April Fools’ Day History and Funny Pranks

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Photo from engineroomblog via Flickr.

Photo from engineroomblog via Flickr.

April Fools’ Day is a holiday dedicated to glorifying all types of hoaxes, jokes, and pranks. The origin of the day is still quite ambiguous and compelling, but it has most commonly been traced back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392) where Chaunteceler was tricked by a fox on “March 32,” which readers interpreted to be the 1st of April.

There may not be much documentation on the origins of this day, but the lists of best and works pranks are in great abundance, such as YouTube’s prank in 2008 in which all videos, texts, and most links were flipped upside-down. Help links suggested that viewers hang their monitors upside-down or consider moving to Australia.

Photo from Shawn M. Smith via Flickr.

Photo from Shawn M. Smith via Flickr.

In 1997, game show hosts Alex Trebek of Jeopardy! and Pat Sajak of the Wheel of Fortune switched roles for the day and gave watchers a good laugh; Sajak and Vanna White played as contestants on the Wheel of Fortune and allegedly won $25,000. In 1998, physicist Mark Boslough declared that the Alabama Legislature had changed the numerical value of pi. Imagine the confusion of all mathematicians!

Also in 1998, Burger King published an ad in USA Today promoting their new Whopper for left-handed people, one in which the condiments would drop out of the right side.

Google has also been known for pulling off multiple pranks each year, some of which include a claim to search people’s brainwaves and job openings on the moon. A history of their wacky ways can be found here. What will they come up with this year?

Surprisingly enough, there’s even a Museum of Hoaxes website that lists the top 100 April Fools’ Day pranks of all time, ranked by “notoriety, creativity, and the number of people duped.” Here are some of the renowned best pranks in April Fools history–

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest in 1957– BBC news show Panorama announced that due to good weather, Swiss farmers were blessed with a good spaghetti crop, and footage of farmers pulling strands of spaghetti off trees were shown. Viewers were perplexed, but many wanted to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

84. Viagra for Hamsters in 2000– Florida researchers claimed to have developed a pill to treat sexually-frustrated pets, including hamsters. The pill was supposed to assist those pets suffering from feelings of sexual inadequacy.

99. Virgin Cola’s Blue Cans in 1996– Virgin Cola announced that they integrated a new technology in which Cola cans that have passed their sell-by dates would automatically turn a bright blue color, and consumers were advised not to purchase them. Coincidentally (or not), Pepsi had just unveiled their new bright blue soda cans.

This April Fools’ Day, be sure to pull out your Grade A shenanigans– it may be the only day you can get away with them.

1 Comment

  1. Lanie

    April 2, 2010 at 4:21 am

    Hello there, Happy April Fool’s Day!!

    A couple goes out to dinner to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. On the way home, she notices a tear in his eye and asks if he’s getting sentimental because they’re celebrating 50 wonderful years together.
    He replies, “No, I was thinking about the time before we got married. Your father threatened me with a shotgun and said he’d have me thrown in jail for 50 years if I didn’t marry you. Tomorrow I would’ve been a free man!”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!

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