Pranksters

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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.

Get Ready for the 34th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade!

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

Join us at the 34th Annual April Fools’ Day Parade and 3rd Annual Trumpathon, April 1, 2019. The theme this year is “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” The Grand Marshall, once again, is Donald Trump, who will be wearing flaming pants and pushing his Trump Kool-Aid Cart.

Watch the prep video here:

Chased by a mob of fact-checkers screaming, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Trump will steer the parade to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue where the crowd of Trump look-alikes will toast his greatness while drinking his Kool-Aid.

The parade leaves from 5th Avenue & 59th Street at 12:00 Noon and will make one stop at Trump Tower to toast the President with his own Kool-Aid.

Read the details and print a Trump mask to bring to the parade here:
https://joeyskaggs.com/april-fools-day-parade-press-release.

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.

Criticizing Dirty Money

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

Protestors target opioid drug money that funds major museums.


Nan Goldin Leads a Protest at the Guggenheim Against the Sackler Family
by Masha Gessen
New Yorker
February 10, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum is crowded after five on a Saturday, when the price of admission is “pay what you wish.” Even in below-freezing weather this weekend, the ticket line snaked around the corner. People came in groups, couples, and alone. As happens in large crowds, at times the noise level rose spontaneously, as though something or someone were demanding attention, but immediately subsided. At any given time, there were people milling around in the lobby, looking at the door as though waiting for someone and up at the galleries as though planning something. Some of them were.

A bit after six, a group went up to one of the galleries. They were people of different ages, from their late teens to their sixties. They could have been New Yorkers or visitors; some of them looked like they might be artists, and some looked like they were probably students. They were all of those things. If one looked closely, similar groups of between a half-dozen and a dozen people were coalescing on all levels of the museum.

A few minutes after six-thirty, the photographer Nan Goldin appeared in the lobby. There was a flurry of hugs and hellos, and several people snapped photos. It could have been a celebrity sighting—Goldin, whose work is in the museum’s collection, is a Guggenheim type of celebrity. She stood in the middle of the lobby, visible from almost any point of the great round building. Then the noise level rose and did not subside.

Small flyers started falling, as though from the glass dome, swirling like snow as they descended the six stories. Within minutes the floor was coated in white. The sheets of paper were prescriptions, made out by a “Robert Sackler, MD,” to a Solomon R. Guggenheim, for eighty-milligram pills of OxyContin, to be taken twenty-four times a day. Each script contained a quotation: “If OxyContin is uncontrolled, it is highly likely that it will eventually be abused. . . . How substantially would it improve our sales?”

Read the rest of this story 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
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Confessions of a Rock and Roll Poser

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Hype, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Last autumn, Jered “Threatin” Eames staged the most alienating, least explicable rock tour stunt since the Sex Pistols hit the deep south. He recently broke his silence.


“The Great Heavy Metal Hoax”
by David Kushner
Rolling Stone
December 14, 2018

In November, managers of rock clubs across the United Kingdom began sharing the same weird tale. A pop-metal performer, Threatin, had rented their clubs for his 10-city European tour. Club owners had never heard of the act when a booking agent approached them promising packed houses. Threatin had fervent followers, effusive likes, rows of adoring comments under his YouTube concert videos, which showed him windmilling before a sea of fans. Websites for the record label, managers and a public-relations company who represented Threatin added to his legitimacy. Threatin’s Facebook page teemed with hundreds of fans who had RSVP’d for his European jaunt, which was supporting his album, Breaking the World.

But despite all the hype, almost no one came to the shows. It was just Threatin and his three-piece band onstage, and his wife, Kelsey, filming him from the empty floor. And yet Threatin didn’t seem to care — he just ripped through a set as if there was a full house. When confronted by confused club owners, Threatin just shrugged, blaming the lack of audience on bad promotion. “It was clear that something weird was happening,” says Jonathan “Minty” Minto, who was bartending the night Threatin played at the Exchange, a Bristol club, “but we didn’t realize how weird.” Intrigued, Minto and his friends started poking around Threatin’s Facebook page, only to find that most of the fans lived in Brazil. “The more we clicked,” says Minto, “the more apparent it became that every single attendee was bogus.”

It all turned out to be fake: The websites, the record label, the PR company, the management company, all traced back to the same GoDaddy account. The throngs of fans in Threatin’s concert videos were stock footage. The promised RSVPs never appeared. When word spread of Threatin’s apparent deception, club owners were perplexed: Why would someone go to such lengths just to play to empty rooms? Read more.

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.

The Political Prank That Ensnared the Wall Street Journal

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

Laura Loomer is a far-right media provocateur known for shambolic publicity stunts. Her toxic racial rhetoric has resulted in her removal from a number of social media platforms, and she hasn’t taken it well. Anxious to stay in the public eye, she was recently tricked into a bizarre caper that oddly also sucked in the Wall Street Journal. This comedy of errors encapsulates much of what is so ridiculous about the current media landscape. See if you can keep up.


“Did the Wall Street Journal Fall for a Prank Directed at Laura Loomer?”
by Jared Holt
Right Wing Watch
January 15, 2019

EXCERPT FROM THE FULL ARTICLE: “She didn’t verify who I am once. Never did she make an attempt,” Gillen said. “Everything I gave her as ‘info,’ she took as gospel. She hasn’t batted an eye or questioned anything that I said, ever.”

In a recorded phone call Bernard shared with us, Loomer expressed her willingness to leverage all means possible to retaliate against Twitter.

“I’m down with anything, honestly. So if whistle-blowers like yourself just want to come to me—I mean, I’m looking to escalate this as much as I can. I don’t even care. The gloves are off right now. [Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey] is banning people simply because they’re conservative. … He is taking money from all these Muslims and implementing Sharia law,” Loomer told Gillen during a phone call.

Bernard told Right Wing Watch that the goal of their stunt was to see if Loomer would go on-air at Alex Jones’ Infowars and repeat what they had told her, after which they planned to reveal the details of their joke in order to make a point about what they said were Loomer’s and Infowars’ non-existent journalistic standards and confirmation bias.

But something else happened.

“Don’t worry it will be big,” Loomer wrote to the pranksters in a December text message. “I have a big network of journalists I know.”

Read the whole story here.


The Great Jimmy Page Robbie Williams London Times Hoax

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fact or Fiction?, Media Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, You Decide

This is an amusing, ridiculous, and absurd story. But more importantly, it’s an example of how a story can grow from a snowflake into an avalanche. Particularly when the media is interested in nothing more than creating click-bait to enhance its bottom line.

It started with this tweet:

The next day I was contacted numerous times by Harry Shukman, a London Times journalist, wanting to know if I was responsible for a letter sent to the Kensington and Chelsea borough in the UK purporting that singer songwriter Robbie Williams (the former Take That star) has been mocking Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin fame) with ridiculous stunts because Page has been trying for five years to protect his historic mansion from potential damage that could be caused by Williams’ proposed construction of an underground pool next door.

In other words, he wanted to know if the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by me. (more…)

Another Reason Art Is Bad for Fascism

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

Ever wondered why fascists hate free speech? Brains trumped brawn when this German art collective shined a light on dozens of violent neo-Nazis.


“Who Says Art Is Useless? A German Art Collective Outs 25 Neo-Nazis in an Online Sting Operation”
by Henri Neuendorf
Artnet News
December 8, 2018

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

A left-wing German art collective is using its creativity for a cause. The group’s members announced on Wednesday that they had identified dozens of neo-Nazis by luring them into an elaborate digital trap.

In August, far-right groups gathered in the east German city of Chemnitz for a multi-day rally that quickly turned violent. Fascist extremists chased and harassed immigrants, vandalized property, made Nazi salutes (which is illegal in Germany), and clashed with riot police. But most of the demonstrators who caused the unrest managed to evade arrest and prosecution.

In response, the leftist artist and activist group Center for Political Beauty (ZPS) made it their mission to bring as many neo-Nazi rioters to justice as possible. After the unrest, the activists began collecting footage and images of rioters and cross-referenced it with publicly available social media profiles.

The group built a website with information and pictures of more than 1,500 of the estimated 7,000 Chemnitz demonstrators and sent out a newsletter urging the public to come forward with further information. But the public appeal turned out to be a trick. Programmers working with ZPS deliberately designed the site so visitors could only see 20 profiles at a time, encouraging the fascists to use the search function to find out if they themselves had been named. Read more.

Deep Fakes: Down the Horrifying Rabbit Hole

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Propaganda and Disinformation, The Future of Pranks

On the topic of our tenuous collective relationship with the concept formerly known as “truth,” this examination of “deep fakes,” high-tech simulated video recordings of people you recognize doing things they’ve never actually done, may be the most frightening and portentous emerging story of 2018. And that’s saying a mouthful.


“You thought fake news was bad? Deep fakes are where truth goes to die”
by Oscar Schwartz
November 12, 2018
The Guardian

Fake videos can now be created using a machine learning technique called a “generative adversarial network”, or a GAN. A graduate student, Ian Goodfellow, invented GANs in 2014 as a way to algorithmically generate new types of data out of existing data sets. For instance, a GAN can look at thousands of photos of Barack Obama, and then produce a new photo that approximates those photos without being an exact copy of any one of them, as if it has come up with an entirely new portrait of the former president not yet taken. GANs might also be used to generate new audio from existing audio, or new text from existing text – it is a multi-use technology.

The use of this machine learning technique was mostly limited to the AI research community until late 2017, when a Reddit user who went by the moniker “Deepfakes” – a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake” – started posting digitally altered pornographic videos. He was building GANs using TensorFlow, Google’s free open source machine learning software, to superimpose celebrities’ faces on the bodies of women in pornographic movies.

A number of media outlets reported on the porn videos, which became known as “deep fakes”. In response, Reddit banned them for violating the site’s content policy against involuntary pornography. By this stage, however, the creator of the videos had released FakeApp, an easy-to-use platform for making forged media. The free software effectively democratized the power of GANs. Suddenly, anyone with access to the internet and pictures of a person’s face could generate their own deep fake. Read more.

This Rascal’s Obituary is a Collaborative Literary Masterpiece

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Parody, Prank News, Pranksters, The World of the Prank

As a fitting tribute to the prank-loving Rick Stein on the occasion of his death, his daughter Alex Walsh took some creative liberties in his honor. Then things got really ridiculous, swelling into a funny and moving tribute to the power of a life irreverently lived.


“A daughter’s hilarious obituary unravels her father’s mysterious life. You have to read to the end to get it.”
by Allison Klein
October 11, 2018
The Washington Post

The obituary that ran last week in Delaware Online is a mystery, the tale of a globe-trotting Renaissance man who disappeared in a single-engine plane over the Atlantic Ocean after learning he had cancer.

It was written by Alex Walsh about her father, Rick Stein, 71, a man who she said had an endless appetite for comedy. The huge response on social media has been comfort to the mourning family, she said, as people who never knew her father have been sending condolences by the dozens.

“All of this is bittersweet,” Walsh, 45, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

The obituary begins:

“Rick Stein, 71, of Wilmington was reported missing and presumed dead on September 27, 2018 when investigators say the single-engine plane he was piloting, The Northrop, suddenly lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. Philadelphia police confirm Stein had been a patient at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital where he was being treated for a rare form of cancer. Hospital spokesman Walter Heisenberg says doctors from Stein’s surgical team went to visit him on rounds when they discovered his room was empty. Security footage shows Stein leaving the building at approximately 3:30 Thursday afternoon, but then the video feed mysteriously cuts off.

“Authorities say they believe Stein took an Uber to the Philadelphia airport where they assume he somehow gained access to the aircraft. ‘The sea was angry that day,’ said NTSB lead investigator Greg Fields in a news conference. ‘We have no idea where Mr. Stein may be, but any hope for a rescue is unlikely.”’ (more…)

Barney Rosset Documentary Seeks Support

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Filed under: Creative Activism, First Amendment Issues, Legal Issues, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Prank News, Pranksters, The History of Pranks, The Prank as Art, The World of the Prank

Recently, a team of seasoned and passionate documentary filmmakers launched a Kickstarter project to fund Barney’s Wall, a tribute to the iconoclastic Evergreen Review publisher, First Amendment crusader, and countercultural titan Barney Rosset.

Now, they need a bit more help to cover permissions, attorney fees, and other expenses associating with bringing such a project to fruit. (We can certainly sympathize.)

If you’d like to donate, you can do so here before January 4th, 2019.

And if you aren’t familiar with Rosset, check out his obituary. He’s an essential figure in the development of 20th Century creative rebellion, and it’s a rousing read in its own right.

“Colleagues said he had ‘a whim of steel’. ‘He does everything by impulse and then figures out afterward whether he’s made a smart move or was just kidding.'”