A well-crafted prank is a thing of beauty. I’ve pulled off a few in my day of which I am proud, but they were modest endeavors. More elaborate pranks raise the stakes, and the dividing line between a successful prank and abject failure is precariously thin: A prank that doesn’t come off makes an ass of the perpetrator.

April Fool’s Day is a special challenge, since people may presumably be on their guard. Thus, really good April Fool’s pranks are something of a rarity. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled one off.

Today I managed a couple of half-hearted jokes that are barely worth mentioning. At a presentation this afternoon, I invited the audience to stay for the social hour my unit was sponsoring, and noted that “unfortunately, there is no wine.” Ha ha, April Fool’s. (Yawn.) Only slightly better: During our staff meeting, when Olivia left the room for a moment, I saw she’d left her recorder running, so I asked my co-workers if they’d noticed that she had something between her teeth — even though she didn’t — just a little something to amuse her when she plays it back.

As noted, these are hardly the stuff of prankster legend.

(It should be noted that gags such as Google’s annual announcements of bogus innovations do not qualify. They are funny, and clever, but they’re jokes, not pranks, and one would have to be very gullible indeed to be taken in.)

I can only recall one such prank that was successfully played on me. It was something like fifteen years ago when I was working at DialAmerica Marketing, Inc., as a sales rep. The supers called the shift a few minutes early to make an announcement. They distributed a memo from the home office. It seemed the sales commission for our current project was being cut substantially. The real kicker — the reduction was retroactive, affecting all the sales we’d already made earlier in the week. People were mighty upset, myself included, and the grumbling began to get loud when finally the supers burst into laughter and yelled “April Fool’s!” I couldn’t believe it. My burgeoning sense of distress and mounting rage was suddenly yanked out from beneath me, and the resultant emotional freefall produced a sense of euphoria not unlike the sudden descent of a roller coaster. I’d been fooled, but good, and it felt great to laugh at myself. That’s what a good prank is all about.

  1. I got pranked yesterday. At 3 am 4/1 morning I was up with my baby and my mental defenses were really down. One of my employees sent out a tweet that he was going to start working for Twitter and he was moving to San Francisco immediately.

    I lost an hour of sleep because I bought it. The funny thing is he has done the same April Fool’s joke every year and I was the only one who forgot that in 2007 he was going to work for MySpace, in 2008 he was going to work for Facebook.

    Once I figured it out I fired him on the spot. I don’t need people like that around me. No really this kid is very talented and I would hate to lose him.

    B’s story sounds like something right out of The Office, all the Dial America stories have that kind of a ring to them.

  2. Actually, the chair of a department at my school told hir department yesterday that they were going to lose all of their research funding. The faculty about shit a brick, really, they were red-faced and angry. I haven’t heard if there was any fallout. It gets folks everytime.

  3. On April 1 a few years ago, during the waking hour, I dead-seriously told my wife I thought we should have just one more child (#3). This was just long enough after the last one, when she was quite DONE in her mind (and thought I was, too), but not late enough to be a ridiculous or impossible idea.

    She just about slew me. Been on April Fool’s guard ever since.

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