People usually enjoy harmless pranks that are humorous. But some pranks that start out being humorous end up being dangerous and not the least bit funny.
When I first read about Burger King taking out a full-page ad in USA Today in 1998, announcing they had created a Whopper for nearly 32 million left-handed Americans, I thought it was hilarious.
They said that the new Whopper had all the same ingredients, but the condiments were “rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers.”
According to the company, people requested the old “right-handed” version (abcnews.go.com). They must have had a good laugh over that.
Another example of this is the businessman who announced in 1978 that he had succeeded in towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney, Australia. He moored the iceberg and started selling ice cubes to the masses for ten cents each.
The prank worked until it started to rain, revealing the iceberg was none other than firefighting foam and shaving cream. The businessman said he just does these things for kicks to take the boredom out of everyday work.
And then, in 1977, “the British newspaper, The Guardian, published a seven-page supplement dedicated to the heretofore-unknown (and made-up) islands of San Serriffe. Apparently meant to appeal to the grammatically inclined, the islands were in the shape of a semicolon and details about the island alluded to printer’s terminology. The newspaper was flooded with calls from readers who wanted more information about this unique vacation spot.”
But the funniest one of all is the video of spaghetti trees being harvested by a Swiss family.
“The spaghetti tree hoax is a famous 3-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools’ Day in 1957 by the BBC current affairs programme Panorama.
“It told a tale of a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree, broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some Britons were unaware that spaghetti is a pasta made from wheat flour and water.
“Hundreds of viewers phoned into the BBC, either to say the story was not true, or wondering about it, with some even asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees. Decades later CNN called this broadcast “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.”
The video was hilarious. It showed a Swiss family harvesting these spaghetti trees. You could see the women reaching up and pulling down these uniform strands of spaghetti, laying them out flat in the sun to dry, and then a man and woman being seated at an outdoor table in a restaurant and their waiter bringing them their cooked spaghetti dinner and the man and woman, eating it, and raising their cups in a congratulatory toast.
Hundreds of people called the corporation after the broadcast asking where they could get hold of a spaghetti bush so they could grow their own crop.
And many viewers – including BBC staff – who had been taken in by the Panorama April Fools’ hoax criticized the use of a serious factual program to make an elaborate joke. But the broadcast has gone down as one of the best April Fools’ jokes of all time.
With my quirky sense of humor, these pranks are very appealing but sometimes a prank just goes too far. This past weekend was a case in point.
A scheme reportedly using guns and masks to “kidnap” a couple for a friend’s surprise birthday party set off a manhunt in New York City this weekend.
The New York Post reports the prank was inspired by the abduction scene in the film “Old School” starring Will Ferrell.
The joke, however, took a serious turn when alarmed bystanders called 911 after witnessing the couple being abducted and the woman screaming as they were taken away by the “kidnappers,” who it turns out were actually just the couples’ friends.
Police officials then deployed helicopters and emergency service officers throughout Washington Heights which cost the city thousands of dollars and hundreds of officer hours.
The NYPD fanned cops out all across upper Manhattan, put a helicopter in the air and took over part of a nearby building housing Columbia University dental students to use as a base.
Police also released a surveillance video showing the abduction with the minivan’s tinted windows, speeding away with the victims. The video was picked up by local and national media.
To pull off this hoax, the man’s friends had rented a black 2010 Town and Country minivan, and a house for the weekend. After shoving the supposed victims in the back of the minivan, they put a pillow over the man’s head and sped off.
This whole scheme started as a result of the man finding out about his surprise birthday party and his friends wanting to find a way to give him a different kind of surprise party.
The birthday boy and his friends partied over the weekend, not knowing the pandemonium they had created. When they returned and found out that the video was all over the news, they called the police and confessed what they had done.
When the Washington Heights residents found out that it was a hoax, they were furious. One man fumed that it was absolutely reckless, not just the extra police hours but the worry that spreads through a neighborhood that creates fear and apprehension.
I can understand wanting to create a diversion when the party boy sabotages your plans to give him a surprise birthday party, but, hey, these guys were thirty years old and should have looked at the possible consequences of their actions and found an alternate plan.
Personally, I like the spaghetti tree video the best and the Burger King ad in second place. Both hoaxes were funny and neither one caused any harm, emotionally, physically, or financially.
by Connie H. Deutsch
Connie H. Deutsch is an internationally known business consultant and personal advisor who has a keen understanding of human nature and is a natural problem-solver. She is known throughout the world for helping clients find workable solutions to complex problems.
Connie has hosted her own weekly radio show, been a weekly guest on a morning radio show, done guest spots on radio shows around the country, and appeared as a guest on a cable television show. Connie wrote a weekly newspaper Advice Column for sixteen years and has been invited to speak at local colleges and given lectures around the country. She also wrote the scripts for a weekly financial show on cable television.