. And usually people call to get funding, not to offer it.” Victor Kesh, she suspected, was “someone passing as someone else.”

She continued to listen, and the man’s voice suddenly took on a more commanding tone. The caller had failed to hang up, and Kesh, unaware that he was still being recorded, seemed to be conducting a meeting about how to perpetrate an elaborate sting on Soros. “What needs to happen,” he said, is for “someone other than me to make a hundred phone calls like that”—to Soros, to his employees, and to the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberal political donors that Soros helped to found, which is expected to play a large role in financing this year’s campaigns. Kesh described sending into the Soros offices an “undercover” agent who could “talk the talk” with Open Society executives. Kesh’s goal wasn’t fully spelled out on the recording, but the gist was that an operative posing as a potential donor could penetrate Soros’s operation and make secret videos that exposed embarrassing activities. Soros, he assured the others, has “thousands of organizations” on the left in league with him. Kesh said that the name of his project was Discover the Networks. Read more.


Make Dating Great Again!

by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, You Decide

This international dating startup may or may not be real, but as a politically charged publicity stunt, it’s hilarious.


“There’s A Dating Site For Americans Who Want To Escape A Trump Presidency”
by Kimberly Yam
The Huffington Post
May 11, 2016

New dating site Maple Match helps Americans find a Canadian partner for a special mission — to “save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency.”

AOTP_TrumpDating

And the service’s tagline? “Make dating great again,” natch.

The site launched about a week ago and the app hasn’t even been released yet, but the concept has already proven popular, NBC News reported. Thousands of people have already signed up to nab a spot on the waitlist and this past Friday, the site had 200 sign-up requests an hour.

“This is about finding the right partner and not caring if they’re on the other side of the border,” CEO Joe Goldman explained to The Guardian. “You should go to a place where you’ll be happy. For a number of Americans, in the event of a Trump presidency, that place would be Canada.” Whole thing here.


YouTube Pranksters Jailed

by
Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

The rise of YouTube has shifted the way people think about media, fame, and, definitely, pranks.

YouTube’s “user-created content” has always been conspicuously subject to Sturgeon’s Law, but over time, its most popular and influential celebrities have concentrated their power while newcomers have found it harder and harder to break through.

“YouTube pranksters” generally perform “social experiments” (read: wacky stunts) in public, preferably for unwitting audiences. As their attention economy becomes more stratified, certain performers have become increasingly confrontational and occasionally felonious.

The UK-based channel TrollStation operates on the genre’s outer fringes. TrollStation affiliates have violently broken the law and alienated some in the YouTube community before, but achieved peak notoriety with two fake museum heists on July 5, 2015, that just landed three (more) of them behind bars. Their sentences were light – 20 weeks is nothing for genuine art theft or violent B&E – and their case was complicated by the fact that, although they definitely horrified innocent bystanders, they didn’t actually steal anything.

Upon release, they can doubtless expect increased viewership.

For the details, read Katie Rogers’ May 19, 2016 article in The New York Times, “When YouTube Pranks Break the Law”.


Kim Jong Un Photoshop Battle

by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire

Considering the emphasis on free expression at reddit, it makes sense that an entire subreddit exists specifically to mock North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and the PRNK’s cult of personality and submission.

The Korean Central News Agency recently released a new photo of Kim that was remarkable for a number of reasons.

AOTP_KJU1

He is depicted wearing a dull business-style suit in lieu of his usual garish military garb. He looks like a beefy goofball making no effort to appear dignified. It’s up for debate what they were going for here, but the irony of such a Type A government feeding the worldwide media such an unflattering, obviously un-retouched image of its figurehead was not lost.

The highly active subreddit r/PhotoshopBattles sprang into action. Enjoy some of its work below. (H/t to HuffPo.)

AOTP_KJI5

AOTP_KJI4

AOTP_KJU3

There are many more where these came from, including several more Kim Jong Trumps – make of that what you will.

Don’t Look in the Bag!

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

PETA isn’t known to shy away from aggressive and theatrical tactics. Its recent campaigns include a fake pop-up shop worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, created in partnership with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.



“PETA Gives Leather Shoppers A Grisly Surprise”

by Landress Kearns
The Huffington Post
May 16, 2016

The animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t appear to consider subtlety a virtue in its fight against animal products.

In the graphic PETA Asia video below, unsuspecting shoppers are shown browsing leather goods. But within every purse, glove and jacket is a grisly surprise.

PETA produced the video by setting up a fake storefront called “The Leather Work” in a mall in Bangkok. The animal rights activists then affixed artificial skin and fake organs — including beating hearts — inside wallets, jackets, purses, belts and other leather goods. They also put fake blood inside gloves and shoes, allowing unsuspecting shoppers to try them on.

Everything looks scarily real, and the shoppers were understandably horrified. The video is hard to watch, but PETA says drastic times in Southeast Asia call for drastic measures. Read more.

Dan Savage Is Back and He’s Pissed

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Seattle author Dan Savage is once again taking the piss out of America’s social conservative right.

Savage is best known a sex columnist, podcaster, and political activist. But perhaps more fundamentally he is a masterful media manipulator. Stunts such as his notorious SEO-based public humiliation of then-Senator Rick Santorum rank with the classic pranks of Abbie Hoffman or The Magic Christian.

In response to North Carolina’s wildly controversial “transgender bathroom bill,” Savage, the prankster, has reappeared with another disgusting, gut-busting idea. And this one is not confined to the internet.


“Dan Savage Has A Brilliantly Gross Idea To Protest NC’s Anti-LGBT Law”
by Noah Michelson
Huffington Post
May 9, 2016

DanSavage

If Dan Savage gets his way, Pat McCrory’s office will soon be filled with urine.

On Monday, the writer and activist tweeted his suggestion for how the North Carolina governor and his staff could ensure the “safe disposal” of transgender people’s bodily waste:

Savage’s tweet came just hours after Governor McCrory announced the state of North Carolina would sue the U.S. Justice Department over House Bill 2, which was signed into law in March and forces transgender people to use public restrooms that don’t correspond with their gender identity. The Justice Department had given the state until Monday to stop enforcing HB2 or risk a federal lawsuit.

Rather than agree to follow the Justice Department’s order, McCrory and the state’s secretary of public safety instead filed the lawsuit today against the Justice Department for its “radical reinterpretation” of federal civil rights law. (more…)

Sicily’s Stunning Art Silos

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

Brooklyn Street Art blog showcases creative civic repurposing.


“Art Silos Rise in the Harbor of Catania, Sicily”
By Stephen P. Harrington and Jamie Rojo
Brooklyn Street Art
May 4, 2016

They’ve been here since the 1950s, these silos for wheat and corn on the harbor of Catania on the east coast of the island of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. 28 meters tall and facing the Ionian Sea, they are now some of the largest canvasses in Italy by a small group of international and local Street Artists.

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

The “Art Silos” project includes works completed during an eight month installation begun in June 2015 as part of Festival “I-ART” organized by “Emergence”, thanks to Angelo Bacchelli, curated by Giuseppe Stagnitta. The artists taking part in the project were Okuda (Spain), ROSH333 (Spain), Microbo (Italy), BO130 (Italy), VladyArt (Italy), Danilo Bucchi (Italy) and the duo Interesni Kaxki (Ukraine), mostly all from the graffiti/Street Art world. A separately organized but related project on the harbor-facing row of eight silos was completed by one artist alone, the Lisbon-based Vhils.

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

Interesni Kazki. Detail. (photo © VladyArt)

The project’s completion at the turn of the year culminated in one of the largest Street Art/Graffiti artists’ collective shows in Italy held in the city’s main public gallery Palazzo Platamone, entitled “Codici Sorgenti” (Source Code), which was curated by Stefano S. Antonelli and Francesca Mezzano from Rome’s 999 Contemporary Gallery.

There is talk about the possibility that this exhibition of about 60 artists work will tour throughout Europe with its message of the historic roots of modern graffiti and Street Art along with many of its most impactful practitioners pushing into the contemporary art world.

Danilo Bucchi (photo © VladyArt)

Danilo Bucchi (photo © VladyArt)

Okuda (photo © VladyArt)

Okuda (photo © VladyArt)

Full story and more photos here.


What’s the Deal With Donald Trump’s Central Park Headstone?

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

The NYT reveals the back story behind a morbid and mysterious piece of public art targeting the media’s favorite real-estate developer.


“Trump Headstone in Central Park: Mystery Solved”
by Michael Wilson
The New York Times
May 9, 2016

TrumpHeadstoneIt was a headstone — a full-size, 420-pound hunk of Vermont granite that would blend in nicely in any of New York City’s cemeteries. But it stood out here, in Sheep Meadow, with a name etched on its face of a man very much among the living.

“TRUMP,” read the headstone, and below that, “Donald J.” The date of birth read 1946. The date of death was blank. Below that was carved an epitaph: “Made America Hate Again.”

It was March 27. Passers-by took pictures that made the viral rounds.

“This is morbid but hilarious,” one commenter posted on Instagram.

“This made my day lol,” another wrote.

Frank Cassara, 70, a third-generation monument dealer in South Slope, Brooklyn, saw the headstone on the evening news, and said five words. Four of them were printable: “I don’t believe it.”

His son, Michael, the fourth generation, said four words, three of which were, “What a moron.”

They knew that headstone well. They had made it. Full story here.


To Goose a Rival, Audubon Made Up Dozens of Creatures

by
Filed under: Literary Hoaxes, Media Pranks, The History of Pranks

Birdwatchers have vicious office politics.


“Audubon Made Up At Least 28 Fake Species To Prank A Rival”
by Sarah Laskow
Atlas Obscura
April 22, 2016

brindledsamiterPranks are meant to be discovered—what’s the point in fooling someone if they never notice they’ve been fooled? But one 19th century prank, sprung by John James Audubon on another naturalist, was so extensive and so well executed that its full scope is only now coming to light.

The prank began when the French naturalist Constantine Rafinesque sought on Audubon on a journey down the Ohio River in 1818. Audubon was years away from publishing Birds in America, but even then he was known among colleagues for his ornithological drawings. Rafinesque was on the hunt for new species—plants in particular—and he imagined that Audubon might have unwittingly included some unnamed specimens in his sketches.

Rafinesque was an extremely enthusiastic namer of species: during his career as a naturalist, he named 2,700 plant genera and 6,700 species, approximately. He was self-taught, and the letter of introduction he handed to Audubon described him as “an odd fish.” When they met, Audubon noted, Rafinesque was wearing a “long loose coat…stained all over with the juice of plants,” a waistcoat “with enormous pockets” and a very long beard. Rafinesque was not known for his social graces; as John Jeremiah Sullivan writes, Audubon is the “only person on record” as actually liking him.

auduonold-(1)During their visit, though, Audubon fed Rafinesque descriptions of American creatures, including 11 species of fish that never really existed. Rafinesque duly jotted them down in his notebook and later proffered those descriptions as evidence of new species. For 50 or so years, those 11 fish remained in the scientific record as real species, despite their very unusual features, including bulletproof (!) scales.

By the 1870s, the truth about the fish had been discovered. But the fish were only part of Audubon’s prank. In a new paper in the Archives of Natural History, Neal Woodman, a curator at Smithsonian’s natural history museum, details its fuller extent: Audubon also fabricated at least two birds, a “trivalved” brachiopod, three snails, two plants, and nine wild rats, all of which Rafinesque accepted as real. Read more.

Meet the Street Artists Who Pranked Showtime

by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

After planting a special Arabic message on the set of Showtime’s hit show Homeland, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl became internationally notorious. They explain themselves in Homeland Is Not a Series, a short film from The Intercept’s wonderful Field of Vision video series. Check out the video and the accompanying interview.

homeland-filmmakers-feature-hero

“Interview With Hebia Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl of Homeland Is Not a Series”
by Eric Hynes
The Intercept
December 20, 2015

Commissioned to apply realistic graffiti to sets for the popular Showtime series Homeland, three artists and activists took the opportunity to critique their employer by painting satirical and damning phrases in Arabic — such as “Homeland is NOT a series” and “Homeland is racist” — that nobody on the Homeland team seemed to notice. That is, until an episode that aired worldwide in October was watched by viewers who could read Arabic. Within days, the political prank became an international media sensation.

The conspirators behind the Homeland hack, Heba Yehia Amin, Caram Kapp, and Don Karl, come from a diverse array of disciplines and backgrounds. Amin is a visual artist and professor born and based in Cairo; Kapp is a Cairo-born, Berlin-based graphic designer and multimedia artist; and Karl is a Berlin-based graffiti writer and author. When the following interview was conducted, kaleidoscopically via Google Hangout, the trio was collaborating on the edit for Homeland Is Not a Series from three separate cities.

In anticipation of bringing this latest iteration of their project to Field of Vision, the “Arabian Street Artists,” as they cheekily refer to themselves, talked about the effectiveness of humor as a weapon against intolerance, the challenges of making a movie when they don’t consider themselves filmmakers by trade, and how they’re trying to foster further discussion around Western representations of Middle Eastern culture.

Read the full interview here.

The NYT Interviews Russian Pranksters Who Aren’t President of Anything

by
Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters

The New York Times did a phoner with two dudes posing as embattled Ukrainian President Poroshenko and indirectly give us the delightful new term “pranker.”


“Two Russian men pranked the The New York Times by giving a US journalist an interview posing as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko”
by Staff
Sputnik News
April 13, 2016

1027247581Russian prankers [sic] Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, more commonly known as Vovan and Lexus, spoke with The New York Times journalist Carol Giacomo pretending to be Petro Poroshenko.

The prankers spoke with the journalist about the president’s business and his involvement in the recent Panama Papers leak. They assured The New York Times that Poroshenko is a law-abiding citizen who always pays all of his taxes and cares for his country.

Kuznetsov and Stolyarov went even further when after the interview they called The New York Times back and said the interview, in fact, wasn’t done with Poroshenko, but with a phony who wanted to discredit the newspaper for its recent article which called Ukraine a “corrupt swamp.”

In other words, the prankers fooled The New York Times again, this time simultaneously discrediting Poroshenko’s administration. Read more.