The History of Pranks

Blog Posts

Join Us at New York City’s 36th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade!

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, Urban Legends

NYC April Fools' Day Parade jester

The New York April Fools’ Committee Is Proud to Announce:
NEW YORK CITY’S 36th ANNUAL APRIL FOOLS’ DAY PARADE

“DENY, DENY, LIE, LIE!”

The only New York City parade dedicated to conspiracy theorists!

New York’s irreverent April Fools’ Day Parade, poking fun at the past year’s displays of hype, hypocrisy, deceit, bigotry, and downright stupidity, is back for the 36th year!

The public is invited to create outrageous floats and dress up as look-alikes in colorful costumes to reflect the folly of the nuttiest politicians, crooked corporate leaders, silly celebrities, and whoever else has proved to be a total fool in the past year.

Floats should be no wider than 10’ and no longer than 30’. They can be self-propelled, towed, pushed or pulled. Customized bicycles, tricycles, baby carriages and helium balloons are welcome. The Parade Committee assumes no liability for damage caused by satire.

The theme of the parade this year is “DENY, DENY, LIE, LIE!” The parade’s Grand Marshall is Texas Senator Ted Cruz in a sombrero dragging a rolling suitcase. He’ll be followed by the QAnon Marching Band singing the Village People’s “Macho Man.” Color commentary will be provided by former Fox News commentator Lou Dobbs. Security will be provided by the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers who will be standing back and standing by.

The parade will lead off with Donald Trump Jr. driving a Trump 2024 Campaign Bus. Anyone voicing opposition to his dad’s claims of voter fraud will be promptly thrown under the bus. Next up is the Georgia Republican Election Officials Float waving 11,780 Biden votes they’ve miraculously found for Trump. This will be followed by a float with a Scale Model of Mount Rushmore with Trump’s Face Added, an Exhibition of Displaced Confederate Statues, and a Shipping Container brimming with Stolen Podiums, Flags, Computers, Important Papers, and Cell Phones from the January 6 Capitol Insurrection. All of these and some Spin Art attached to a Non-Fungible Token (NFT) on the Mobile Ethereum Mining Float will be auctioned by Christie’s to help fund next year’s event (Cryptocurrency only).

Visit http://aprilfoolsdayparade.com for more details.

Oregon Documentary Film Festival Director Interviews Director Judy Drosd

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

From Mikel Fair, “We had an opportunity to catch up with director of the independent film documentary film Joey Skaggs: Bad Guys Talent Management Agency, which screened at Oregon Documentary Film Festival Winter 2021. The screening on February 28, 2021 was a live drive-in theater screening on the Film Festival Circuit.

Judy Drosd Interview, Film Festival Circuit, March 1, 2021

Where Were You on Valentine’s Day 52 Years Ago?

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

In 1969 on Valentine’s Day, artist Joey Skaggs satirized male chauvinist Wall Street workers by stretching a fifty foot brassiere across the U.S. Treasury building on Wall Street in New York City. He called it his Big Bust.

Read the whole story here.

50′ Bra Video (no audio)

The back story on Francine Gottfried (from Wikipedia)

Francine Gottfried (born 1947) is a clerical worker in New York City’s Financial District who acquired sudden brief celebrity when, in the space of two weeks in September 1968, increasing numbers of men began watching her as she walked to work. Newspapers dubbed her “Wall Street’s Sweater Girl” as her curvaceous figure seemed to be the sole reason that crowds formed spontaneously around her whenever she appeared in the financial district.

Gottfried started working at Chemical Bank in the financial district on May 27, 1968. By late August, a small band of creeps had noticed her, and that she always followed the same route. They timed her daily arrival and started spreading the word to their colleagues and co-workers. For three weeks, the band of gawkers grew exponentially larger until on September 18 there were 2,000 people waiting for her. (more…)

Joe Enright on Joey Skaggs–60 Years of Satire, Psychic Attorneys and Mobile Confessionals

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Joe Enright takes a walk down memory lane and reviews Joey Skaggs Satire and Art Activism, 1960s to the Present and Beyond, the new oral history series debuting at the New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, February 12, 2021


Joey Skaggs: 60 Years of Satire, Psychic Attorneys & Mobile Confessionals, by Joe Enright, Argyle Heights, February 10, 2021

In the mid-1960s, a Lower East Side artist organized crucifixion performances in the East Village on Easter Sunday, protesting social injustice and the Vietnam War. They created…wait for it…wait for it…controversy! The cops swarmed and he was busted. This inspired some Hollywood filmmakers to option his life story for a movie. To which the young man responded: “What life story? I’m only 20!” Indeed, there would be so much more to his story.

Joey Skaggs went on to become a satirist and prankster with an extraordinary history of accomplishments, only some of which were crammed into the hilarious 2015 documentary, Art of the Prank. But many scholars also consider him a progenitor of “culture jamming” and “reality hacking,” decades before such high-falutin’ terms were invented to describe his sly takeover of the language and visual trappings of American culture in order to subversively critique it. His pranks are never vicious, never illegal, but they do require a deadpan sense of humor, good acting skills, well-crafted press releases, financing for props, costumes, videos and above all, a wonderful imagination with the planning necessary to carry it all forward.

Skaggs is foremost a very versatile artist, but when pressed for a definitive occupational title I could pin on him for this profile, Joey chose “Pataphysician,” defined by the 19th century French writer Alfred Jarry as a practitioner of “the science of imaginary solutions.” Among Skaggs’ long list of solutions that have brought joy to many fellow citizens, and embarrassment to bamboozled reporters and societal gate-keepers, some stand out for their sheer audacity. Read the whole article here.


Catch the First Four Joey Skaggs Oral Histories at the (Virtual) New Jersey Film Festival Friday

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Literary Hoaxes, Media Pranks, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art

Who is Joey Skaggs?

Find out more as the New Jersey Film Festival screens the first four oral histories in the new series, Joey Skaggs Satire and Art Activism, 1960s to the Present and Beyond this Friday, February 12, 2021.

The screening is virtual and is available for streaming anywhere (not just in New Jersey) for 24 hours as of 12:01 am. From the moment you begin watching, you have 24 hours to finish it.

Teaser trailer

On the Passing of Margo St. James, the Realist Nun, by Richard Milner

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

Richard Milner is the author of Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z.


Margo St. James, the media prankster, former hooker and champion of sexual freedom, died on January 11 in her hometown of Bellingham, Washington. She was 83. During her decades as a counterculture activist in San Francisco (1960s through 1980s), she led the crusade to upgrade legal rights for “ladies of the evening,” whom she described with respect as ‘sex workers.” To that end, she founded COYOTE — “Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics” — which she characterized as “a loose union of women,” or perhaps “a union of loose women.” She was a serious unionist. When a reporter referred to her as a “former madam,” she demanded a retraction and proudly proclaimed, “I was never management.”

But I always thought Margo’s best claim to fame was as “the Realist Nun,” which is how I first heard of her. What, you may ask, was the Realist Nun?

In 1958, a satirist, social critic, and prankster named Paul Krassner founded an outrageous underground magazine called “The Realist”. It was inevitable that in the San Francisco of the 1960s Margo and Paul would meet and become longtime pals and co-conspirators. Margo got hold of an authentic nun’s habit and began wearing it when stepping out with Paul. Once they visited an airport and lingered at the departure gate, where they embraced and began kissing passionately, with Margo attired in the nun’s outfit. Finally, when they were through, she said in a loud voice, “Goodbye, have a great flight, Father Berrigan!” And thus began the annals of The Realist Nun. (more…)

Joey Skaggs Oral History Film Series Launches

posted by
Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, First Amendment Issues, Political Challenges, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, Why Do a Prank?

ANNOUNCING:

Joey Skaggs Satire and Art Activism, 1960s to the Present and Beyond

A new series of short oral history films,
produced and directed by Judy Drosd with Joey Skaggs

 

UPCOMING SCREENINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS ARE HERE



This “sticky” post will be here for a while. Scroll down for other posts.


A Look at the Probable Genesis of QAnon

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Prank News, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

When media literacy and critical thinking are absent, the world becomes a much more dangerous place. Check out this very illuminating Buzzfeed link as well (in the 2nd paragraph below).


QAnon: the Italian artists who may have inspired America’s most dangerous conspiracy theory, by Eddy Frankel, The Art Newspaper, January 19, 2021

An anonymous left-wing art group known in the 1990s as Luther Blissett are wondering what they have unwittingly helped create

Q, the 1999 novel by the anonymous Italian art collective Luther Blissett, has notable similarities with the workings of QAnon

As the US Capitol was overwhelmed by Donald Trump supporters in early January, one figure stood out: with his painted face, bare chest, fur hat and American flag-draped spear, Jake Angeli became one of the most photographed rioters of the day. He is also known as the “QAnon Shaman” and has been seen waving a “Q sent me” placard in other protests.

QAnon is America’s most dangerous conspiracy theory, and if you pull hard enough on its threads, the whole tangled mess lands, somehow, at the feet of a group of Italian artists. It might sound like a conspiracy within a conspiracy, but, as Buzzfeed first reported in 2018, chances are that QAnon, at the start at least, took inspiration from an amorphous organisation of leftist artists who, for most of the mid-1990s, called themselves Luther Blissett after the 1980s English footballer.

They used the Watford and England striker’s name as a nom de plume, perpetrating countless media hoaxes, pranks and art interventions. They started raves on trams that turned into riots, they released albums, wrote books and manifestos, they mocked, questioned and undermined the mainstream, and they grew and grew until hundreds of people around the world were calling themselves Luther Blissett.

In the process, with their media-jamming hoaxes, they helped lay the groundwork for QAnon, a conspiracy theory about a secret satanic cabal of child abusers which controls the world. During the 2016 presidential elections, it famously gave rise to the rumour that Hillary Clinton ran a paedophile ring in a pizza parlour, Comet Ping Pong. More recently, QAnon has become a mainstay of far-right protests and riots, including the US Capitol insurrection. (more…)

Norman Savage, RIP

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

Norman Savage was a poet, author, friend and long-time co-conspirator. In addition to participating in performance pieces, he also doubled as me, even though we didn’t look or sound at all alike, on numerous occasions.

He was always game for some sly fun.

Here’s a brief journey through some of our hijinks together.



In 1986, Norman played the part of a diet commando in my Fat Squad hoax, where you could take out a contract on yourself and commandos would keep you on your diet.

In 1988, when Entertainment Tonight asked me to appear for a story promising the inside scoop on great hoaxes and hoaxers—how the news media falls for their stories, what to watch out for, and how not to be fooled—I sent Norman to appear as me.

In 1990, Norman played a “Hair Today, Ltd” scalp donor in a photo taken for Mark Dery’s article “The Merry Pranksters and the Art of the Hoax” in The New York Times.

(more…)

James “The Amazing” Randi, RIP

by
Filed under: Illusion and Magic, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, The History of Pranks, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction, Urban Legends

The world of social activism has lost another warrior.

I had the pleasure of meeting James Randi, a magician and great debunker of fake psychics and other charlatans, in 1986 when we both appeared on The Afternoon Show, a San Francisco TV talk show on KPIX. We both performed magic tricks. He removed the male host’s watch from his wrist. I removed the female host’s panties. (Having prepared ahead of time to appear on the show along with him, I had hidden a pair of female panties in my pocket and pulled them out to top Randi’s magic trick.) Riotous laughter ensued.

He later was the narrator of an Arts & Entertainment documentary called Scams, Schemes and Scoundrels which covered numerous dead scoundrels and me. You can watch the clip here.

Read his Obit in The New York Times

Mal Sharpe, Urban Prankster, RIP

posted by
Filed under: Media Pranks, Podcasts, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

Mal Sharpe, comedic pioneer and a very funny man, has left us. In 2007 the Art of the Prank blog published access to 20 of his early Imposter Podcasts, which are recordings of his street sketches (more like comedic ambushes) with his comedy partner Jim Coyle, who passed away in 1993. These recordings had been re-purposed and released by Jesse Thorn of the Maximum Fun site, where all 100 episodes reside:

In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal’s daughter, Jennifer Sharpe.

We extend condolences to the family. Here’s his obit from The New York Times:


Mal Sharpe, Groundbreaker in Street-Level Pranking, Dies at 83
by Neil Genzlinger
The New York Times
March 19, 2020

Long before late-night talk show hosts began doing it, he conducted absurd interviews with gullible passersby with his comedic partner, Jim Coyle.

Two strangers approach a man named George on the streets of San Francisco.

“George,” one of them says, “would you yourself participate in a program of inter-protoplasm flow?”

George doesn’t hesitate. “If I needed it, I guess I would,” he says.

One of the strangers, earnestly impressing on George the seriousness of that commitment, elaborates: (more…)

Buck Henry RIP

posted by
Filed under: Parody, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

Buck Henry passed away January 8, 2020 at age 89. He was a prolific screenwriter (“The Graduate”, “What’s Up Doc?”, “Catch-22”), show creator (“Get Smart” with Mel Brooks), director (“Heaven Can Wait” with Warren Beatty), actor (he appeared in more than 40 films and TV shows), SNL Host (10 times), and hoaxer…

From his Wikipedia page:

From 1959 to 1962, as part of an elaborate hoax by comedian Alan Abel, he made public appearances as G. Clifford Prout, the quietly outraged president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals,[8] who presented his point of view on talk shows.[9] The character of Prout, who wished to clothe all animals in order to prevent their ‘indecency’, was often presented as an eccentric but was otherwise taken seriously by the broadcasters who interviewed him.

A great satirical wit, Buck Henry will be missed.
New York Times Obituary
New York Post Obituary

image: worldofwonder.net/

Global No Pants Subway Ride 2020

by
Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:

As in years past, there are No Pants Subway Rides happening in dozens of cities around the world on January 12, the same day as our annual event in New York. Check our website for a list of participating cities with links to Facebook events.

Cities participating in the global No Pants Subway Ride so far: Berlin, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Dallas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Melbourne, Montreal, New York, Phoenix, Porto, San Francisco, Seattle, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington DC

Homo Velamine Interviews Joey Skaggs “Maestro of the Farce” [Spanish and English]

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Hoax Etiquette, Instructionals, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Pranksters, The Future of Pranks, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, What Makes a Good Prank?

Spanish Art and Activism Collective Homo Velamine Interviews Joey Skaggs [Spanish and English]


Joey Skaggs: “A fool is a fool, no matter what their political leaning is”
by Demófila Martínez and Luis Platypus
Homo Velamine
October 31, 2019

Joey Skaggs. PHOTO: Sam Ortiz for Observer

Homo Velamine: The increase of fake news in the media in recent years makes us feel that the limits between fact and fiction are more unclear than ever. In the documentary Art of the Prank (2015), you let the viewer peek into the creative process behind one of your hoaxes. The trickiest part seems to be deciding how far you can take it, without crossing the limits of plausibility and creating something that is impossible to believe. After all these years, does it still surprise you how far this limit can actually be pushed? Which of your performances would you say has pushed this limit the farthest and still has been successful?

Joey Skaggs: Pushing the limits of plausibility is the fun part for me. I create the problem and I create the solution. I take a gamble that what I’m doing is so ridiculous that no one’s going to believe it. I want it to be totally absurd because if the news media does fall for it, it will be even funnier and more effective in revealing their gullibility and/or hypocrisy. (more…)

AI in the Courtroom: Joey Skaggs’ Solomon Project Revisited

posted by
Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

In 1995, Joey Skaggs launched his Solomon Project hoax. Solomon (so he said) was a distributed program running on a set of super computers that would deliberate on the facts and evidence of a case and deliver a definitive verdict, eliminating the need for juries and radically reducing the role of judges. CNN fell for the Solomon Project hook, line and sinker. Reality may finally be catching up with Skaggs. h/t Felipe


Robot judges ‘will pass sentence with no human bias’ in AI courts
by Michael Moran
Daily Star
October 19, 2019

Increasing use of AI in legal system points the way to an all-robot courtroom

It’s likely that most people locked in our jails believe that with a better lawyer, a more lenient judge or a more understanding jury things might have been very different for them.

Human error, they will say, is to blame for them being banged up.

But can the human element be removed? Law firms are already using computer algorithms to perform background research other tasks traditionally performed by human staff. And that’s just the beginning.

As computer researchers get closer to creating true Artificial Intelligence, it’s predicted to eliminate most paralegal and legal research positions within the next decade.

The next step inevitably involves artificial intelligences aiding, or even completely replacing lawyers. And if we have robot lawyers, why not automated judges and juries too? Why not a fully solid-state legal system?

Read the rest of this article here »