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?