Ask The Fiddler #7: Your Parents’ Worst Nightmare Career

Filed under: The History of Pranks

fiddler-75Editor’s Note: Ask The Fiddler is a lifestyle advice column that aims to remedy more chaos and confusion than it creates. Questions may be submitted to us here at Art of the Prank, and good luck.

Dear Fiddler: Is it possible to make a career of pranking?

Vinnie in Cleveland

Dear Vinnie,

Of course it is. Fame and fortune await. Just get your mojo working. Need help? You”™ll want to send for my informative booklet, “How to Prank Your Bank.” And, then, you”™ll want to be prepared to spend five or ten years behind bars if something goes wrong.

To be practical, though, possible doesn”™t mean probable. And pranking has a whole crazy carnival of meanings, as a look through the index here at Art of the Prank indicates.

So the wiser choice might be to consider pranking as a secondary calling. Establish yourself on some more respectable platform from which to leap. There are pathways through art, theater, literature and a host of other professions.

Personally, I favor archaeology and anthropology.


It is amazing how many frauds, hoaxes and pranks appear in these fields. A count would fill books, and has done.

One of my favorite books on the subject is “Fantastic Archaeology,” a survey of questionable North American “discoveries” by Stephen Williams. It offers a wealth of ideas for the hoaxer and prankster as well as the P.T. Barnum-style profiteer. And it includes a serious bibliography for further reading.

Certainly the granddaddy of all fiddles in this arena is the Piltdown Man hoax. It fills the heart with joy to read all the references to Piltdown as genuine scientific fact, cited by eminent scholars in prestigious journals over the many years before the fakery was discovered.

Quite a bit has been written on the mystery of the perpetrator(s), it seems every year an old theory is bashed and a new one put forward.

Further fuel for the faker can be found in an interesting little collection of masterful archaeology pranks including the famous Cardiff Giant, to be found on the Cracked site.

And a very nice collection of hoaxes and frauds has been assembled by the Archaeological Institute of America, with some additional reading sources.

There are heaps of opportunities in these fields.

As noted earlier, “prank” can cover a wide range of subjects and styles. To some, it means adolescent goofiness, playing tricks or practical jokes. How would you go about making a career of that?

Here”™s a thought. Humans can be remarkably mean-spirited, taking great delight in putting down their fellows. Just look at the current “reality” shows, or some of the idiocy on YouTube, or the epidemic of celebrity foolishness.

Perhaps there is a role for the counter-prankster, a super hero or heroine who turns the tables on those who humiliate or make fools of others, an “Equalizer” hit-man armed with a whoopee cushion.

Not that the victim doesn”™t sometimes deserve the torment.

But if you are truly serious about a prankster career, it seems that society, for its own good, will sometimes support perpetrators of the sophisticated, often subversive prank performed as an illusion that creates awareness and sends a message. It is a cultural role akin to the court jester or Native American trickster.

I”™m not sure that my explanation quite nails it so I”™ve turned to the host of this site, Joey Skaggs, for a more clear statement of cultural pranking:

“Because there is an endless supply of people willing to suspend critical thinking in favor of wishful thinking, my work is never done. It’s human nature to deceive oneself. Plausibility, or even the hint of plausibility seems to be enough to provide confirmation for just about anything for most people. Through pranking and satire, I try to not only have a lot of fun, but also to tweak other people into realizing how gullible they are. If they’ve believed my stories, just think what else they may have believed.”

There you have it. But that doesn”™t explain how you put bread on the table, pay rent, muster a few shekels for a beer at the neighborhood tavern. As I recall, Joey works nights as a canary in a deep pit coal mine. Or was it as tour guide among cannibal cultures of the Upper Amazon? Something like that.

Yours truly,

The Fiddler

Remember our motto here at camp: “If you take advice from The Fiddler, you need advice.” Send comments and questions to: Art of the Prank.

image: The Guardian

The Fiddler is a creation of W.J. Elvin III