Friday, April 01, 2005

Here's to Fools, Hurray!

All the other holidays are so loaded with expectations and obligations that whatever larger meaning they're supposed to bear gets lost in the shuffle. But April Fool's Day celebrates the things I like most: fun, creativity, imagination, humor, levity, smiles. It's like being a kid again for a moment.

I have to admit it's been a good long time since I pulled a prank specific to the First of April, but I haven't forgotten the eager anticipation I had every single year. I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not having been an active participant in the madness in recent years, but maybe that's because I spread my foolishness throughout the year. (I completely admit I'm a fool).

While I rack my brains trying to remember my best April Fool's Day prank, here's a link to the Top 110 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time as tallied by San Diego's Museum of Hoaxes. I hope giving you a few only inspires you to go out and pull someone's leg today:

In 1957 the respected BBC news show "Panorama" announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, wiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.

In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

In 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called up the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell is housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed that it was all a practical joke a few hours later. The best line inspired by the affair came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, and he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial. [I especially love this one because it's not that far-fetched. On any other day but April Fool's Day, I wouldn't question it at all.]

The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant Pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. ...It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation.

In 1992 National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

I love the museum's about page, which simply states:

The Museum of Hoaxes was established in 1997 in order to promote knowledge about the phenomenon of hoaxes. Why do we (the staff at the museum) care about hoaxes, and why do we think other people should care also? One reason is that we live in an era in which reality and unreality are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, and the only reliable way to sort out what is real from what is unreal is to have some knowledge about what unreality looks like and how it manages to slip past our defenses.But the real reason we care about hoaxes is simply because we're endlessly fascinated by the bizarre things that people have been talked into believing over the years.
Pshh, I know that's right. Like the story about Snowball the 87 lb. mutant spawn of a house cat that lived near nuclear plant. I can think of many, many things I've gotten people to believe or do over the years, but I'm still trying to assess the one over-the-top, number one best prank I've ever pulled. While I'm trying to rank my prankish achievements, why don't you share some of yours?

Oh and let me say one more thing: the best thing about April Fool's Day is that it not only celebrates the best in us—and I dare say much more so than Christmas—but it celebrates everyone, the prankster, the gulliable, and the witnesses. If laughter is the best medicine than this day celebrates health and if done in good taste, with no malice aforethought, it's one of the rare times that people are laughing with rather than at you. What's not to love about that? The Taco Liberty Bell—that's great.


Anonymous bhw said...

posted on on April 1, 2005 08:54 AM:

I haven't pulled off any April Fool's jokes of note, but Orson Welles' broadcast of "War of the Worlds" has to fit somewhere on the hoax list, doesn't it?

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Eric Olsen said...

posted by on April 1, 2005 10:24 AM:

is this the day when we pinch people for not wearing green? I love that

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

posted on on April 1, 2005 05:40 PM:
bhw, there's a good reason the War of the Worlds broadcast wouldn't be included in a list of great April Fool's jokes. It was broadcast the night before Halloween.

1:00 PM  

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