Now that everyone’s recovered from April Fool’s Day, its time to take a look back at some of history’s greatest pranks, hoaxes, and antics. Rather than take too narrow a slice of the large number of ‘HILARIOUS COMPILATION!’ YouTube videos, we’ve decided to look at a wider selection of the rich variety of pranks that’ve been pulled off over the past few decades.
Tech companies, students, actors, friends, and brands have all gotten in on the game with hoaxes big and small that range from the most intricate to the elegantly simple. Sometimes the best prank is as straightforward as trapping your co-workers in a confined space with stinging insects, but at other times it is necessary to get a whole host of professional actors, production sets, and weeks of set up to really perfect your escapade.
10. Pregnancy Phone Call In Class
Since the rise of Facebook, each year on April 1st there is a stream of ‘hilarious pranks’ on everyone’s news feeds. Many of them aren’t funny, or just involve someone getting mildly injured, but every now and again there’s a great stunt. This year’s student prank is a good example of careful planning and execution, and the result is online for all to see.
The teacher is one of these who insists on phone calls being answered on loudspeaker, but when one of his students receives a phone call from her pregnancy clinic the punishment quickly backfires, leaving him apologetic and red-faced. The greatness of this prank lies in the human reaction of the teacher’s attempts to damage control the situation.
9. Bad Grandpa
As a comedian, when you create a prank that eventually gets its own feature length film you know you’ve made it. Bad Grandpa is the fourth instalment in the Jackass series, and the first to be nominated for an Academy Award (best hair and makeup, obviously). The film’s premise stems from the original hidden camera prank which sees Johnny Knoxville done up to be an elderly delinquent (the makeup took 3 hours to apply) and spending time skateboarding, drinking, and generally pestering the public. The critical reactions to the film were mixed, with some critics finding the ‘Second hand gags, third-rate execution, fourth-rate results’ a little aged.
8. YouTube: The Contest
Around a year ago on April Fool’s Day 2013 YouTube teamed up with The Onion to create a lengthy, YouTube-star studded video declaring the end of the website. In the video the Director of Communications stated that ‘We are so close to the end. Tonight at midnight, YouTube.com will no longer be accepting entries. After eight amazing years, it’s finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner.’
Each video was to be watched and judged over a decade by a panel of judges and the results were to be announced in 2023. This meta, self-deprecating prank was inspired. Of course, for better or worse the site remains online with over 100 more hours of video uploaded every minute.
7. Twitter & Twttr
Like YouTube and many of the other large Silicon Valley tech-companies, Twitter feels the need to regularly show its fun loving side (perhaps in an effort to make us forget about all of them playing ball with the NSA). Their chosen vehicle for this is a series of April Fool’s pranks. The quality of the pranks vary, but Twitter’s 2013 offering was a good one.
In a blog post, the social network declared that it would be breaking into a two-tiered company; Twitter & Twttr. The first would be offered at $5 per month and would resemble the usual website, whilst the second would be free, but wouldn’t allow the use of vowels. The best thing about it is the fact that Twitter is desperately attempting to monetize its users which means that the the hoax had the faintest ring of truth to it.
6. VW Beetle
Its now a fairly well known prank, but the first group of graduating students to decided to move a small car into an obtrusive location (roofs, altars, and cafeterias have all be done) really struck gold. Its a great prank for a number of reasons; firstly it requires team work, which is a feel-good inducer for a group of students who’re about to go their separate ways. Secondly its a brilliant visual gag, particularly if the car belongs to a member of staff, and thirdly because its just so silly, and there’s something endearing about plain silliness.
5. Jackass: Beehive Limo
‘So the boys think they’re arriving in a limo for a photo shoot, but little do they know we’ve got a s**t load of bees we’re going to put through the sunroof, and we’ve rigged the locks so they can’t get out.’
The Beehive Limo is a simple but effective prank, topped off with the fact that when the Jackass crew members eventually escape from the limo, the ground surrounding the car is covered in marbles. Other Jackass pranks that’ve stood the test of time include: Golf Course Air Horn and the time they put a live alligator in Bam Margera’s mother’s house.
4. Prank Wars
Pictured here is Israeli-born comic Amir Blumenfeld, best known for his work on Harold and Kumar, and his part as half of the College Humour duo who engaged in the infamous ‘Prank Wars’. It’s tough to choose the best prank from the series, but the highlights include pretending a parachute rip cord has failed, meaning that the parachutist spends 45 seconds thinking they’re going to die (which sounds pretty dark when written down), and another where Amir is fooled by a basketball crowd into thinking he’s just made a $500,000 blindfolded trick-shot.
3. Domino’s Canned Pizza
Open the can, heat, and remove a slice of fresh tasting pizza. Tempting stuff, but sadly not real. When Dominos Japan released a press statement advertising their new product, a lot of people were taken in. The pizza slice was shown curled up in a small can in a way which looked both oddly delicious and possible.
Only a few years ago the ‘Bread in a Can’ which was sold from Japanese vending machines really took off, so this meant that the Dominos product wasn’t completely implausible. The company even released a whole bunch of images of people enjoying their slice of pizza fresh from the can. There have been a number of people calling for the pizza company to commit to research the possibility of this product.
2. Patrick Moore’s Gravity Prank
Though famous for many reasons, the late Patrick Moore is often remembered for his 1970s prank on BBC Radio 2 listeners. Live on air he stated that at 9.47 am. the planet pluto would disappear behind Jupiter and cause a momentary gravitational misalignment with earth, and as a result if everyone jumped they’d experience temporary weightlessness.
The fact that at the time Moore was presenting an astrology program, and that he received calls from people who wanted to talk about their seconds of weightlessness only adds to this piece of mischief. Another infamous BBC prank is the ‘Spaghetti Tree’ April Fools, which also saw listeners calling in to find out more. Callers were informed to ‘place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best’.
1. Space Cadets
The British TV program named Space Cadets takes the number 1 spot simply for the pure scale of the prank. The program -which described itself as the most elaborate hoax perpetrated in television history – centred around fooling 12 contestants (who answered an advert for ‘thrill seekers’) into thinking they were undergoing rigorous training before making them believe they were going into space.
The 12 people were fooled into thinking they were in Russia, and were the first group of space tourists to visit the Russian Space Station. Unbeknownst to them they were in Suffolk, and their astronaut trainers were actually actors equipped with fake accents and Russian cigarettes. The prank was so complete that three members of the group were plants whose job was to steer the ‘thrill seekers’ into believing the whole affair.