April 1st. A day dedicated to rubber bands on faucets, tinfoil-wrapped cubicles, plastic-wrapped cars, and universal remotes. A lot of terms are thrown around in connection to April 1st - prank, hoax, practical joke, con, gag, shenanigan. While we can likely agree that all of these terms have some aspect of "fooling," how do they differ in nefarious-ness? So let's get down to it - how do pranks, hoaxes, and cons differ from each other, and what are some of the best?
Thankfully, Virginia spoke to Kembrew McLeod to clear things up. Kembrew is a professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, who chronicles the history of pranking in his book, Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World. Kembrew differentiates pranks, hoaxes, and cons as such:
PRANKS - "public provocation and [the prankster] uses mass media to circulate it in order to make a thoughtful, socially conscious point."
HOAXES - "uses the same tactics [as pranks] but the purpose is essentially to either self-promote or make fun of someone else."
CONS - "also use the same strategies, but they use the strategies in the service of ripping you off."
We have a list of some of the best pranks, hoaxes, and cons in history right here, from the adorable to the enormous:
- Mental Floss has a list of Youthful Pranks of 5 Famous People from good ol' Abe Lincoln to Steve Wozniak. While they are all clever and funny, I especially get a kick out of Steve Jobs' prank. He and a friend passed out posters advertising "Bring Your Pet to School Day." Sitcom-style hilarity ensued with a classroom full of unruly cats and dogs.
- The Left-Handed Whopper was a, ahem, whopper of a prank. In 1998, Burger King created a full-page advertisement targeting their left-handed customers. Left-handed people might one day rule the world, but they are apparently fooled by fast food pranks.
- This next one is a bit of a prank-ception. Boston University professor Joseph Boskin fooled the country about the origin of April Fools. His story included a king named after a Jewish noodle pudding. Yeah.
- Italy's secret spaghetti trees.
- No list of pranks is complete without The War of the Worlds.
- For all the writers out there, this next one is cringe-worthy. Newsday columnist Mike McGrady, with the help of colleagues, penned a terribly salacious and irredeemable novel called Naked Came the Stranger that, in the end, actually became a bestseller.
- YOUTUBE WAS A CONTEST. NO MORE CAT VIDEOS. INTERNET LOSES ITS MIND.
- No, planetary alignment will not reduce gravity.
- Where my grammar peeps at?! You'll appreciate this grammar-themed prank from The Guardian about the Isles of San Serriffe.
- The Trojan Horse, of course. The con to begin all cons.
Do you have a famous prank, hoax, or con to add to our list? Comment on our Facebook page!
For more on all things April Fools, check out the full show post here.