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The Art of the Practical Joke

Pranks are everywhere just waiting to be found

There are four rules for a funny practical joke: It must be funny to others, all the better if the victim finds it funny; It must be clever; It cannot harm anyone or anything; It does not involve explosives.

With April 1 right around the corner, undoubtedly you pranksters out there are gearing up to fool some of your soon-to-be former friends and family. What I want to stress is that April 1 is not the only time for practical jokes. Any time, if the moment is right, can be used for foolishness. But first, let’s define the differences between a joke and a practical joke.
    A joke is verbal. It usually starts out with something like There was this rabbi, a priest and a kangaroo who walked into a bar … then ends with a humorous punch line.
    The practical joke uses some sort of prop. How a joke became practical is beyond me. To me, practical is an iron worker saying, “Hey Larry, since you’re working on top of the Washington Monument, you may want to use this safety harness so you don’t become a tourist attraction.” What would be impractical is Larry’s co-worker handing him a spool of thread in place of the harness.
    Practical jokes are of two kinds: funny and mean.
    Now, take my wife, please. (That’s a joke. Thank you Henny Youngman.) My wife is terrified of snakes. She nearly ran the car off the road when she saw a snake slithering across. You would have thought the snake was going to attach itself to the car, crawl in, pull a gun, and hijack us to SnakeWorld. She actually picked her feet up off the floorboard. The car’s momentum propelled us safely past the reptile, thus thwarting his evil plan.
    A mean practical joke would be putting a rubber snake under the bed covers. I would find it funny for a few seconds before she beat me to death with the rubber snake. Spouse Kills Husband With Rubber Snake would be neither a dignified headline nor means of death. A mean practical joke plays on one’s fears, or causes damage, like the bucket-of-water-over-the-door trick. Victim opens the door … water spills on victim … victim sues for damages, trauma and attempted homicide by drowning.
    There are four rules for a funny practical joke. It must be funny to others, not necessarily the victim. (If the victim finds it funny, all the better.) It must be clever. It cannot harm anyone or anything. It does not involve explosives.
    Funny practical jokes can be simple to complex. For example …
    Simple: Every year our supervisor’s wife purchased small packages of fudge, each cube wrapped and placed in a cellophane bag. (The fudge was made at some monestary. I called it Monk Fudge. This day, I was the only one of four of us in our cube farm called an office. My supervisor handed me the package, wished me a joyous holiday and exited, having left the other packages on my co-workers’ desks.
    I went to the desk beside mine and emptied half of the fudge into a coffee cup my co-worker kept in her desk drawer, then neatly retied the package. Moments after she returned, I heard her rustling around her desk — followed by her punching out a phone number. Moments went by and she hung up the phone.
    “Did you get the dark or light fudge?” I asked. She came roaring around to my desk shaking the half empty package and yelling, Look at this! Is he trying to tell me something? I just called him to find out what his message means!
    Thankfully our supervisor was out of his office, probably handing out more fudge. I broke down laughing and showed her where I had hidden her fudge. I’m not going to say what her remarks were, but she did admit it was a good joke.
    Complex: If you are observant, clever or just plain evil, funny practical jokes can arrive at your doorstep at any time. You just have to see them.
    In my office was a fax machine used by staff. Hearing it activate, I checked out the two sheets of paper it had spit out. The cover letter was from a local car dealer thanking a co-worker for buying a car. As promised, the second sheet was a copy of her car title. I had a perfect set-up for a funny practical joke.
    I took the cover letter and carefully cut a piece of blank paper to fit the size of the message box. Placing the blank paper over the message box, I made a copy of the letterhead, resulting in a copy of the dealership letterhead with a blank message box. I then wrote my own message:
    Karl, here is the copy of your title. I am sorry to say that the transducer rod assembly on your new Jeep is faulty and there has been a recall on that model. Please contact me as soon as possible.
Sincerely, Mike.
    In an office down the hall, I faxed my message to my fax machine. (Getting all of this?)
    Karl came in, picked up the facsimiles and read them with deep concern. How is your day going? I asked. There was no answer as he marched out of my office.
    This part is very important lesson about practical Jokes: Never tell anyone about your joke. They usually ruin it by laughing or having a stupid grin on their faces. Keep it private for as long as you can.
    Only after the joke had been pulled did I tell my co-workers that Karl would soon be back, wanting my head and they needed to protect me.
    I could only imagine him calling Mike asking what a transducer rod assembly is and why is it being recalled. Mike, of course, is wondering What in the hell is he talking about? Finally, Karl would look at the origin of the faxes and find that one had a different phone number than the other. Then he would come hunting for me. My co-workers were laughing too hard to save me.
    Weeks later, while in the Intensive Care Unit, I had people telling me what a great gag that was.
    Remember, pranks are everywhere just waiting to be found. Now get hunting. April Fool’s Day is a good time to start.