In the spirit of April Fools, we have gathered 10 of the best pranks and hoaxes ever made. Some were specifically perpetrated for April Fools, some were not. But what they all have in common is the long lasting tradition of fun, confusion and just plain silliness.
10) Fish Condos
Joey Skaggs is a prankster mastermind. Making hoaxes and pranks is basically his occupation. Throughout his more than 40 years doing this type of “art”, Skaggs has made a lot of pranks. Some were light-hearted – like 1984’s Walk Right!, a fictitious group that wanted to raise awareness for the proper pedestrian etiquette – and others like 1994’s Dog Meat Soup were in bad taste. But our favorite here at RealEstateAgent.com has got to be the one he pulled in 1983. Skaggs created an advertisement for Fish Condos, a set of aquariums containing complete housing features, like furniture, rugs and appliances that could accommodate up to 30 fish. He says it was a satire of gentrification, but guess what? It turned out that the Fish Real Estate Market was low in supply: the Fish Condos had a lot of people calling in for a quote and Joey Skaggs ended up actually producing them and making good money out of it!
9) April Fools itself
It was 1983. Joseph Boskin, a Boston University professor and pop culture historian, was giving an interview to Associated Press’ (AP) reporter Fred Bayles about April Fools and its tradition. Even though the professor said several times that no one really knew how the act of pranking in April really began, the reporter kept insisting for a more concrete answer. That’s when the professor got tired of it and decided to pull a prank right there and then: he made up a story about how Constantine’s favorite Jester – called Kugel, just like the Jewish pudding treat – asked the emperor to allow him to rule for just one day. That day was April 1st and Kugel declared that from that day on, the date would serve as 24 hours of silliness. The AP ran the story and was particularly embarrassed to print the apologies when later discovered it was false. The reporter Fred Bayles, however, made the best of it and became himself a Boston University professor, teaching future journalists by speaking about the importance of fact-checking from personal experience.
8) R.E.M. 1989’s April Fools encore
Aside from alternative rock classics like “ Losing my Religion” and “ Everybody Hurts”, R.E.M. is a band also known for their love for April Fools. Throughout their 30+ year career, they have celebrated the date in quite a lot of ways. They once had a press release announcing a tour where every show would feature a front row pond for crazed fans to get “wet and wild”. They love the date so much, they even launched their 14th studio album (Accelerate) on it in 2008! But our favorite R.E.M. April Fools prank was on a concert they did in Atlanta, GA on April 1st 1989: The lights went out after they played their set. The crowd started to clap for them to come back – you know the drill, right? – when the intro of a song (“ Radio Free Europe”, their first ever single and a song they would hardly play back then) started playing. When the song finally kicked in and the lights went up… there was a real life-sized cardboard version of each member of the band! Mike Mills, the bassist, then emerged from the back yelling “April Fool!” pointing to the crowd. Nice one, boys. 30 years later, we can’t say this one fell flat. (Got it? Got it?)
7) BBC Grandstand Brawl
British public service broadcaster BBC loves April Fools. Seriously. They have a long history of pranks and hoaxes on TV for April 1st. They’ve already made a news piece saying Spaghetti was being born out of trees and once they advertised a new TV technology with the self-explanatory title “Smell-O-vision”. And the Grandstand Brawl is quite possibly their best one. It was April 1st 1989 and Desmond Lynam calmly hosted the long-running sports news show Grandstand while, in the background, two reporters started an argument. The argument escalated and all of a sudden there was a full-on fight, with other colleagues running to break them apart! All the while, oblivious to the altercation on his back, host Desmond Lynam gives a speech about how their team had a serious commitment to professionalism. The program cuts to take a commercial break and then it comes back with a slow motion replay of the fight followed by the two brawlers and the colleagues holding a sign saying “April Fools!”
6) The Taco Liberty Bell
It may come as a surprise, but several fast food brands have played with April Fools before. Burger King once advertised a Left-Handed Whopper; a sandwich with all the same ingredients but exposed in a way best suited for lefties(?!). But in 1996 Taco Bell pulled a winner with a full-page ad running on 6 major newspapers saying that, in an effort to help amortize the national Debt, they had officially bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it Taco Liberty Bell. There was a lot of ruckus in Washington, DC. Reportedly two senator’s offices called the National Park Service in Philadelphia to find out if the bell was actually being sold. Then press secretary Mike McCurry got in on the joke and said that the Taco Liberty Bell was just part of an ongoing privatization process and next was the Lincoln Center, which would be called Ford Lincoln Center. In the end, the joke did more than make everyone laugh: Taco Bell donated $50,000 for the National Park Service to upkeep this great American symbol.
5) The LAX April Fools… or was it O’Hare?
Imagine yourself on a long flight to Los Angeles. You’ve had some quality rest and then, when you’re almost landing you look at the window and, instead of finding that famous Hollywood sign, you see a different sign on the floor saying “Welcome to Chicago”! That’s what passengers descending LAX (Los Angeles Airport) went through in April 1992! Workers of the Hollywood Park Race Track, only 3 miles away from the airport, put on an 85 foot long yellow banner on the floor that read “Welcome to Chicago” with bright red letters. They thought it was such a funny practical joke that they left it there for 3 days total.
4) Macaco Tião for Mayor
Politics are a joke sometimes, right? This time it was a literal one: it was 1988 in Rio de Janeiro, when mayor Marcello Alencar went to the city zoo as a publicity stunt regarding the upcoming mayoral elections. But things went sour when zoo resident Tião, a tantrum-prone chimpanzee, threw his feces on Alencar! “Casseta Popular”, a satire newspaper ran a story jokingly saying that Tião was Alencar’s biggest rival in the upcoming elections and when the votes were in… a surprise: Tião, the monkey, got a whopping 400,000 votes! Of course, they were considered null, but if the votes for Tião were valid he would come in third! This rendered Tião the title of most voted chimpanzee in the Guinness World Records.
3) YouTube Rick Roll’d
Chances are you’ve been Rick Roll’d in your life, but we’ll explain for the ones that haven’t. Basically, you get Rick Roll’d when a prankster sends you an internet link to something and when you click it you find out it has nothing to do with what the prankster originally advertised; it is instead a YouTube video of the “classic” Rick Astley song “Never gonna give you up” . It has been so overused that it became obnoxious, but in April 2008 YouTube went too far and Rick Roll’d everyone. On April 1st, EVERY video you clicked on YouTube would link back to the 10-hour version of “Never gonna give you up / Never gonna let you down / Never gonna run around and desert you”. It was hell on earth for one day, but we’ve got to admit it was pretty funny.
2) Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds
Performed at the Halloween episode of the “Mercury Theatre on Air” CBS radio show in 1938, this is a pure classic. Artist Orson Welles presented a radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells science fiction novel “War of the Worlds”, where New York was invaded by extraterrestrial spaceships. It wasn’t meant to be a hoax exactly; it even had a disclaimer in the beginning saying it was a fictitious drama program. However, Orson Welles – who later went on to film Citizen Kane, one of American Cinema’s biggest classics – was so talented and painted such a vivid portrait of the invasion and the way their characters were dealing with it, that New Yorkers started to believe it was actually happening and in some cases people even evacuated the city!
The Number one Best Prank and Hoax ever made…
1) APRIL FOOL! HA! YOU’VE BEEN FOOLED!
Happy April Fools, Everyone!