Practical Jokes and Mischief

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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].

Microsoft Preemptively Forfeits 4/1 Prank War

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Large tech companies aren’t popular right now, and their branded April Fools’ Day stunts haven’t been well received in awhile. So Microsoft has banned all 4/1 hijinks, shenanigans, and monkeyshines, company-wide. Or – sigh – maybe it’s a setup.


“Microsoft exec bans company from pulling any dumb April Fools’ pranks”
By Peter Bright
Ars Technica
March 27, 2019

April 1 has long been a spectacularly annoying day to be alive, with brands falling over themselves to be “funny” and usually revealing themselves to be anything but. This was almost tolerable in the days when we were talking simply fake advertisements in print media, but it has taken on a new dimension online, as companies have actually modified the services that we rely on daily in an attempt to be “funny.”

This was particularly striking in Google’s 2016 mic drop feature on Gmail, where clicking the “mic drop” button sent a recipient a gif of a Despicable Me minion—a vile affront to humanity in and of itself—and then muted and archived the conversation, thus hiding any responses to it. Cue widespread complaints from users who clicked the button by accident, denying themselves jobs and offending their bosses.

Microsoft, for one, wants no part of this. In a move that can only be welcomed, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela sent a company-wide e-mail (leaked to the Verge) imploring staff to refrain from creating any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts. Capossela writes that according to the company’s data, the stunts have “limited positive impact” and can result in “unwanted news cycles.” Read more.

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.

Improv Everywhere: Phone Booth Coworking

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

This past November, Improv Everywhere turned a pair of phone booths on 6th Avenue into coworking spaces. Real New Yorkers were invited to try out the new “WeWork Street” service and learn about the many benefits of outdoor coworking.

Watch the video:

This unauthorized project was a collaboration with Deanna Director and Maggie McClurken, who we worked with on the Fake Apple Store project, as well as public space artist Jordan Seiler, who lent his phone booth expertise. This project was not a collaboration with WeWork, but we hope they like it and hope they will consider the idea for their ever-expanding empire.

Good Things Come In Ridiculous Packages

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Filed under: Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

Not sure you’ll choose the perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones? It hardly matters when you use one of these goofy satirical packages.


“Hilarious Prank Gift Boxes Printed With Items of Questionable Taste That Hide the Real Gift Inside”
by Lori Dorn
Laughing Squid
December 4, 2018

Prank-O, a Minneapolis-based comedy company, has a hilarious line of fake gift boxes known as Prank Packs. These gift boxes are printed with items of questionable taste while hiding the real presents inside. Such absurd items include a Plant Urinal, a “Crib Dribbler”, “My First Fire”, “Bathe and Brew”, “Tech Neck”, “Tweet Printer” and “Sizzl Bacon Scented Dryer Sheets”, just to name a few. Read more.

Improv Everywhere: The Giant Boom Box

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Illusion and Magic, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts

Note from Editor Joey Skaggs: This brings back fond memories of my 1978 Disco Radio, a 4 foot by 2 foot by 8 foot wide radio on wheels, built by my New York SVA students for a class project. It was a commentary on the proliferation of loud disco radios blaring music throughout the streets of New York at that time. Students dressed in costumes, each with their own disco radio, wheeled the giant radio into Washington Square Park where they played music matching their costumed characters, all at the same time.

Charlie Todd’s wonderfully sweet Giant Boombox event, sponsored by Target, looks a lot less noisy!


Improv Everywhere’s Giant Boombox

We placed a 10-foot tall boombox on Pier 17 in Manhattan and waited for unsuspecting people to plug it in. Real New Yorkers worked together to carry the 160-foot long cord across the pier to an oversized outlet.

Once the boombox was plugged in, everyone was surprised by a massive holiday dance party with 100 acrobatic dancers, thousands of Christmas lights placed on two historic ships, and 10 hidden snow machines.

For more photos and a look behind the scenes at how this event came together, visit https://improveverywhere.com/2018/12/17/the-giant-boombox/.

Sponsored by Target

Alan Abel, RIP

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Filed under: Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks

Better check the coffin!


Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94
by Margalit Fox
The New York Times
Sept. 17, 2018

Credit Larry Stoddard/Associated Press

Alan Abel, a professional hoaxer who for more than half a century gleefully hoodwinked the American public — not least of all by making himself the subject of an earnest news obituary in The New York Times in 1980 — apparently actually did die, on Friday, at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 94.

His daughter, Jenny Abel, said the cause was complications of cancer and heart failure.

Mr. Abel’s putative 1980 death, orchestrated with his characteristic military precision and involving a dozen accomplices, had been confirmed to The Times by several rigorously rehearsed confederates. One masqueraded as the grieving widow. Another posed as an undertaker, answering fact-checking calls from the newspaper on a dedicated phone line that Mr. Abel had installed, complete with its own directory-information business listing.

After the obituary was published, Mr. Abel, symbolically rising from the grave, held a gleeful news conference, and a much-abashed Times ran a retraction.

This time around, Mr. Abel’s death was additionally confirmed by the Regional Hospice and Palliative Care in Connecticut, which said it had tended to him in his last days, and Carpino Funeral Home in Southbury, which said it was overseeing the arrangements.

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.)

Real Magician’s Never Reveal Their Tricks?

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Parody, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Dead pan parody of a magician’s nemesis revealing all of the tricks. h/t Neatorama


It’s enough to make you pull your hare out! Magician’s thrilling secrets are revealed by his stony-faced assistant
by Joe Sheppard
Daily Mail
October 13, 2017

As traits go, honesty is not really the best policy for a magician’s assistant.

This amusing video shows a prankster revealing all his budding sorcerer friend’s best tricks.

The series of clips filmed by Chinese internet star A Gan shows him attempting a few illusions which are intended to show floating hands, bending bottles and levitating taps.

But each time he tries, the mood is instantly broken by his purple-haired pal, who steps in to reveal the hoax. Read the whole article here.

Short video:

Longer video:

Brutal Japanese Elevator Prank

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Where does the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Humans stand on this?


Japan TV show pranks unsuspecting people with elevator problem
Rob Beschizza
BoingBoing
January 30, 2018

Even by the hilariously sadistic standards of Japanese prank shows, this is outstanding.

Watch the video

Now You Can Say “Kiss My Sweet Ass” and Mean It in the Nicest Way

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire

Perfect gift for the real asshole in your life…


You Can Now Buy A Chocolate Mold Of Your Partner's Anus (Or Your Own), Just In Time For The Holidays
PizzaBottle.com

If you're looking for something to say, "I love you, happy holidays!!" why not get a chocolate mold of your anus and gift it to your boo? Or, grab a mold of your significant other's behind to show them just how much you adore their poop shoot. While it seems a bit crazy, and a bit #fakenews, this is the real deal, y'all. If you're as obsessed with your partner's ass as they are with yours, show them the right way by making it edible. Edible Anus, a company that specializes in – you guessed it – edible anus', will send you a box of three chocolate butts for only $10. Magnus Irvin, the owner of Edible Anus, is clearly onto something here.

Canards For Humanity

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire

In what has become an annual American holiday tradition, the creative team behind the party game Cards Against Humanity is pulling a satirical marketing stunt. (In 2014, we talked with ringleader Max Temkin about the “Box of Bullshit” and his reverence for Abbie Hoffman.) This time, their gimmick carries a fresh and righteous political charge.


“Cards Against Humanity is the undisputed champion of holiday promotions”
by Lindsey Quinn
The Hustle
November 16, 2017

The world's raunchiest card game has purchased a plot of vacant land along the Mexico-US border and has hired an eminent domain lawyer to make it "as time-consuming and expensive as possible" for the Trump administration to build its proposed wall.

To fund their effort, CAH offered a package of "six surprises" for $15 - all of which are now sold out.

Since the game was launched by 8 high school friends in 2011, it's gained a reputation for pulling incredibly on-point PR stunts. Read more.

Bulgarian Superhero Shenanigans

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Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Political Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

Bulgarian vandals are disrespecting Soviet military monuments, and the Russian government wants them to cut it out right now. H/t Naomi.


“Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Painting Soviet Monuments To Look Like American Superheroes”
By Staff
Earthly Mission
October 20, 2017

According to a report by the Moscow Times, pranksters in Bulgaria are repainting Soviet-era monuments so that Soviet military heroes look like American Superheroes. Needless to say, the Russians are not too happy about it.

Watch the video and then read more:

Improv Everywhere’s Fake Apple Store

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief

From Improv Everywhere: For our latest mission, we turned the 23rd Street 6-train elevator into New York's newest Apple Store. We placed giant Apple logos on the sides of the glass cube structure, added fake Apple Store employees plus a line of 50 people waiting for the new iPhone X. With the famous 5th Avenue Apple Store under construction, we felt NYC needed a new glass cube Apple Store.

Watch the video:

Mission report and more photos are here.

Directed by Charlie Todd
Produced by Deverge
Music by Tyler Walker