A practical joke is a mischievous trick played on someone, generally causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion or discomfort. A person who performs a practical joke is called a "practical joker". Other terms for practical jokes include prank, gag, jape, or shenanigan.
Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks or hoaxes in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being talked into handing over money or other valuables. Practical jokes are generally lighthearted and without lasting impact; their purpose is to make the victim feel humbled or foolish, but not victimized or humiliated. In this fashion, most practical jokes are affectionate gestures of humour and designed to encourage laughter. However, practical jokes performed with cruelty can constitute bullying, whose intent is to harass or exclude rather than reinforce social bonds through ritual humbling.
A practical joke is "practical" because it consists of someone doing something physical, in contrast to a verbal or written joke. For example, the joker who is setting up and conducting the practical joke might hang a bucket of water above a doorway and rig the bucket using pulleys so when the door opens the bucket dumps the water. The joker would then wait for the victim to walk through the doorway and be drenched by the bucket of water. Objects can also be used in practical jokes, like fake vomit, chewing gum bugs, exploding cigars, stink bombs, costumes and whoopee cushions.
Practical jokes often occur inside offices, usually to surprise co-workers. Covering the computer accessories with Jell-O, wrapping the desk with Christmas paper or aluminium foil or filling it with balloons are just some examples of office pranks. Practical jokes are also common occurrences during sleepovers, whereby teens will play pranks on their friends as they come into the home, enter a room or even as they sleep.
American humorist H. Allen Smith wrote a 320-page book in 1953 called The Compleat Practical Joker (ISBN 0-688-03705-4) that contains numerous examples of practical jokes. The book became a best seller not only in the United States but also in Japan. Moira Marsh has written an entire volume about practical jokes. One of her findings is that in the USA they are more often done by males than females.
Famous practical jokes
A practical joke recalled as his favorite by the playwright Charles MacArthur, concerns the American painter and bohemian character Waldo Peirce. While living in Paris in the 1920s, Peirce "made a gift of a very big turtle to the woman who was the concierge of his building". The woman doted on the turtle and lavished care on it. A few days later Peirce substituted a somewhat larger turtle for the original one. This continued for some time, with larger and larger turtles being surreptitiously introduced into the woman's apartment. The concierge was beside herself with happiness and displayed her miraculous turtle to the entire neighborhood. Peirce then began to sneak in and replace the turtle with smaller and smaller ones, to her bewildered distress. This was the storyline behind Esio Trot, by Roald Dahl.
Modern and successful pranks often take advantage of the modernization of tools and techniques. In Canada, engineering students have a reputation for annual pranks; at the University of British Columbia these usually involve leaving a Volkswagen beetle in an unexpected location (such as suspended from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Lions Gate Bridge). A similar prank was undertaken by engineering students at Cambridge University, England, where an Austin 7 car was put on top of the Senate House building. Pranks can also adapt to the political context of the era. Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are particularly known for their "hacks".
Not unlike the Stone Louse of Germany, in the American West the jackalope has become an institutionalized practical joke perennially perpetrated by ruralites (as a class) on tourists, most of whom have never heard of the decades-old myth.
The 2003 TV movie Windy City Heat, consists of an elaborate practical joke on the film's star, Perry Caravallo, who is led to believe that he is starring in a faux action film, Windy City Heat, where the filming which is ostensibly for the film's DVD extras actually documents the long chain of pranks and jokes performed at Caravallo's expense.
Films featuring practical jokes include:
- One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937)
- Carrie (1976)
- Porky's (1982)
- April Fool's Day (1986)
- Men at Work (1990)
- Grumpy Old Men (1993)
- Watch It (1993)
- Grumpier Old Men (1995)
- Dirty Work (1998)
- Super Troopers (2001)
- Jackass: The Movie (2002)
- Big Fat Liar (2002)
- Windy City Heat (2003)
- Jackass Number Two (2006)
- Jackass 3D (2010)
- The Prankster (2010)
- Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)
- Elvis Duran and the Morning Show
- The Howard Stern Show
- The Jerky Boys
- The Phil Hendrie Show
- Rickey Smiley
- Roy D. Mercer
- Touch-Tone Terrorists
- Tube Bar prank calls
- The War of the Worlds
- America's Funniest Home Videos (RT)
- America's Funniest People (RT)
- Candid Camera (RT)
- Crank Yankers (CT)
- Friends (SC)
- Girls Behaving Badly (RT)
- Hi-Jinks (RT)
- Impractical Jokers (RT)
- Jackass (RT)
- Rad Girls (RT)
- Wild Boys (RT)
- The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (RT)
- Joe Millionaire (RT)
- Loiter Squad (CT)
- Our Gang shorts (CT)
- Pranked (CT)
- PrankStars (RT)
- Punk'd (RT)
- Room 401 (RT)
- Scare Tactics (RT)
- truTV Presents: World's Dumbest... (CT, RT)
- TV Bloopers And Practical Jokes (CT)
- Walk the Prank (CT)
- Beadle's About (RT)
- Boiling Points (RT)
- Fonejacker (CT)
- Game For A Laugh (CT)
- The Office (UK series)
- Trigger Happy TV (RT)
- Naked Camera (RT)
- The Dudesons (CT, RT)
- Naked and Funny (RT)
Some people have developed reputations as practical jokers in addition to other work; others have made pranking their primary work. Many practical jokers are comedians or entertainers, while others engage in pranks connected to social activism or to protest movements.
- Alan Abel – practical joker, satirist
- Roman Atwood - prankster who gained recognition on YouTube
- Ken Babbs – writer, famous member of Merry Pranksters group
- Sacha Baron Cohen – comedian, writer, actor
- Jeremy Beadle – British television personality
- Jello Biafra – musician, political activist
- Cyrus Broacha – Indian comedian
- Simon Brodkin - English comedian
- George Clooney – film actor
- The Diggers – social activist group, originated Free Stores in the 1960s
- Stuart Edge - YouTube personality
- Rio Ferdinand – footballer
- Richard Feynman – Nobel prize winning physicist, teacher
- fouseyTUBE – YouTube personality
- Allen Funt – producer of television show Candid Camera
- Rémi Gaillard – French humorist, practical joker
- George Gamow – physicist, teacher, science writer
- Mel Gibson – film actor, director
- Eddie Gossling – comedian, writer
- Tom Green – actor, comedian
- BigDawsTv - YouTube personality
- Andrew Hales - YouTube personality
- Abbie Hoffman – political activist, leader of the Yippies, writer
- Janoskians – Australian web-based comedy group who deal with pranks and stunts
- JStuStudios - web-based comedy due
- Andy Kaufman – comedian
- Ken Kesey – writer who organized the Merry Pranksters group
- Jimmy Kimmel
- Ashton Kutcher – host, executive producer of Punk'd
- Anton LaVey – occultist and writer
- Tom Mabe – comedian
- monochrom – Austrian art pranksters
- Keith Moon – former member of The Who
- Jim Moran – publicist, publicity-stunt promoter
- Odd Future – rap crew
- Camille Paglia – feminist writer, teacher
- Jack Parsons – rocket scientist, co-founder of Jet Propulsion Lab, Thelemite occult religious writer
- Penn & Teller – comedians, magicians
- Sean Penn – film actor
- Boyd Rice – avant-garde musician, practical joker
- DJ Sennett - YouTube personality
- Darren "Whackhead" Simpson – South African radio host, prank caller
- Joey Skaggs – practical joker, culture jammer
- Vivian Stanshall – English singer-songwriter, eccentric, worked with Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
- Carl Dean "Alfalfa" Switzer – child actor
- Hugh Troy – painter, Cornell student practical joker
- Dick Tuck – political practical joker against Richard Nixon
- The Yes Men – practical jokers, satirists of corporate behavior
- Darryl F. Zanuck – film producer and director
- Vitaly Zdorovetskiy - Russian prankster who uploads pranks to YouTube
- Al Bundy, on Married... with Children
- Alex Russo, on Wizards Of Waverly Place
- Andy Larkin on What's with Andy?
- Bart Simpson, on The Simpsons
- BJ Hunnicutt, on CBS's sitcom M*A*S*H*
- The Comedian, on the comic book series Watchmen
- David Brent, on BBC's sitcom The Office
- Dean Winchester, on the CW's Supernatural
- The Electric Company regulars Francine Carruthers, Manny Spamboni, Danny Rebus, Annie Scrambler, and Gilda Flip
- Emil i Lönneberga, the title character of Astrid Lindgren's fictional children's novels
- Felicity Merriman and Elizabeth Cole from the American Girl series
- Fred and George Weasley, Harry Potter series
- Hawkeye Pierce, on CBS's sitcom M*A*S*H*
- Heinrich Himmler, not the real SS Reichsführer, but his counterpart in the Downfall parodies, played by Ulrich Noethen
- Hermann Fegelein, not the real SS Obergruppenführer, but his counterpart in the Downfall parodies, played by Thomas Kretschmann
- Jim Halpert, on the US sitcom The Office
- John Egbert, along with the post-scratch version of himself in the hit webcomic, Homestuck
- The Joker, DC Comics supervillain
- Jokey Smurf, on the comic book and animated series The Smurfs
- Megan Parker, on the show Drake & Josh
- Naruto Uzumaki, the main protagonist and titular character of Masashi Kishimoto's anime and manga franchise
- Pinkie Pie, on the animated show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
- Prankster, DC Comics supervillain
- Tim Canterbury, on BBC's sitcom The Office
- Trapper John McIntyre, on CBS's sitcom M*A*S*H*
- Tricky Dicky - from The Topper comics, being a practical joker is his main trait
- Tyler Lewis, from Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground
- Valentina La Paz, on The Sopranos
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pranks.|
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- Kádár, Dániel Z. (2013). Relational Rituals and Communication: Ritual Interaction in Groups. p. 156. ISBN 0230393055.
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- "Funny Office Pranks". Weirdomatic.com. Retrieved 2012-10-25.
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- From Hermes to bonsai kittens. What makes a jape great?, from The Economist, December 20, 2005. Discusses the origins and evolution of pranks.
- Priceless pranks, from The Economist, February 21, 2006. Lists famous and successful pranks throughout history.
- Kravets, David. "April 1, 1998: Disney to Buy MIT for $6.9 Billion" Wired, March 31, 2010, accessed March 10, 2011.
- Deutsch, James (2014). "Jackalope". In Levine, Timothy R. Encyclopedia of Deception. p. 555. ISBN 1483306895.
- Hyden, Steven (2013-11-12). "The Greatest Trick Comedy Ever Pulled". Grantland. Retrieved 2015-01-23.