A foolish tradition

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Can someone please explain the point of April Fool’s Day? Radio stations, companies and news agencies all deliberately tell lies to people in order to get them upset, and somehow, this is meant to be considered comedy.

The day’s exact origins are difficult to pinpoint but what is clear is that civilizations and cultures have been pranking each other for centuries. From 536 BC, Persians would fool each other on a date that corresponds with 1 or 2 April; and the Romans had festivals where people were allowed to wear disguises and masquerade as someone else.

It should be noted that since then we have invented television, the Internet and books. There is no need to entertain ourselves with puerile pranks. I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable with my bank spending money on an advertising campaign that turns out to be a hoax.

Human element

Some would argue that pranks make companies and their managers seem more human and likeable. If they want to be more likeable, they should make products or services cheaper, not concoct stories about our national sporting teams getting outlandish new uniforms.

It seems as though there is an entire portion of the web dedicated to pranks you can play at home. One parenting forum lists switching salt for sugar, adding food colouring to milk, stuffing shoes with toilet paper and telling your child that you received a phone call from the principal as practical jokes you can play on your family.

Every once in a while someone pulls a stunt that backfires. This fills me with glee. I saw a Facebook post where someone announced a pregnancy on 1 April. The idea was to shock people. It backfired when someone commented, “Congratulations. I thought you’d starting showing a bit of a bump around your belly”.

Adult vs immature

The most disturbing prank in 2014 has to be from the social buying site that posted a recall notice on their blog. The update stated that a product sold in the previous week was pre-owned and had been used. And the product in question? An adult toy.

There is something inherently cruel about pranking. There was once a television show in which a model was lead to believe that someone had been kidnapped, stuffed into the boot of a car which later veered off the road and burst into flames upon crashing. I’m still trying to figure how this counts as comedy.

So before you think of playing a practical joke on someone and setting people up in bizarre situations in which they ordinarily wouldn’t find themselves, ask yourself two questions:

  • “Would I enjoy it if someone did this to me?”

  • +

“Do I want my friends and family to avoid me because they think pranks are the lowest form of comedy?”

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