Pranksgiving Fest

It’s not hard to accept the idea that man’s earliest attempt at humor was a fart joke. It feels right. But the second was probably a prank of some kind.

I have never been a fan of the game some DJ’s play when they make and broadcast prank telephone calls because it seems so unfair to make a show out of mocking strangers. This is odd because I did morning radio for more than 25 years. Fooling any unsuspecting person for your own amusement was a base element in the chemical profile of your standard wake-up show back then. Still is, probably.

And even though I didn’t care for elaborate put-on and almost never committed one, some of my fondest memories from those years are connected to one April Fool’s morning when we said, as straight-faced as possible, that we had been knocked off the air by a technical difficulty and did not know when we could get back on. The size of the problem was unknown, I told listeners, but we were trying to plot the extent of the outage by sticking pins to a map on the wall.

“Call the studio,” I said, “if you can’t hear us.”

The audio is still online, here. We start the prank about 100 minutes into the show. Honest.

We did get quite a few calls from people who got the joke immediately and wanted to participate in the fun. But among the respondents was one clearly confused older woman who couldn’t understand why we were talking about being off the air when she could hear us as clearly as ever a the intersection of Winnetka and Bass Lake Road.

A friend called me at my desk a few hours later and in a make believe voice chastised me severely for “… publicly humiliating my elderly aunt! Have you no decency, sir?”

I was halfway through my apology before he ‘fessed up. The woman was not his Aunt, but he felt a little sorry for her even though he, too, laughed at her bewilderment. Now it was my turn to be mocked. The tables had been turned, and appropriately so.

All this came to mind when I saw that Alan Funt’s son Peter was at it again, shooting new episodes of the classic TV prank show, Candid Camera.

In a commentary for the New York Times, Funt confessed some trepidation at trying to fool savvy moderns. He said “I worried briefly that people are now so tech-savvy that some of our props and fake setups wouldn’t be believed. Instead, we found that the omnipresence of technology has reached a point where people will now accept almost anything”.

And really, isn’t that the lesson of the past 20 years? Virtually any crazy thing is possible. Such as:

Can you tell a convincing lie?

43 thoughts on “Pranksgiving Fest”

  1. l can’t tell a complete lie because my fear is that someone will find out. l’d rather say that l refrain from lying because of my value system, but honestly between getting caught and superstition about Karma, l just can’t bring myself to do this. On the other hand, lying to myself………….

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  2. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Not really–but then I’ve always been afraid to pratice this skill because of the moral implications of it! Being a good liar is fraught with distrust when others discover this.

    With one exception: Fiction! And that I find wonderful–an outlet for lying with no negative consequences.

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  3. Good morning. I am able to fool people in my family by lying to them as a prank on April Fool’s day. This only works when they don’t know that day has arrived. There have been a few times when I didn’t know that it was April Fool’s day and I was the one who fell for a prank. The lies told that work are usually something slightly shocking and very believable. I can’t remember one that worked. It would something like, “the dog had another accident and pissed in one of your shoes”.

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    1. Jim, I’m not especially gullible, but I implicitly trust some sources. I remember my embarrassment when I believed a report I’d heard on MPR. The report was that scientists had just discovered the gene for “Minnesota Nice.” Since I’m not very scientific, that sounded credible to me. After I’d repeated this story to several people I remembered it was April 1.

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  4. I’m rather amazed at the amount of ridiculousness I can get people to believe by simply saying it with a straight face and maybe a little bit of pretzel logic.

    I once convinced an ex-girlfriend that box turtles were venomous.

    Actually, the fact that I can tell such a convincing lie is probably a part of why my first marriage ended. I pointed out to my ex one morning, over waffles that I had just made for her, that she couldn’t really ever tell when I was lying. This, in her mind, called our entire relationship into doubt.

    Last Sunday, I came back in from mowing the lawn. Because I was covered in dirt and sweat, I stripped down to my shorts in the laundry room before going upstairs to my new girlfriend. I said, “Can you believe it? The neighbors called the police!” “Why?” she asked. “Because I was mowing the grass.” Her confusion mounted, “What’s wrong with that?” “Well, I was hot and cruddy, so I stripped down to my shorts. But it’s not like I was running around naked, right?” I let her incredulity hover about her for about 5 minutes before taking a shower and coming clean.

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  5. I have a kind of fuzzy memory of the Morning Show where the trick of pretending to be knocked off the line was done, Dale. I can remember that I thought it was very clever or, as we say here, very cleaver. I also remember people calling in who knew it was a joke. At first my family didn’t believe me when I told them about that “trick” broadcast.

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  6. I remember the girls father overhearing her asking me if the submarine races were on again tonight
    He couldn’t believe it
    His little girl was going out with a guy who took her to the submarine races
    I always liked that guy.

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  7. This is a fun topic, Dale. I am middlewestern enough to be bothered by pranks that make fools of people whose mistake is to assume that others are truthful. It is especially bothersome when the prankster is making fun of someone who trusts him to be truthful. On the whole, I like people who are more trusting than suspicious. Being trusting is one form of giving others the benefit of doubt, and I find that more attractive rather than foolish.

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  8. When I saw the photo for today’s discussion, I thought Dale would be referring to a new book by Christopher Miller that describes all the things people used to find funny. I want to read that book. The whole business of what is “funny” is complex. When I was younger, people found things hilarious that today we respond to with sympathy, not derision. Is it funny when someone has a physical affliction that makes him walk awkwardly? Are drunks funny? Should we laugh at the linguistic struggles of people from other cultures (like Japanese who get tangled up in the “r” and “l” when speaking English? Are mentally challenged people funny?

    One thing seems obvious. It is easier to laugh at someone when we don’t really understand or sympathize with them. I can remember when I joked about people being “spactic.” Then one day I visited a mental institution and spent an hour with someone who was severely spastic. I haven’t used that word mockingly since then.

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  9. TGITH has it right; say it with a straight face and say it like you mean it and people will believe anything.
    I do that to the kids here all the time. (Because I believe life is about amusing myself first)
    Just yesterday I told them the set piece that I was finishing they couldn’t use.
    Sometimes I tell them I’m turning it all around; up is down, left is right, in is out. And then I walk away.
    Because my biggest problem is making myself laugh while I’m talking and then the jokes all over.
    BTW, daughter hates it when I do that to her; she always calls me on it. Rolls the eyes and says ‘Dad!’ She’s a smart kid; no fooling her!

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  10. Morning all… I guess “afternoon all” would be more appropriate.

    I can lie if need be, but getting what you want without have to lie is so much more satisfying… and I learned from the master – my mother!

    That being said, my best lies were to Child, especially in the early years. If she would say “I don’t like ____ (whatever food was being served)”, I would reply “Oh? You liked it last week.” That worked for a couple of years and she does now eat a wide variety of stuff that other kids don’t eat. When she was three I had to pay way too much for a little dance dress for a 5 minute performance so when Halloween rolled around and she first mentioned what she wanted to be, I said “Oh, I thought you said you wanted to be a princess in your dance dress?” I couldn’t believe it when it worked. And I really couldn’t believe it when it worked AGAIN the next year with the green fairy dance dress!

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  11. I can be very believable. I once convinced our son, about age 8, that meatloaf grew on trees. The recipe we used at the time had 2 bay leaves on the top, and he believed me for about 5 minutes before he figured out we were pulling his leg. I also convinced a very gullible 12 year old of my acquaintance that photocopy machines had tiny people inside who pushed the paper through it.

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  12. I kind of inherited it. My grandmother was babysitting my twin brothers at about age 5. If any of you know or have twins, you know they are a handful. So, to give them something to do, she asked if they liked toads. Of course, they did. Grandma pointed to the base of a tree. “Do you know what those things are at the trunk? Those are ~toadstools.~ And do you know why they call them toadstools?” She convinced my brothers to sit in a pile of toadstools all afternoon, trying to hatch toads.

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    1. I AM GOING TO REMEMBER THAT. says she with twin grandsons and who is exhausted after being with them for 5 hours today (WITH the mother).

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  13. Hey all, OT here–

    What was the song from TLGMS about some president visiting a bridge? Or the town wanted the president to visit to show off the bridge… something like that…
    Anyone remember what I’m talking about??

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        1. Oh yes you are needed, Mr. C! Was there a song you played on the LGMS – a funny one – that had some of the lyrics to Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries?

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  14. I can be very good at telling a convincing lie. What would you expect from a jailbird?

    If anyone has ever read The Pushcart War, when I read it to my kids, I had them convinced that it really happened. That was one of my better lies.

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  15. Being caught in a lie is so awful. One year my dad ordered a lamp from an antique store here in town to give my mom for Christmas and he asked me to pick it up for him. When they came to our house a week or so later – whenever Christmas was that year – he asked me if I’d taken a look at it. He was very proud of his purchase and was very much looking forward to seeing my mom open it, and I just didn’t have the heart to tell him no, so I lied and said I had. Then he asked me what I thought of it, and I said it was really pretty. Then he asked me what color it was and that’s when I said (to myself) $#!+! My instinct was to say the color was buff but then decided against it because what if it was chartreuse?! So instead I tried to convince him I really had looked at it but forgot what color it was. He didn’t say anything but of course he knew better, and he knew I knew he knew better. And guess what! When it was unwrapped the stupid lamp WAS buff. Boring!

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    1. Hmm, that one is definitely in the “it all depends” category. Sometimes you don’t let them know to allow them to save face and sometimes you just let them continue on until they’ve braided up enough rope to hang themselves.

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  16. It depends. I have qualms about saying something that is patently false. Sometimes duplicity is necessary to pull off a surprise party, or other scheme, and I’ve done it. Even so I try to not say anything that’s an outright lie; a little ambiguous perhaps, or maybe misleading, but not completely untrue. It’s not something I can do spontaneously, it requires some forethought and planning.

    I have a reputation for being very forthright, some say even blunt. It’s not by design, but I simply don’t think fast enough on my feet to be convincing if faced with a question that requires better diplomatic skills than I have.

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