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

Dick Tuck, RIP

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

An ode to a political prankster
by Tom Lawrence
Black Hills Pioneer
June 12, 2018

Even his name, Dick Tuck, which rhymes with Puck, was perfect.

Because Dick Tuck was a Puckish presence in national politics for decades, using wit and wile as weapons in political battles. The Democratic trickster died May 28 at 93 … unless this was another of his pranks. I really wouldn’t put it past him.

Tuck’s primary target was another Tricky Dick, aka Richard Nixon. From Nixon’s bid for a Senate seat in 1950 until his presidential re-election campaign in 1972, Tuck was a thorn in Nixon’s flesh, poking and prodding him with stunts, pranks and mischief.

Why? Tuck had a deep dislike for Nixon, and not just because they were polar opposites politically. He felt Nixon was unethical and unprincipled — a good read, it turned out — and Tuck was determined to do whatever he could to hamper his rise.

It rarely worked, however. Nixon won the Senate race in 1950, defeating Democratic incumbent Helen Gahagan Douglas, whom he labeled “the Pink Lady,” unfairly and inaccurately accusing her of being soft on communism.

Tuck launched his political career during that race when a college professor who knew he was interested in politics asked him to aid the Nixon campaign. He forgot to ask which party his student favored.

Amazingly enough, Tuck was allowed to organize a Nixon rally. He booked the largest hall he could find and did not publicize the event. He then introduced Nixon with a long, rambling speech that ended by telling the scant few people in the audience that the candidate would discuss the International Monetary Fund.

After the shambles of an event was over, Nixon went to the young organizer and said, “Dick Tuck, you’ve done your last advance.”

If only he had known what was in store for him. (more…)

Taxidermied Anteater Fools Photography Contest Judges

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Prank News, You Decide

Well, it was alive at some point…


Wildlife photo competition disqualifies ‘stuffed anteater’ image
by Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent
27 April 2018

A winning entry in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has been disqualified for featuring a taxidermy specimen.

The image, known as The Night Raider, shows an anteater moving towards a termite mound in a Brazilian reserve.

Mr Cabral said flashes and a long exposure were needed to capture the scene

London’s Natural History Museum, which runs the competition, says the use of stuffed animals breaches its rules.

The photographer, Marcio Cabral, denies he faked the scene and claims there is a witness who was with him on the day.

Other photographers and tourists were in the park at the same time and therefore “it would be very unlikely anyone wouldn’t see a stuffed animal being transported and placed carefully in this position”, he told BBC News.

But Roz Kidman Cox, the chair of judges for Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY), was stern in her criticism.

“This disqualification should remind entrants that any transgression of the rules and spirit of the competition will eventually be found out,” she said.

The taxidermy specimen is held at a visitors’ centre at an entrance to the park

The Night Raider picture won the Animals In Their Environment category in the 2017 WPY awards. It was taken in Emas National Park. (more…)

Larry Harvey, Co-founder of Burning Man, RIP

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

Burning Man’s co-founder dead at 70: How his event changed the world
by Chris Taylor
Mashable
April 28, 2018

Larry Harvey, the co-founder of the Burning Man festival who grew it from an event on a San Francisco beach to a desert arts festival of global significance, died Saturday. He was 70.

Harvey had been hospitalized after a stroke on April 4, and had remained in critical condition. “Though we all hoped he would recover, he passed peacefully this morning at 8:24am in San Francisco, with members of his family at his side,” wrote Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell in the organization’s official announcement.

Harvey’s story has already passed into countercultural legend. A former landscape gardener and carpenter, he and his friend Jerry James decided to burn a large wooden figure of a man on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986.

The Burning Man event, repeated annually, began to draw exponentially increasing numbers of attendees — so many that Harvey and friends needed a new location where it could grow relatively unchecked by authorities. In 1990 they found one in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, and the week-long extravaganza of Burning Man began.

Much of the event’s energy in those early years was provided by the Cacophony Society, a culture-jamming collective of California artists. But it was Harvey who became the face and the driving force behind Burning Man’s expansion. After a particularly anarchic version of the festival in 1996, in which one participant ran his car over a number of people in tents, Harvey oversaw Burning Man’s transformation into Black Rock City — a temporary urban environment with roads, gas lamps and an army of volunteers. Read the rest of this article here.

Culture Jamming Godfather Gets a Fitting Tribute

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

In 1981, Don Joyce launched Over the Edge, a weekly program on KPFA in Berkeley comprised of cut-up tapes and surrealist social commentary. By the time he passed in 2015, he had been a core member of the legendary avant-garde rock band Negativland, engaged in numerous high-profile intellectual property controversies (including tangles with Pepsi and U2), helped popularize the plunderphonics movement (which intersected with hip-hop and helped define internet culture), and coined the phrase “culture jamming.”

A new documentary takes a thoughtful and haunting look at this bold, brilliant, and stubborn creative force.


An Affectionate and Honest Filmic Portrait of Negativland’s Don Joyce
By Paul Riismandel
Radio Survivor
April 8, 2018

Musician, DJ and radio artist Don Joyce passed away nearly three years ago, on July 22, 2015. He left behind a voluminous archive of his KPFA radio program “Over the Edge,” which took off in new, chaotic and creative directions when he welcomed the participation of the experimental band Negativland in 1981, then joining the group.

The documentary “How Radio Isn’t Done” (DVD) sheds light on Joyce and his life, work and his process for recontextualizing the never-ending flow of media messages that flood everyday life. Director Ryan Worsley paints an affectionate, but honest portrait of a man who poured tremendous quantities of inspiration, energy and effort into his community radio program, leaving the impression that it was something he just had to do. Read more.

Sinclair Broadcasting Screams “Fake News” But They Are Fake News!

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Filed under: First Amendment Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Gene Policinski, President & COO of the Newseum Institute, opines on the Sinclair Publishing hostage scenario revealed by Deadspin in a video of news anchors all over the country spouting chillingly identical propaganda.


Policinski: Next time, just put your name to the message
Gene Policinski
Indise the First Amendment
April 7, 2018

Sinclair Broadcasting’s recent promotional message on the state of today’s news — delivered to its TV audiences nationwide — is as protected by the First Amendment as it was an oafish attempt to hide corporate messaging under the veneer of local news reporting.

In other words, it was commentary from a conservative company that has a First Amendment right to express its views, but it was also a shoddy tactic that undermined the very thing Sinclair’s leadership claimed to support: good journalism.

Deadspin — an online sports news site — put together a now widely shared video of news anchors from 45 Sinclair-owned American stations, all reading in synchrony from the same script. The video’s echo-chamber effect laid bare what many have described as an “Orwellian” attempt to deliver a persuasive message using trusted voices in local journalism.

Watch the video:
Sinclair’s Soldiers in Trump’s War on Media Video, by Deadspin

The mash-up of TV anchors, delivering the script with varying degrees of sincerity, prompted dire warnings from left-leaning cable news commentators about media consolidation and ulterior political motives.

President Trump tweeted a defense of Sinclair, using the controversy to take yet another swipe at the same mainstream news outlets he frequently attacks: “So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased.”

Trump has it wrong — critics took aim at the method, not the message.

Let’s parse the actual effort… Read the rest of this article here.

TV News Pranks Lead to Litigation

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

It’s 2018, and TV news is apparently more relevant and dangerous than ever. Learn more about our old pals Chop and Steele with the Vice News team.


“Meet the Comedy Duo Who Got Sued for Pranking the News”
By Oliver Noble and Brandon Lisy
Vice News
March 22, 2018

When they infiltrated three morning news programs by passing themselves off as a hilariously unathletic strongman duo, Brooklyn comedians Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett were not the first people to prank TV News.

Left-leaning activists The Yes Men famously infiltrated BBC, and right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe unsuccessfully attempted to plant a false story in the Washington Post. But Prueher and Pickett, who run the Found Footage Festival, have no overt political agenda and are happy to simply interrupt news programming with the absurd or profane.

Out of embarrassment or pragmatism, media companies generally avoid legal retaliation after getting pranked. Yet when Prueher and Pickett pranked Gray Television, the company sued, kicking off a battle over free speech, comedy, and how easy it can be get past TV bookers. Read more.

April Fools’ Day 2018: Stunt Roundup

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Literacy, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, The History of Pranks, The World of the Prank

The smirking array of pranks, stunts, and fake marketing drives has become a predictable April Fool’s Day rite. Our finest brands and capital-C Creative Teams use this opportunity to trot out wacky ideas and to attempt to out-clever each other in a quest for attention.

You can set your sundial by it, but that’s no reason, in itself, to complain. Plenty of brand-based April Fool’s japes are entertaining, and a few pack genuinely subversive elements.

Sunday finds the virtual prank parade already in progress. The clowns have been rolling out all week, in acknowledgement of the holiday schedule, and probably as part of a phenomenon similar to Christmas Creep, in which April Fool’s Day threatens to slowly engulf more and more of the year.

There are few unique challenges against which this year’s festival of cleverness must contend. April Fool’s Day falls on a Sunday, and on the Easter holiday, widely observed in nations where influential marketers and media entities are based. It also falls against a background characterized by extreme distrust and hostility toward advertisers, Silicon Valley tech giants, and a political climate in which the US presidential administration’s most favored PR approach resembles gaslighting. Increasingly, the media treat April Fool’s brand stunts with outward cynicism and exhaustion.

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy that is grinding away at Facebook, tech brands face a tough room this year. Google, in particular, has always embraced cheeky self-awareness in its pranks, a winking sense of, “everyone seems to think we’re going to control the world someday – and wouldn’t it be kind of neat if we did?” This year’s battery of GOOG yuks, including a “bad joke detector” and an API for different varieties of hummus, acknowledges the inherent absurdity of Google’s algorithmic, data-driven approach to world domination. Google’s work is state-of-the-art in terms of creative skill, but it feels at least few weeks behind the times.

In the Scott Dikkers taxonomy of jokes, irony and parody are hard to make stick in 2018. Gentle absurdity, wordplay, and “madcap” humor may be an easier plan.

Coinciding with Easter Sunday may make it harder to nab eyeballs, but some brands are using it to their advantage. The Chocolate Whopper is one of many gags that draws ridiculous associations with holiday sweets. Following up the success of the emoji car horn, one of the most charming 2017 stunts, Honda returns with another winning exercise in pure silliness. One tech company simply gave a crapload of money to people who need it, which may be the most heartwarming and unorthodox 4/1 tactic on record.

In the non-commercial realm, artists and social critics are addressing the elephant in the room, head on. From anonymous Craigslist pranksters to our own head honcho Joey Skaggs and his annual April Fool’s Day parade, there’s plenty of puckish and ambitious parody directed at Trump and his inherently ridiculous milieu.

Arguably, the best thing that can come from the widespread crisis in confidence that is 2018 is a greater premium on critical thinking and the importance of placing our relentless and exhausting news cycle in its broader context.

As usual, Atlas Obscura does rigorous yet unpretentious work putting curiosities and absurdities against the backdrop of history, in an entertaining and approachable fashion. All week, it has showcased examples of old-school irreverence, from bird dung to a theoretical cactus, as a reminder that high-profile pranks have always been with us, and their spirit is always worth preserving and celebrating. (Thanks to Dr. Bob O’Keefe for the tip on this one.)

7,000 Pairs of Shoes is 7,000 Too Many

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Political Challenges, Prank News

A powerful display of empty shoes on Capitol Lawn remembers the thousands of children killed by gun violence in America in recent years. #NotOneMore


7,000 Pairs Of Shoes On Capitol Lawn Are Powerful Nod To Gun Violence
by Willa Frej
Huffington Post
March 14, 2018

They are meant to represent the number of children killed in shootings since Sandy Hook.

With the epicenter of policymaking looming large in the background, activists on Tuesday placed 7,000 pairs of empty shoes across the Capitol lawn, an impossible-to-ignore symbol of the children lost to gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

Families who have lost children to shootings were invited to contribute their kids’ shoes, said global advocacy group Avaaz, which organized the event.

“I’ll be traveling to D.C. literally wearing my son Daniel’s shoes, the ones he wore the day he died at Columbine,” said Tom Mauser, whose son was killed in the Columbine mass shooting. “I think this kind of event with shoes offers a very powerful metaphor both for how we miss the victims who once filled those shoes, and also for how we see ourselves wanting to walk in their place, seeking change, so that others don’t have to walk this painful journey.”

People across the country, including celebrities, donated shoes to the display, which Avaaz said covered more than 10,000 square feet of grounds outside the Capitol. Several Democratic lawmakers visited the site, taking the opportunity to call out congressional inaction on gun reform.

According to CNN, Avaaz took the 7,000 figure from a 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics report, which found that almost 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds in the U.S. every year.

Tom Mauser lost his son Daniel at Columbine. He’s at the Capitol today to say #NotOneMore. Read more

Aviv Ovadya and the Coming “Infocalypse”

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Legal Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, The Future of Pranks

In a far-ranging, frightening, and fascinating interview, Buzzfeed News catches up with engineer and tech prognosticator Aviv Ovadya, who anticipated the current scourge of “fake news” and says we haven’t seen anything yet.


“He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.”
By Charlie Warzel
Buzzfeed
February 11, 2018

In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, “we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.

But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you. Read more.

RIP Jim Hosking, 1941-2018

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Filed under: Art Pranks, The History of Pranks

Sad to say, friend and co-conspirator Jim Hosking passed away.

Jim Hosking (l) with Joey Skaggs (r), E. 3rd Street, NY, 1965

Terror Pranking, a Brief History

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, What Makes a Good Prank?

There’s a huge difference between socially revealing satirical commentary and scaring the shit out of everyone…


Inside the world of extreme ‘terror pranking’
BBC
February 11, 2018

Fake bombs, staged murders, stunts that resemble acid attacks – as competition for eyeballs on YouTube gets fiercer every day, popular vloggers are resorting to extreme pranks to get clicks.

Arya Mosallah’s video channel had more than 650,000 subscribers. But his YouTube career came skidding to a halt with a video titled “Throwing Water On Peoples Faces PT. 2”. In it, he approaches several people, and after a brief conversation, throws a cup of water in their faces.

Many viewers thought the prank in the video looked like an attempt by the British social media star to mimic an acid attack – amid a recent increase in such crimes in London and across the UK.

YouTube deleted Mosallah’s channel – and then a second channel he set up. He told the BBC he had not meant to reference acid attacks – but that he would continue to produce prank videos.

But Arya Mosallah is certainly not the first YouTuber to get into trouble for prank videos. His story, along with the controversy over hugely popular Youtuber Logan Paul joking about a suicide victim to his young audience, have put a spotlight on extreme content on YouTube.

But although it appears to be on the rise – and is getting more attention from news outlets – extreme pranking is not an entirely new phenomenon. For some time, vloggers have been faking bomb attacks and murders, tricking and frightening friends and members of the public in an attempt to up their view counts. Read the rest of this article here.

Speaking of Artificial Intelligence…

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

Friendly foes seek world peace at the Olympics but are shown the door instead.


‘Trump' And ‘Kim' Thrown Out Of Opening Ceremony
Reuters
February 10, 2018

"We wanted to surprise everyone and bring world peace and then we're being escorted out by security guards, which I think is really unfair."

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 09: Impersonators of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un pose during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – People dressed up as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un caused a commotion when they appeared in the stands at the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony on Friday before swiftly being shown out by security staff.

"We're getting along great," said the Kim lookalike, who declined to give his name.

"We wanted to surprise everyone and bring world peace and then we're being escorted out by security guards, which I think is really unfair," he added. "Doesn't everyone want peace?"

The ceremony was marked by a show of unity between North and South Korea.

Athletes from both countries entered the arena under a flag depicting a unified Korea as American Vice President Mike Pence and Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, watched on from a VIP box.

"Is my sister getting the same treatment?," the Kim lookalike said as he was escorted out of the stadium.

Deepfake: AI-Assisted Porn

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Pranks, Prank News, The Future of Pranks

Hey! What’s my face doing on a porn star’s body?


Everything You Need To Know About The Face-Swap Technology That’s Sweeping The Internet (And Getting Banned Everywhere)
Digg
February 8, 2018

Gal Gadot’s face on someone else’s body. Image: Screenshot from SendVids

In the past couple of months, “deepfake” has gone from a nonsense word to a widely-used synonym for videos in which one person’s face is digitally grafted onto another person’s body. The most popular - and troubling - type of deepfake is artificially produced porn appearing to star famous actresses like Gal Gadot, Daisy Ridley and Scarlett Johansson. Sites like Reddit and Pornhub have made moves to ban pornographic deepfakes in recent days, but it’s never been easier for anyone with an internet connection to make disturbingly real-looking porn by mapping almost anyone’s face over those of porn performers. Here’s what you need to know.

‘Deepfake’ Celebrity Porn First Emerged In December

In an only somewhat hyperbolically titled article called “AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked,” Motherboard’s Samantha Cole interviewed the first Redditor to post convincing face-swapped videos, who called himself “deepfakes.” (“Deepfake” which has since become a term used the doctored videos produced by the technology.) “Deepfakes” explained how he created a porn video appearing to star Gal Gadot. Read the rest here.

The 2017 April Fools’ Day Parade “Trumpathon” hits Japanese TV News [Japanese]

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

A couple of weeks ago, The New York City 2017 April Fools’ Day Parade “Trumpathon”, the world’s largest gathering of Donald Trump look-alikes, was included in a TBS NEWS report about Donald Trump’s “Fake News Awards”. Watch to the end. Story is in Japanese and the link will only be available for a limited time.

She Asked God for a Job. God Said “No”

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

Ask and ye shall receive. Michele Bachmann gets her answer.


Michele Bachmann Just Got An Actual Sign From God, And It's Absolutely Priceless
by Ed Mazza
Huffington Post
February 2, 2018

This is probably not the answer she was looking for.

@citypages

Michele Bachmann, the former Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, indicated last year that she was looking for a sign from God about whether she should run for the U.S. Senate.

God — or rather a prankster claiming to be the deity — answered with an actual sign:

Bachmann, one of Trump's evangelical advisors, told doomsday food salesman Jim Bakker in December that people have been urging her to run in November's special election for the seat Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) vacated after a sexual harassment scandal. Bachmann said she trusts "in a big God" and that she was supposed to run for president, referring to her failed 2012 bid, which she called "wildly successful."

"I fulfilled the calling God gave me," Bachmann said. "So the question is: Am I being called to do this now? I don't know."

If she's looking for a sign, she might want to check out the billboard in St. Paul, Minnesota, which appeared to be the result of a crowdfunding project from the satirical website thegoodlordabove.com.