I thought about dedicating this post to Easter celebrations of this past weekend. Things like family gatherings, sunshine, spring renewal and chocolate. But since my favorite holiday of the year fell the day after, I’m afraid to say colored eggs just didn’t make the cut. Well, actually they did make an appearance but more on that later.
Not only did April Fool’s Day fall on the day after Easter this year adding to the distraction level for those that normally might have been somewhat aware, but it landed on a Monday. Double-Whammy. Post Easter and a Monday? Even more of a chance to catch ‘em unsuspecting while their glucose is low.
I come from a family who pranks. It’s in our blood. Well most of us. My grandmother was the Queen of the April Fool’s. She was so good that even a lover of pranks like myself avoided answering phone calls from her altogether when the First of April came around each year. I learned early-on it was better to be on her team than against her and that neither law enforcement nor age would inhibit her from a chance to play a joke on the family members she loved most. And while she may have led the April Fool’s parade each year, she did so with good-humored intent and a kind heart. I think it’s the reason I don’t see practical jokes (when done correctly) as mean-spirited still today.
That being said, I’ve realized over the years there are many families that don’t prank. And let me tell you, those that don’t prank may not always appreciate those that do.
Rule #1: Don’t prank a hater.
This never ends well. Not only can these people not appreciate the love that comes with practical jokes, but you completely lose the chance of instigating a day-long, week-long or even lifelong prank war. And there’s no joy in that. Notice I referred to the potential victim as a prank-hater and not a non-pranker. Believe it or not, there is a contingency out there that is just unaware of the fun that days like April Fool’s can bring simply because they’ve never experienced it. Take a chance. You never know when you’ll discover a natural talent.
rule #2: Know your audience.
This is an important rule. My mother doesn’t exactly come from a family of practical jokers but having lived with my father nearly 35 years she’s picked up a couple of tips along the way. But even after years of prank mentorship with the Murphmaster, she’s still very trusting (bless her heart). She’s also easily-startled. (See here) Playing an April Fool’s joke on her is like taking batting practice. You’re sure to hit a good one. It just might not mean as much as facing an Ace.
And so Monday morning, just before my mom left for work we put one of her grandsons in the coat closet. I suggested Owen (6 years) to do it, but Jake (nearly 3) volunteered. A few blueberries and a game on his iPod and the kid was cozy as can be. And less than 10 minutes later down she came. Door opens, ‘Oh my goodness!’ ensues.
Whoosh. Crack. Base hit.
Rule #3: Break a habit.
The best practical jokes replace the expected with the unexpected. Like clear wrap on a toilet seat or a locker filled with jelly beans, things that once seemed normal suddenly are not. Something’s changed. People have hilarious reactions when their routines are thrown out of whack. That telling moment when realization washes over their face. This coffee is salty. Why is my coffee salty? I just put sweetener in it. (tastes again) WTF is going on here!?
Oh just your simple baking soda sweetener swap, that’s what. And for someone who loves their iced coffee all day long, this is the prank that keeps on giving.
Rule #4: Play up your strengths
To explain this rule, let’s take a page from the matriarch O’ practical jokes herself. The best jokes not only involve understanding your audience and their routines, but they utilize your strengths. Do you have a good poker face? Are you creative enough to implement the items needed to make the joke believable? Can you keep it simple? Nana adjusted her pranks along with her age and because she did so she was able to pull off a simple yet stellar April Fool’s joke. A few years ago she used that sweet little 85 year-old voice of hers to call my Minnesota-based aunt (a nurse, mind you) and leave a voicemail saying over and over that she couldn’t see.
Oh Pat, I can’t see. I just can’t see. Can you call me back?
When the panicked daughter called her back inquiring why she wasn’t contacting her son who lived just a few minutes away, she calmly informed her that the reason that she couldn’t see was, wait for it… because her eyes were closed.
Grand Slam, Nana. Grand Slam.