April Fools' Day Pranks: 7 Of the Absolute Best (Starring the Pope, Burger King, and UFOs)
Ah, April 1. That wonderful time of year when spring is in the air, summer is just on the horizon, and ... HEY, WHAT THE HELL?! WHO SWITCHED THE SALT AND SUGAR PACKETS?!
Yes, April Fools' Day is right around the corner, and if you’re not careful, you may miss it or worse yet, get a nice cup of salty coffee. You may be wondering why we celebrate April 1. Unsurprisingly, the origins of tricking people into believing something totally false can be traced back to religion. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decided that New Year’s Day should no longer be celebrated on April 1, but instead, on January 1. (Why? Cause f**k April, that's why!) Apparently, some people (aka fools) continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1 anyway, and the tradition of trickery was born.
These days, April Fools' Day is celebrated throughout the world by almost everyone — that smelly kid from third grade, A-list celebrities, and even the biggest corporations and media outlets. But just because we’re a little older now doesn't mean we’re any wiser, so below is a list of lessons we can learn from some of the most infamous pranks ever. Read this, and you’ll be armed with crucial April Fools knowledge:
1. Sidd Vicious:
As if being a New York Mets fan wasn’t hard enough, Sports Illustrated’s April 1985 issue really knocked them to their knees: SI author George Plimpton penned an article about rookie phenom Sidd Finch, a pitcher who, despite having never played baseball, could throw a 168 mph fastball (for context, Roger Clemens threw 106 mph with steroids). Finch apparently honed his pitching expertise at a Tibetan monastery (probably the same one Bruce Wayne trained at).
Tibet is known for 2 things, after all: producing the world's finest pitchers and also Brad Pitt once spent 7 years there back in the 90's.
Of course, none of this was true (except the Bruce Wayne stuff, duh), so of course, Mets fans ate it right up, hyperventilating and inundating SI with endless requests for more Finch coverage. Although devastated once they discovered the truth, Mets fans rallied to witness a second World Series in 1986.
The Mets haven’t done much since then, but as a born-and-raised fan whose first hot dog was one of those nasty Shea wieners, I try to drop 1986 into conversation whenever I get a chance.
Lesson learned: People — especially tortured die-hard fans — will believe anything if it’s really good news. (Cubs and Bills fans, you've officially been put on watch for April Fools' Day.)
2. Taco Bell buys our liberty:
On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell took out this prank ad in several major newspapers, announcing they'd purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. While the ad did not disclose exactly how much freedom costs (some say it’s priceless), Taco Bell and the National Historic Park in Philadelphia (where the Bell resides) did receive a ton of angry phone calls from outraged citizens. Once the prank was revealed, even more backlash ensued, with NPS Director Roger Kennedy describing the ad as being "as false as it is cheesy." Ironically, this is most people’s exact reaction when they bite into anything from Taco Bell.
Lesson Learned: Americans do not find Taco Bell patriotic. Also, if Darth Vader announces this year that he bought the Empire State Building and is renaming it the Galactic Empire State Building, let's just take a breath before reacting.
3. A Whopper of a prank:
Remember how you always felt sorry or slightly superior to the poor lefties in kindergarten, because there was only one lefty scissors for the three of them to share, and never enough lefty desks, and also some schools taught that lefties are the spawn of Satan? Well, Burger King decided to address the inequity of left-handedness versus right-handedness by unveiling a full-page faux-ad in the April 1, 1998 edition of USA Today. The ad announced the Left-Handed Whopper, a burger specifically tailored to left-handed people. How did they do it? By simply rotating the condiments 180 degrees (duh). Unfortunately, a lot of people didn't get the joke, and left-handers everywhere rushed to BK to demand the special Whopper and celebrate a long-awaited victory.
First Whoppers, then what? Spiral notebooks? Car key ignitions? Guitars? The revolution was finally underway! "Rights for lefties, rights for lefties!" Never mind the delicious irony of that battle cry — surely the Left-Handed Whopper is even more delicious.
I'm still baffled that people believed this one. That’s like rotating a coffee mug 180 degrees and then declaring that you created the world’s first “left-handed mug.”
Another crucial step in mankind's evolution.
Lesson Learned: If it sounds too good/dumb/inexplicable to be true, it's probably an April Fools' Day joke.
4. A marathon of a joke:
The 1981 April 1 edition of the Daily Mail featured a story about a Japanese runner who was participating in the London Marathon but, due to a translation mistake, thought he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The runner, Kimo Nakajimi, was reported to still be running around England days after the race had concluded.
I believed this, because that's how long it'd take me to run 26 miles.
Lesson Learned: If it sounds like a subplot on South Park, it’s probably an April Fool’s Day joke. Or an episode of South Park.
5. French = Funny:
Who says the French aren't a bundle of funny? While this French 1913 postcard may or may not be real, it does remind us of an important April Fools lesson:
First panel: "Quick, mama! There’s a man in the maid’s bedroom!"
Second panel: "April Fool! It’s only Papa!"
It’s unclear why Papa is fully dressed, but I think it's pretty clear what his hands are doing in his pockets.
Lesson Learned: In the worst cases, everyone is a victim of an April Fools' Day prank: the maid’s certainly losing her job, and Papa’s probably sleeping on the couch (a dusty, dank old thing, since there’s no longer help around the house). Think your prank through.
6. April Fools Aliens:
In 1989, Londoners were shocked when a flying saucer descended from the sky and landed in a nearby field. When a silver figure emerged from the ship, people really lost their collective sh*t.
In reality, the saucer was a hot-air balloon, built by millionaire/prankster Richard Branson to look like a UFO. The one problem with his plan? The whole April Fool’s Day thing kind of got messed up when heavy winds forced the ship to land on March 31, not April 1.
Lesson Learned: The ultimate April Fools' Day prank is pulled on March 31.
A Happy April Fools' Day to everyone — be safe and have fun! As for me, I'll be bringing "special brownies" to work and saying they're leftover from a family BBQ and up for grabs. Who said Mondays have to be dull?