Today is April 1, the day when people who have nothing better to do resort to playing pranks on others. Not only are these juvenile and annoying, The Guardian reports on a prank by Google that badly backfired and caused unwitting people plenty of trouble.
Already today I have quickly skipped over many ‘news’ stories as soon as I realized that they were ‘jokes’. It has come to a point that I view with suspicion any news item on this day that seems even slightly odd, even this one that says that the Republican party is considering Carly Fiorina to replace Reince Priebus as party chair in January 2017 if the Democratic candidate should win the presidential election in November. I was even suspicious of the above Guardian story about the Google prank backfiring, wondering whether it was some kind of double bluff but it seems real. The Washington Post is keeping a list of all the fake stories it can find.
I cannot understand even supposedly serious media outlets like NPR, whose very existence depends upon being seen as credible, indulging in this nonsense that undermines credibility, as they have done in the past, though I haven’t checked in recent years. I just don’t see the sense in going to elaborate lengths to make their audience look ridiculous.
Having ranted against these jokes, I must admit to a grudging admiration for one by the BBC in 2008 that was beautifully done and was not intended to make people look ridiculous.
Here is how they produced the clip.
Here’s footage of penguins really flying.
I wonder what a penguin would do if it tried to fly inside NASA’s ‘vomit comet’ zero-G aircraft on a low-G (not zero-G) manoeuvre — would they actually start to get used to flying?
There is nothing practical about “practical jokes”. Most of them are unnecessarily unpleasant or sometimes even cruel, and often done to unwilling and unwitting participants. If even one person is hurt and isn’t laughing, then it wasn’t funny. All the more galling, some who claim to oppose harassment in any other situation will say “grow a sense of humour” to people who didn’t like being the butt of a “joke”.
A number of webcomic writers attempted a “joke” by all writing versions of the same comic. It did nothing for me (I had only ever seen one of them before), but at least it was not obnoxious or annoying to unwilling people.
Gregory in Seattle says
There is the wonderful short clip from… 1957, I think, when the BBC did a video article about spaghetti farming in Switzerland. And then, there is this truly brilliant “commercial” put out by Quilted Northern. “For a more memorable bathroom experience.”
This is how you do April Fool’s right.
Leave the april fools jokes to entertainment sources, not serious news sources. That’s just bizarre imo.
Blizzard Entertainment, for instance, releases amazing things for April Fools every year. Ridiculous patch notes filled with in-jokes and puns (such as: Shamanistic Rage has been nerfed. It is now known as “Shamanistic Irritation.”). Usually little minigames (this year it was an arcade racing game, last year it was Diablo-inspired variant on Flappy Bird). They also announced a new MMO based on Hearthstone (which is literally World of Warcraft, because that’s what Hearthstone is based on).
That’s how people should do April Fools. Silly, fun, ridiculous things that don’t annoy people.
While I generally agree this one, unfortunately in Dutch,
was excellent. It explained how eating pig (something jews and muslims did not do) gave Europeans an evolutionary edge, resulting in the scientific revolution from 1500 CE on.
The only really good prank I know of involving a news outlet was years ago at WXXI in Rochester. They had a classical station and an NPR one, and the engineers switched the feeds at the beginning of the day: Classical listeners got news and the news ones got music (and funny commentaries, which is where I came in). I was at the studio recording my piece and got drafted to help answer phones as people woke up and called in to ask us what was wrong. You could hear the penny drop as they woke up to what day it was. Didn’t hurt anyone and most callers got a good laugh.
April Fools jokes are an importan public service. I hope respected news outlets keep it up annually.
It’s the one morning per year where all those dull, boring people who work in dull, boring news organisations can show us, the public, that hey, they have a sense of humour guys! If you got to know us, you’d like us! Come on, it’s a joke!
@left0ver1under, 2: I totally agree. I have to admit that one of my favourite genres of Youtube video is “pranks gone wrong” in which a “prankster” -- almost invariably some preppy white male in his twenties -- attempts, in front of one or more video recording friends, to “prank” some unwitting victim -- almost invariably a person of colour -- by doing something hilarious like stealing their phone, pulling down their trousers in public, or calling them the N-word, and the prank “goes wrong” in the sense that the victim beats the prankster bloody or (in my favourite instance) turns out to be carrying (and prepared to use) a handgun. The best bit is watching the merry prankster screaming “It’s a prank, it’s a PRANK” through a mouthful of broken teeth, as though that’s some kind of bloody magic spell that makes it OK that they just stole someone’s phone and don’t richly deserve the beating they’re getting. Arseholes.