All About Pranks

This blog has submissions from many known and not so known pranksters, artists, performers, activists and writers. It provides a continuing and growing exploration into the art of the prank; the role of the prankster as artist, activist and social observer; and the contribution of the prank to society.

Blog Posts

Be Aware: The Age of DeepFakes is Upon Us

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin, The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks

This must-see “DeepFake” video transforms Bill Hader, when he was on Late Night with David Letterman, into Tom Cruise before your very eyes.

Watch the video: Bill Hader channels Tom Cruise [DeepFake], YouTube

A little bit of history: In 1987, an interview with Joey Skaggs was published in a book by RE/Search Pubs called Pranks! in which he predicts and discusses the implications of this exact technology.

AJ: “What is reality?”
JS: “Right. What is reality, and how can you know what is history?
“I’d also like to talk about technology and where we’re going. With the ability to comptuer-enerate photo images and do montage, collage and eventually holograms, we’ll have Hitler alive in South America totally fabricated. We’ll have a home movie of JFK actually screwing Marilyn Monroe, or whatever twisted historical thing we want to create. And it will be virtually impossible to detect that it’s a creation, because of the advancements in technology. We are coming to the forefront tehcnologically of a really frightening media reality. If we don’t sharpen our tools now, our integrity, we’re in for even bigger trouble.”

Read the entire RE/Search Pranks! interview here.

Excerpt:

Right-Wing Website Dosed With Own Medicine

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

The op-ed site Quillette has risen to prominence in the Trump-era conservative firmament by condemning progressive orthodoxies around race and gender, providing a platform for accused sexual predators, defending “Google Memo” author James “Fired4Truth” Damore, and promoting the “Sokal Squared” hoax, an effort to discredit academic disciplines by categorizing them as “grievance studies.”

This week, the site took a blow to its own credibility when left-aligned mischief-maker “Archie Carter” submitted a critique of the Democratic Socialists of America littered with lies, cliches, and errata. The piece was promptly published and promptly retracted by Quillette, leaving leftist publications Alternet and Jacobin (along with broad swaths of Twitter) to gloat over the fallout.

Will Sommer, a journalist/provocateur focused on far-right movements, scored an interview with the hoaxer.


Quillette Duped by Left-Wing Hoaxer Posing as Communist Construction Worker
by Will Sommer
The Daily Beast
August 9, 2019

Construction worker and avowed Leninist Archie Carter has plenty of gripes with the Democratic Socialists of America, the left-wing group that’s enjoyed a new wave of popularity during the Trump era.

In an essay published Thursday on the conservative op-ed website Quillette, Carter declared that DSA had been overrun with overeducated, oversensitive college graduates, blinding itself to the true needs of the working class.

“DSA is doomed,” Carter wrote.

Carter’s piece seemed like exactly the kind of argument that’s turned Quillette, a self-described “platform for free thought,” into a hotbed for the right-wing online “Intellectual Dark Web” movement. Carter had impeccable blue-collar bona fides, with his Quillette bio describing him as a committed union member who’s always “watching the Mets blow a lead.”

But there’s one problem with Carter’s story: He doesn’t exist.

DSA members started picking holes in Carter’s story almost as soon it went live on Quillette. New York City’s DSA local couldn’t find any record of a member, current or former, named Archie Carter. And while Carter claimed to have participated in sit-in protests as part of his DSA work, the group hadn’t organized sit-ins in New York in years.

By Thursday evening, Quillette had retracted Carter’s essay, saying Carter had failed to “supply answers to our follow-up questions in timely fashion.” Read more.


Stephen Barnwell’s Outrageous and Exquisite Moneyart on Exhibit Through September 8

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Challenges, Political Pranks

Congratulations to artist, activist Stephen Barnwell whose “Capital Offenses” moneyart will be on display at Monmouth Museum, 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ, as part of the NJ Emerging Artists Series, now through September 8, 2019.

Citroën’s WWII Subterfuge Remembered

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends, You Decide

True or not, this is an inspiring bit of sabotage.


Citroën Sabotaged Wartime Nazi Truck Production in a Simple and Brilliant Way
by Jason Torchinsky
Jalopnik.com
July 24, 2019

Citroen

In case you forgot to change the batteries in your calendar, you may not be aware that this year is the 100th anniversary of Citroën. We’ve been shooting a Jason Drives special mini-series for this centenary, and while doing some research I happened to stumble upon a fascinating bit of wartime Citroën lore. It involves screwing with Nazis in a genuinely clever and subtle way that nevertheless had big repercussions. I’ll explain.

So, when France was occupied by the Germans in 1940, major French factories like Citroën were forced to produce equipment for the Nazis. Citroën president Pierre-Jules Boulanger knew he couldn’t just refuse to produce anything, but he also knew there’s no way in hell he’s going to just roll over and build trucks for a bunch of filthy Nazis. Pierre had a plan.

John Reynolds’ book Citroën 2CV describes Boulanger’s sabotage efforts. Of course, he instructed workers to set a nice, leisurely pace when building trucks (likely Citroën T45 trucks) for the Wermacht, but that’s fairly obvious. What was brilliant was Boulanger’s idea to move the little notch on the trucks’ oil dipsticks that indicated the proper level of oil down just a bit lower.

By moving the notch down, the trucks would not have enough oil, but German mechanics would have no idea, because, hey, the little notch on the dipstick says its just fine. Then, after the truck has been used for a while and is out deployed somewhere crucial, whammo, the engine seizes up, and you’ve got a lot of angry, stranded, vulnerable Nazis, balling up their little fists and redly barking curses in German.

It’s such a fantastic act of sabotage: it’s extremely cheap to implement, it’s subtle, there’s no way to see something amiss is happening as the trucks are being built, and it delivers its blow away from the site of the sabotage and when it will cause the most inconvenience and trouble.

I suppose it could be apocryphal, but this is one of those cases where I’m going to choose to believe.

That’s some mighty good sabotaging, Pierre.

While We’re Talking About Solutions for Gun Violence…

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Filed under: Parody, Political Challenges

An anonymous quote, incorrectly attributed to Gloria Steinem in 2015 because she praised and posted it on Facebook, is still inspiring today:

“I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion,” the quote reads. “Think about it: a mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or a judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protestors holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protestor who call him a murderer. After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers.”

Paul Krassner, RIP

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, The History of Pranks

Sadly, my friend Paul Krassner, satirist, activist, comedian, author, and publisher of The Realist, has passed away. Since the 1960s, he was always there for me, as I was for him.

Paul was with me on my Hippie Bus Tour To Queens and was part of my Vietnamese Christmas Nativity Burning in Central Park, both in 1968.

In 1969, he published a photo of himself standing with my Grotesque Statues of Liberty on the back cover of his book How a satirical editor became a Yippie conspirator in ten easy years.

Paul used his voice to draw attention to social injustice, inequality and challenges to our freedom. I’ll miss his satirical wit.

Here’s his full obit in The New York Times (for people who can’t access it).

[Editor’s note: The New York Times covered my Hippie Bus Tour to Queens in 1968 when it happened. Years later, in 1992, they misattributed it to Abbie Hoffman and had to print a retraction. They’ve now done it a second time in Paul’s obit. Paul was one of 60 hippies who accompanied me on the tour (Hippie Bus Tour to Queens Remembered 50 years later! by Joey Skaggs, Artsy.net). I know he’d want to set this record straight.]


Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87
by Joseph Berger
The New York Times
July 21, 2019

Paul Krassner, right, in 1969 with, from left, Ed Sanders of the rock group the Fugs and Abbie Hoffman. Mr. Krassner helped start the Yippie movement and was the founder of The Realist magazine. Credit The New York Times

He was a prankster, a master of the put-on that thumbed its nose at what he saw as a stuffy and blundering political establishment. (more…)

Lawless John Law Revealed

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

John Law, co-editor of Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, is a pioneering adventurer who defies gravity and the status quo. From the Suicide Club to Burning Man to the Billboard Liberation Front to the Cacophony Society and beyond, John is a true inspiration to artists and activists. He’s also a helluva driver. I’m glad to call him a friend. His one-man show “SIGNMAN: John Law” is at the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland until August 24.


John Law, iconic Bay Area prankster, now has his own ‘art’ show
by Angela Hill
Mercury News
July 5, 2019

A famed Bay Area prankster and underground artist just got his first exhibit

Here’s the way one of John Law’s longtime cohorts describes an early encounter with the neon artist/prankster/culture jammer/urban adventurer/enigma:

It was 1982 and Mark Pauline got a phone call from Law saying he had a bunch of body parts in the refrigerator at his house and they had to get them out of there before the cops came. “Sure enough, he had a big plastic bag full of human body parts, preserved in formaldehyde,” says Pauline, director of performance art group Survival Research Labs (known for building things that spew fire and blow stuff up).

“John was in the Cacophony Society and those guys would go in abandoned buildings and do adventures,” Pauline says. “They’d gone into an abandoned mortuary college and found all these body parts left in these tubs there, so they took ‘em.”

Frankenstein-style, for another pal to tattoo and display in a big Lexan case which hung around for a while and eventually cracked and rats got in and ate all the skin. But that’s a story for another day.

“That is one of my hundreds of John Law tales,” Pauline says. “At least one we can talk about in public.”

Indeed, if you add up all the pranks and adventures and happenings Law’s been part of over the decades, it becomes a cacophonous calculus, an astronomical amalgamation of mischief in the Bay Area’s underground arts scene.

Now, Law has gone above ground for his first art show, “SIGNMAN: John Law,” a retrospective of his four-plus decades of devilish deeds, on view at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland through Aug. 24. All this despite the fact that he doesn’t really consider himself an artist and uses air quotes whenever he talks about his “work.”

So who is this man? Culture jammer? Gentleman joker? Prankster with a purpose?

“I’m an unindicted co-conspirator,” he says, a sly smile curling above his silver goatee. “But I guess I’m an artist now, since I have an art show.”

Read more…

r/Place: Recollections of a Pop-up Online Subculture

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

r/Place, an incredible 2017 reddit experiment with a simple premise and strict parameters, stands out for the spirit of challenge and community it ignited. It brought the best of collaborative street art into the heart of the digital realm, it earned its place in the annals of internet culture, and it’s worth revisiting and remembering. Here’s how it went down, through the eyes of one very engaged participant.

(If you’re unfamiliar with reddit, here’s a pretty good primer.)


“The story of r/Place. As told by a foot soldier for r/Mexico.”
By Arturo Gutierrez
ART + Marketing
April 3, 2017

I’m sure other historians can tell you who was the first. Others much more knowledgeable than me who can pinpoint where exactly in the vast Canvas did the cursors of hundreds aimed themselves into a singular area, and willed order out of the chaos. But I’m not the one to tell.

Instead, what I saw as a bystander that April 1st was the emergence of life, color, and memes of all sizes and kinds growing almost by magic. And as the hours passed, as I laid a pixel here, waited, and laid another pixel there, the whole Canvas evolved and grew between each of my visits. It was an amazing sight to behold. An inspiring feat of human ingenuity, humor, and improvised politics in slow motion.

Yes, that’s right. For even in these early hours, even before the dedicated subreddits, the forums, Discord channels and massive bot armies of the later days, a silent, wordless body of politics was being established right before our eyes. Read more.

Canadaland Podcast Interview with Joey Skaggs

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Podcasts, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

From Jesse Brown, host of Canadaland Podcast:

The greatest media prankster alive talks to Jesse for our April Fools episode.

In Review: April Fools’ Day 2019 Branding, Marketing, and Media Stunts

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, Spin, The World of the Prank

Before April Fools’ Day 2019 even began, the tech giant Microsoft announced that it would not be indulging in any branded foolishness this year. And that sort of set the tone for the day.

From the rise of the internet and social media through the election of Donald Trump, distinguishing truth from fiction in the online landscape has become less about comedy and more about horror. Even the cutest and cleverest April Fools’ publicity stunts are not as well received as they may have been in the past. The overall online mood is darker, more skittish, and more reflective. Still, there’s still some levity to be found in the chaos and desperation.

A few editorials addressed the cynicism and fatigue around April Fools’ Day from high-level perspectives.

Of the branded pranks that did go down, the most interesting had satirical or meta-comedic elements.

Others were just plain, dumb, silly, marginally self-aware fun. Here are the best of the rest:

And there was even some good news!

As with any holiday, the best way to spend April Fools’ Day is probably not on the internet, but engaged in revelry and camaraderie IRL, fighting the forces of oppression and no-fun-ness in the company of loved ones and loved ones you haven’t met yet. So naturally the best news of the day was the annual April Fools’ Day Parade – see the highlights [HERE].

New Doc About the Church of the SubGenius Screens at SXSW

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Sociology and Psychology of Pranks, The History of Pranks, Urban Legends

One reviewer’s opinion…


SXSW Film Review: ‘J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius’
This diverting enough documentary focuses on the parodic religious “cult” that reached peak hipster awareness in the 1980s.
by Dennis Harvey
Variety
March 21, 2019

Like 8mm films of 1960s “happenings” or videos of 1970s performance art, “J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius” chronicles a cultural footnote that perhaps should be filed under the heading You Had to Be There. The satirical-absurdist “religion” founded by some Texans actually caught fire among hipsters in the 1980s, influencing some of that era’s more interesting work in various media while providing a pre-Burning Man, pre-internet “secret club” to cerebral misfits of all stripes.

Sandy K. Boone’s documentary is likely to be lost on the not-previously converted, as what seemed the height of snark in the Reagan Era hasn’t dated all that well — nor is its appeal apparent as excerpted and recalled here. But those who remember the gospel of “slack” will make this diverting-enough documentary an in-demand work at genre festivals, as a streaming item and in other forums.

In reaction to the disruptive 1960s being “flipped on its head” in the “too-square-again” present day, two Lone Star State fans of nerd-brainiac rock god Captain Beefheart started creating anonymous quasi-cult screeds for their own entertainment in 1979. Dubbing themselves Reverend Ian Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond, they rebelled against their staid Heartland backgrounds, embraced the tenor of extremist religious literature, and ridiculed the American Dream with a mock religion whose deity was J.R. “Bob” Dobbs — a clip art image of 1950s sitcom dad-like hyper-normality whose lore was deliberately contradictory and absurdist.

Read the rest of this article here.

LinkNYC Mister Softee Prankster Comes Clean

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

Payphone performance artist/activist drops a dime on himself…


My Summer of Softee Prank
by Mark Thomas.

In this year of 2019, I use payphones regularly. As such, I feel fortunate to live in New York City, where thousands of old-fashioned landline payphones still line the streets.

A few years ago, when news came that the City decided to replace every single outdoor payphone with LinkNYC Internet kiosks, preëmptively pronouncing this unproven replacement the “payphone of the future”, I felt a bit of an affront. How could a decision reaching so deeply into the social fabric of New York be made? Was public input ever solicited regarding this decision that all payphones must be replaced by an unproven, unneeded alternative?

I gave LinkNYC a chance but soon came to loath not only the program but, in almost all respects, the so-called “Smart City” itself. Born of unearned municipal privilege, the arrogant ineptitude of the LinkNYC rollout at times made me cringe.

To express my sentiments about LinkNYC, I subverted their intended purpose. I regarded these kiosks as unwanted, unneeded irritants and turned the machines themselves into irritants, using them as a broadcast platform, blasting ridiculously loud noises and music out of the kiosks’ loudspeakers.

This became a social media engineering project for me for most of 2018. (more…)

Speaking Truth to Power in DC

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

Street theater is flourishing in the era of Trump.


DC’s many prankster activists turn anger into street theater
by Ashraf Khalil
AP
February 18, 2019

Mike Green and Adam Eidinger with Radical Matriarchy

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the nation’s capital, it can be hard for protesters to stand out. A group of 50 people — or even 500 — holding signs and shouting hardly merits a second glance in this city of protests.

That’s why Washington activists have to get creative. There’s an ethos of performative prankster-style protest wired into the District of Columbia’s history, dating back decades.

This confrontational street-theater school is flourishing with the Trump administration as its nemesis. Each month brings new acts of political theater — some confrontational, some deliberately absurdist.

“It can take a serious issue into more of a playful place,” said Robin Bell, who regularly projects disparaging messages onto the outside of the Trump International Hotel. “Oftentimes we visualize the absurdity of the situation.”

In January, a group of activists associated with political pranksters The Yes Men passed out dozens of fake Washington Posts, with detailed articles depicting President Donald Trump resigning and fleeing the White House. For about a month last fall, a Robert Mueller investigation-themed ice cream truck roamed Washington, passing out free scoops with names like IndictMint Chip and Rocky Rod Rosenstein.

While some protests are designed to get attention, others hide in plain sight like Easter eggs for the observant. Within sight of the White House, a realistic-looking street sign declares the street Khashoggi Way, after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. About 10 of these signs have been scattered around Washington.

Read the rest of this article here.

Joey Skaggs Remembers His 1994 National Enquirer Hoax

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Pranksters, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Note to Jeff Bezos: Take a page from me and screw the National Enquirer!


In 1994, after The New York Times Magazine published John Tierney’s article, Falling For It, about my Dog Meat Soup hoax, the National Enquirer called and said they were doing a profile about me. They wanted an exclusive photo shoot. Not liking or respecting this publication, I declined. They said they were going to do the story with or without any assistance from me. So, I sent an impostor to two different photo shoots.

They published this story:

Page Six of the New York Post exposed the hoax:



Full details of the National Enquirer hoax are here
.

John Dingell RIP

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Challenges, Satire

Former Representative John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress, passed away on February 7, 2019 at age 92. He dictated his last words to America to his wife Rep. Debbie Dingell on the day he died. He had a humble, profound sense of honor and justice, and a satirical sense of humor. His words are worth reading.


John Dingell’s Greatest Hits: Lawmaker Had An A+ Trolling Game On Twitter
by Ed Mazza
February 8, 2019

The retired lawmaker mastered the art of throwing shade, particularly at President Trump.

Former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is being remembered for his many achievements during his 59 years in Congress.

Dingell, who died on Thursday at the age of 92, played a role in passing some of the nation’s most important legislation, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. But he’ll also be remembered for something else entirely: His solid Twitter game.

Dingell was known for his comedic takes on the news, cracks about himself and — more than anything else over the past couple of years — his constant trolling of President Donald Trump:

I fully support @realDonaldTrump’s interest in space travel to Mars, and I wish him the absolute best in his travels.
— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) December 11, 2017

Crooks like Trump will steal a hot stove and come back for the smoke. There’s no bar too low. https://t.co/6BjnNwbZp7
— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 25, 2019

(more…)