Satire

Satire uses elements of a prior work to target some other aspect of society, parody uses elements of a prior work to target the prior work itself.

Blog Posts

Better Call Mike

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

Fake subway ads promoting the services offered by President Trump’s fixer, attorney Michael Cohen, have appeared in New York City subways. The anonymous force behind the ads, website and telephone message you receive when you call the phone number on the ad is interviewed in the Village Voice.


Meet the Creator of the Fake Michael Cohen Subway Ad
by Neil Demause
Village Voice
April 20, 2018

Dirty deeds, done for a reasonable retainer

Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images

This week, subway riders may have been surprised during their morning commutes to see a Dr. Zizmor–esque ad for another now-familiar face: “Michael Cohen, Attorney-at-Law. Got Problems? Call ‘The Fixer,’ ” the ad copy reads, above a checklist of services rendered — “Hush Payments, Physical Threats, Pay Off Porn Stars, Playboy Bunnies” — and the smarmily grinning face of Donald Trump’s embattled lawyer.

The ad — which, needless to say, was placed on trains without the knowledge or permission of the MTA — went a step further, though, by including a phone number that leads to a similarly deadpan voicemail message (“Press 3 if you are the president of the United States”), as well as a URL for a website advertising his skill set and office hours. (Apparently the fake Cohen is happy to “commit treason if it means helping a client” but doesn’t work weekends.)

The Voice, in what is apparently going to be an ongoing series of interviews with New Yorkers insistent on joining the daily subway-ad-strip dialogue, tracked down the anonymous Cohen impersonator for a brief email interrogation: Read the full interview here.

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.)

Trump’s Military Parade Extravaganza Set for April 1, 2018

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

Event Alert!
New York City’s 33rd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade &
2nd Annual Trumpathon!
“TAKE A KNEE!”

If you’re in New York City on Sunday, April 1, 2018, join the April Fools’ Day Trump Military Parade and show the world how grandiose and out of touch America’s leader really is.

Bring your artillery! All military toys, tanks, planes, helicopters and GI Joe soldiers are needed. Help us amass the largest assembly of military might the world has ever seen for President Donald Trump’s tremendous and amazing Military Parade.

All marching personnel will have Donald Trump look-like masks and will march from 5th Ave. and 59th St. to Trump Tower to take a knee. Download and print a Trump mask here. If you can’t print a mask, we’ll have one for you.

Please spread the word! @artoftheprank

WHAT:
New York’s irreverent April Fools’ Day Parade returns, poking fun once again at the past year’s displays of hype, hypocrisy, deceit, bigotry, and downright foolishness. Nothing is sacred. Our satire knows no bounds. The parade this year will be a massive "TRUMP MILIARY PARADE" celebrating our president’s greatest fixation — himself.

The public is encouraged to participate, in or out of costume, with or without floats, and may join the procession at any point along the parade route. Floats can 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 aerial balloons are welcome. The parade will start at 59th St. and Fifth Ave. at 12 noon, and will pass by Trump Tower at 12:15 pm where everyone will take a knee. The Parade Committee assumes no liability for damages caused by satire.

WHY:
The New York April Fools’ Day Parade was created in 1986 to remedy a glaring omission in the long list of New York’s ethnic and holiday parades. These events fail to recognize the importance of April 1st, the day designated to commemorate the folly of mankind. In an attempt to bridge this gap and bring people back in touch with their inherent foolishness, the parade annually crowns a King or Queen of Fools from parading look-alikes.

WHEN/WHERE:
Sunday, April 1, from 12 noon – 3 pm

  • Parade begins at 5th Avenue & 59th Street and marches down 5th Avenue to Washington Square Park
  • There will be one stop at Trump Tower at 5th Avenue between 57th and 56th Street where the entire parade will take a knee
  • FULL PRESS RELEASE: http://aprilfoolsdayparade.com

    FACEBOOK EVENT: Please share on Facebook

    TWITTER: @artoftheprank

    FOR MORE INFORMATION:
    Joey Skaggs, April Fools’ Day Parade Committee Chair
    Phone: 212-254-7878
    info@joeyskaggs.com

    Bicyclist (aka the FCC) Throttles the Streets in Front of the FCC (aka the Internet) to Create Priority Access

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

    An allegory for our times. Rob Bliss “throttled” the road in front of the FCC so he could charge $5/month for priority access to protest Agit Pai and the FCC’s recent repeal of net neutrality.


    Hero bicyclist narrows streets near FCC and offers drivers $5 “Priority Access” so drivers can “choose the plan that best suits their needs”
    by Cory Doctorow
    BoingBoing
    February 2, 2018

    An act of heroic trolling from Net Neutrality advocate Rob Bliss, who “throttled” access to DC’s 12th Street by traffic-coning all but one lane, then cycled slowly up and down the remaining lane with a sign offering drivers “priority access” to his “fast lane” for $5/month.

    Watch the video by Rob Bliss

    Bliss was making a pointed statement about Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who insisted that he alone could see the looming problem of network management that could only be fixed by allowing ISPs to use their publicly subsidized infrastructure to limit who could get to the network services they wanted to visit.

    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.

    “Walk Right!” Revisted

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

    The New York Post is just catching up… In December of 1984, Joseph Virgil Skaggs (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs) formed WALK RIGHT! - an ad hoc group of vigilante sidewalk etiquette enforcers who patrolled the streets to make New York a better place to live and walk. Dressed in all black with WALK RIGHT! sweat shirts they enforced a list of sixty six rules for pedestrians they wanted enacted into law.


    Tourists, we're begging you: Please learn how to walk in NYC
    By Barbara Hoffman
    New York Post
    December 22, 2017

    Welcome to Gridlock Central, otherwise known as New York City during the holidays. It helps to remember that you're not in Kansas anymore - or Manitoba, for that matter. Life will be so much better for yourself and everyone around you if you observe a few basic rules.
    In other words, walk this way:

    Keep right.
    If you're walking more slowly than the natives - and there's a good reason for the phrase "a New York minute" - stay to the right on stairs, escalators and sidewalks, so we can step nimbly by you.

    Separate.
    Two-by-two worked for Noah's Ark, but not Midtown. If you must hold hands, prepare to break away when we come barreling toward you, desperate to flag that cab. Walking four abreast as a family? Fuhgeddaboutit. Pair off and stay close.

    Don't stop short.
    Unless, of course, you're about to be run over. But certainly step aside and out of traffic's way to admire that tall building, marvel at a panhandler or snap a selfie. Speaking of which:

    Don't text in revolving doors.
    Even seasoned New Yorkers can't juggle that. You can wait 30 seconds before tweeting, "Guess where I am?"

    (more…)

    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.

    Stand-up Comedians Regroup Against Trump’s Shade

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    Filed under: Media Literacy, Parody, Political Challenges, Satire, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

    Satire has always been our front line of defense against the insanity of our so-called leaders. But with Trump’s alternative reality reaching such exalted new heights, comedians need new strategies.

    As we approach the first summer of the Trump presidency, comics are realizing their job isn't figuring out the perfect way to skewer President Trump-their job is to find the humor that pushes us past him, his acrimony, and his chaos. If that's even possible.


    Funny, How? Inside Stand-Up Comedy’s Donald Trump Problem
    by Burt Helm
    GQ
    June 2, 2017

    The absurd usually makes for great comedic fodder. But when the source of that ridiculousness is the man tasked with, you know, running the United States…is it still funny? Everyone from Jerrod Carmichael to Michael Che to Lena Dunham is trying to figure that out.

    On a Monday night in January, people looking to escape the gloom and chaos of Donald Trump's first two weeks in office gathered at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory for Michael Che's Secret Show. Tickets to the special comedy event, which benefitted Planned Parenthood, went on sale five days after the inauguration and four days after the Women's March became one of the largest-scale protests in American history (also, three days after the birth of “alternative facts," two days after the President pushed false voter fraud rumors, and one day after the first reports of his impending refugee ban). The show sold out in under an hour. As soon as Cipha Sounds, a New York City-based DJ and comedian, took the stage and started spinning, heads in the crowd were bobbing, expectant smiles on their faces. "Out of the five fingers on your hand, which one do you feel represents your feelings toward Donald Trump?" asked Cipha, cranking the volume on CeeLo's "Fuck You."

    "It's not about an agenda. It's more about bringing you guys a fun fucking show," Che said, welcoming the audience. He brought up a comedy Dream Team: Kevin Iso, Mike Birbiglia, Amy Schumer, Colin Quinn, Lena Dunham, Leslie Jones, John Mulaney, and Che's partner on Saturday Night Live's “Weekend Update,” Colin Jost. But this was not a night for liberals to forget their woes. None of the performers could finish his or her set without referencing the political climate. They went dark; they looked for bitter laughs. (more…)

    Airport Charging Station Prank

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

    Prankster gives travelers desperate for a charge serious sticker shock.


    This Man’s Hilarious Airport Prank Is So Perfect and So Evil
    by Reegan Von Wildenradt
    Men’s Health
    June 15, 2017

    He hit airport travelers right where it hurts

    Is there anything as beautiful as spotting an unused outlet in a crowded airport just as your phone battery reaches 1 percent? Of course not. So when one guy decided to violate that sacred moment for countless airport travelers by dotting a crowded airport terminal with fake electrical outlet stickers, we both cringed with the victims and applauded the sheer genius of one of the most hilarious pranks we’ve seen in a while.

    The mastermind, @JustBasicDave, was traveling from Miami International Airport to London when he apparently decided that instead of just grabbing a book and finding a nice comfortable piece of hard plastic chair while waiting for his flight, he would turn the nightmare that already is traveling into an even sadder time for a number of airport travelers. (If you’re looking for an airport terminal you wouldn’t mind spending some extra time in, though, here are the 10 best.) Dave, as we are assuming his name is, pulled out some fake electrical outlet stickers and stuck them to spots throughout the terminal. Then, he sat and waited for his prey to fall into his devious trap. Read the rest of this article here.


    Veteran Crank Yankers Celebrate the Lost Art of the Prank Call

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    Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters, Satire, The History of Pranks

    In the ’90s, Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers showcased popular comedians and kept alive the hallowed cultural tradition of the phone prank. Here, stars Adam Carolla and Jim Florentine reminisce and reflect.


    “Crank Yankers’ Adam Carolla and Jim Florentine on the ‘Lost Art’ of the Prank Call”
    by Jake Lauer
    Paste
    June 1, 2017
    There's something nostalgic about prank phone calls. They're the product of a bygone era, and if you were born before the invention of caller ID, they were likely a part of your childhood.

    "Maybe there's a nostalgic feel to them because you can't do them anymore, says Jim Florentine, one of the stars of Comedy Central's Crank Yankers and the voice of fan-favorite character Special Ed. "Now you get harassment charges. It's really a lost art."

    It's been 15 years since comedians Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel introduced the world to Crank Yankers, the hilariously offensive show where puppets, voiced by comedians, harass unsuspecting people with prank phone calls. The show was a huge hit, running for four seasons-three on Comedy Central and one on MTV 2.

    Crank Yankers featured some of the biggest names in comedy, including Dave Chappelle, Sarah Silverman, Tracy Morgan and Dane Cook (before he became a household name). Carolla, who produced the show with Kimmel, voiced Mr. Birchum, a crotchety Vietnam War veteran who berated anyone who spoke with him.

    Paste spoke with Carolla and Florentine about Crank Yankers's 15th anniversary, the art of the perfect prank call and the unaired calls that went too far. Read more.


    Gender Studies Hoaxers Kick an Academic Hornet’s Nest

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Fraud and Deception, Literary Hoaxes, Media Literacy, Media Pranks, Parody, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

    Skeptic magazine reveals an Alan Sokal-style hoax on the journal Cogent Social Sciences–an attempt to mock both what the authors perceive to be the excesses of feminist academia and open-access or pay-to-publish journals. So far, they have at least succeeded in getting a lot of attention, pro and con.


    “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct: A Sokal-Style Hoax on Gender Studies”
    by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsey
    Skeptic
    May 19, 2017

    The androcentric scientific and meta-scientific evidence that the penis is the male reproductive organ is considered overwhelming and largely uncontroversial.

    That's how we began. We used this preposterous sentence to open a "paper" consisting of 3,000 words of utter nonsense posing as academic scholarship. Then a peer-reviewed academic journal in the social sciences accepted and published it.
    This paper should never have been published. Titled, "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct," our paper "argues" that "The penis vis-à-vis maleness is an incoherent construct. We argue that the conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a gender-performative, highly fluid social construct." As if to prove philosopher David Hume's claim that there is a deep gap between what is and what ought to be, our should-never-have-been-published paper was published in the open-access (meaning that articles are freely accessible and not behind a paywall), peer-reviewed journal Cogent Social Sciences. (In case the PDF is removed, we've archived it.)

    Assuming the pen names "Jamie Lindsay" and "Peter Boyle," and writing for the fictitious "Southeast Independent Social Research Group," we wrote an absurd paper loosely composed in the style of post-structuralist discursive gender theory. The paper was ridiculous by intention, essentially arguing that penises shouldn't be thought of as male genital organs but as damaging social constructions. We made no attempt to find out what "post-structuralist discursive gender theory" actually means. We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal. Read more.

    Recall Recoil

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

    As The Onion has demonstrated, laughter is one of America’s last lines of defense against the firearms industry.

    A complex stunt by some anonymous pranksters manages to goose gun culture, the Trump administration, public relations, and business ethics, all with a dark and funny spirit. Thanks to Naomi for the tip.


    “Anonymous art collective trolls hundreds of Heckler & Koch’s US gun vendors with bogus recall prank”
    by Anthony Smith
    Mic
    May 4, 2017

    Earlier this week, 200 U.S. vendors of guns made by Heckler & Koch, a massive multimillion dollar international arms manufacturer, received letters purporting to come from someone named Martin Obermann, whom the official-seeming letterhead identified as Heckler & Koch's Head of Transatlantic Sales.

    Recipients were notified that, as of May 1, the international arms giant had “ceased the supply of firearms to the domestic market in the United States of America” and had begun “voluntary recalling all firearms from the sporting and commercial markets in the USA.”

    The reason the letter gave? Donald Trump.

    “Owing to the rise of firearm-related deaths in your country in conjunction with the threat of ongoing civil unrest and a highly volatile foreign policy under the administration of President Donald Trump, the German headquarters [of Heckler & Koch] no longer deem the USA a safe destination country for weapons export,” the letter - which claimed to come from an arms manufacturer whose guns have reportedly been used by the thousands in the Syrian conflict - said. Read more.


    Subway Sexual Assault Prevention Gets Physical

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    Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Legal Issues, Political Pranks, Publicity Stunts, Satire

    An aggressive awareness campaign hits handsy men where it hurts.


    “Mexico City Subway Installs Plastic Penis on Seats to Fight Sexual Harassment”
    by Kieran Corcoran
    Heat Street
    March 14, 2017

    Subway bosses in Mexico City have fitted plastic penises onto seats in a bizarre campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault.

    The smooth shape of some plastic seats on the billion-passenger network has been replaced with the sculpted shape of a male body.

    The upper half of the seat is fitted with a chest, nipples and a belly – while the lower half is given legs, and a prominent, flaccid penis. Watch the video here:

    Text placed on the floor next to the modified seats makes the point that sitting there is uncomfortable – but not as uncomfortable as getting sexually assaulted. Read more.

    Yahoo News covers NYC’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade

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    Filed under: Art Pranks, Creative Activism, Prank News, Pranksters, Satire

    New York City’s 32nd Annual April Fools’ Day Parade
    Yahoo News
    April 1, 2017

    Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesThe theme for this years parade is MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN! The Grand Marshall will be a Donald Trump look-alike. The full parade was actually a April Fools' prank. During the event, masked activists marched with a hand-pulled "float" featuring a likeness of Donald Trump sitting in an outhouse. (Getty)

    Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

    Click here for more photos