Friday, April 03, 2009

Top 5 April Fool's Pranks

Wednesday of this past week was a time for pranking the crap out of each other, as is American tradition, in honor of April Fool’s Day, something I admittedly abstain from celebrating. This year, however, I had one of my favorite former students ask if I could assist him in a prank for his girlfriend, one of my current students.

This young lady, a rather proficient young author in my creative writing class, was to get a fake failing grade on her most recent story, which I passed out to her as a 40% F. My only comment on the final page was, “This is the worst story I’ve ever ready. Absolutely horrible.” When she got it she asked, “Is this a joke?” And I replied, totally straight-faced, “No, sweetheart, I’m sorry.”

That’s when she started to cry.

So I gave her the REAL final, graded page of her story (graded fairly, with a much less frightening score at the bottom), and she started laughing, more from relief than humor. Her boyfriend had signed his name at the bottom of the real score sheet, and she, through thankful giggles, informed me of her intent to kill him.

She was an excellent sport about the whole thing, as I expected her to be, but that’s really the worst I’ve probably ever done for an April Fool’s prank. Other people, however, have done much better than me over the years, which is the heart of this week’s Top Five.

#5 – Flying Penguins – For some reason, the BBC is especially proficient at coming up with awesome ideas for April Fool’s jokes. This one was announced by UK’s “Telegraph” in 2008, claiming that a television show entitled “Miracles of Evolution” would air the first ever footage of penguins actually flying. The fact that it was hosted by ex-Monty Python trouper Terry Jones and scheduled to air on April 1st didn’t tip enough people off, but it still ended up a pretty funny gag.

#4 – The Curious Case of Sidd Finch – Legendary “Sports Illustrated” writer George Plimpton put out a piece for the April 1, 1985 copy of SI centering around one Hayden Siddhartha Finch, who could throw a baseball 168 miles per hour. The record at that time was only 103mph, so that was quite an accomplishment, but the story behind the guy was nuts. The fictional Finch grew up in an orphanage, was adopted by an archaeologist, attended Harvard, spent time with a Buddhist yogi in Tibet, and pitched wearing only one shoe, which just so happened to be a heavy work boot. Oh, and he was trying to decide between baseball and playing French horn. In the April 8th issue the magazine announced Finch’s retirement from baseball, and on April 15th they let the general public know it was all an April Fool’s joke.

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#3 – Barack Pulls NASCAR Funding – As if staunch Republicans need anymore anecdotal evidence that our current president is the antichrist, “Car and Driver” magazine printed a joke story in their 2009 April Fool’s issue stating that President Obama had ordered Chevrolet and Dodge to pull funding for NASCAR by the end of the season if they wanted any sort of bailout support from the federal government. The reason I consider this prank to be so fantastic is because NASCAR fans are friggin’ nuts. They must have been all antsy in their pantsy. But it’s not true, thankfully, so you can all go back to just hating Obama a little bit, instead of with your entire heart and mind. The man has nothing against racecars.

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#2 – Dead Fairy – In 2007 a magician’s prop-maker from England posted a story on his website about an eight-inch dead fairy corpse that had recently been discovered. The thing looks eerily real, and anybody who’s ever loved fantasy stories would want more than anything to believe it was true—something that seemed especially easy to do as the prop-maker, a man by the name of Dan Baines, claimed to have had the remains checked out by anthropologist and forensics experts who couldn’t explain it. Once it became known that it was a hoax, Baines sold his prop on eBay for 280 pounds.

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#1 – Spaghetti Trees – People in the ‘50s were stupid. The BBC ran a story in 1957 talking about the excellent annual crop of Switzerland’s spaghetti trees, citing the “mild winter” and “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil” as reasons for such a find harvest. The video still exists, limp spaghetti noodles dangling from branches and harvesters going around collecting the fruit. In the days that followed the report, several people called into the station asking how they, too, could cultivate their own spaghetti trees. Like I said, people in the ‘50s were stupid.

Living the life of a prankster can’t be an easy one, and truthfully I don’t usually have the heart do these sorts of things to people. For example, I’ve got a few students who are so into the Dungeons and Dragons sort of thing that I think they’d give half a limb to discover that fairies were real. To dangle that in front of their nose and then tear it away… my heart would break.

Now, giving an academically conscious young lady a fake “F”—that I can handle. Making children cry—no problem. I suppose this speaks volumes for the sort of person I am.

Oh well. Hope your April Fool’s day was relatively quiet, and watch out for spaghetti weevils.

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