Anatomy of an April Fool’s Joke

Posted: April 4, 2010    Categories: Site News

For the third year in a row I did an April Fool’s joke on April 1. For the third year in a row, an abnormally large number of people seem to have fallen for it, at least for a little while. This year I was sort of shocked at how many people said they fell for it, some of whom said they believed it for several hours (they clearly didn’t read the comments!)

Probably the greatest April Fool’s day joke ever perpitrated was the 1985 Sports Illustrated article by George Plimpton: The Curious Case of Sid Finch. He tells the story of a Harvard drop out who goes to Tibet and comes back years later after having learned to throw a baseball 150 mph. It had all the great hallmarks of a great April Fool’s joke. It gave some subtle clues that it was a joke (take the first letter of each word in the introduction), it was hard to believe but not so crazy that it was impossible to believe, and at no point did he give away the joke in the entire article.

I had actually this joke in mind for months and was even going take it one step further. I was going to find the ugliest ladyboy I could find in Bangkok and shoot a video, such that anyone who saw it would realize that the ladyboy was in fact a man. Unfortunately, my video camera is broken, so I went with what I did.

Most of the April Fool’s jokes I see blogs try are pretty lame. They are usually of the “some large company bought me” variety, or some news story involving a large company doing something.

All of my jokes during the last three years have been self deprecating in nature. Saying “I am awesome” doesn’t tend to pull people as much as “I am stupid”. I don’t think issuing a press release saying that the Travel Channel was giving me a show would be as believable as me accidentally marrying a stripper transvestite. (re-read that last sentence closely).

There were also several clues I put in the post, only one of which anyone caught. First, the name of my fake wife was “Broma” which is the Spanish word for joke. Second, the phrase I made up for the Thai wedding ceremony (“sloof lirpa”) is april fools spelled backwards. Finally, I mentioned Roy DeWitt who has made an appearance in my 2009 and 2008 jokes. Only my long time readers would have caught that one.

The other thing I didn’t do was say “APRIL FOOLS!” at the end of the post. I think any good joke has to make people wonder if it is true. Obviously, anything you write on April 1 is going to be taken with a grain of salt, but I think you should at least have to read the comments to validate your suspicions.

There are several ideas I rejected for jokes. Anything dealing with faking a death or injury was never seriously considered. I fear a personal version of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds with friends and family thinking something is wrong. I also didn’t want to do a joke which involved someone else because that would just get too messy.

I don’t know if I’ll do one next year. If you do one every year, then they lose their impact. Hopefully there will be enough new people who weren’t around on April 1, 2010 where I could make something work. Or, if I do have something real to announce a year from now, I’ll make sure to time the announcement so it happens on April 1.

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