The Best April Fool’s Day Pranks in History
Are you a natural born prankster? Take inspiration from these classic April Fool's Day pranks, which rank among the funniest of all time.
The origins of April Fool’s Day
Although not all April Fool’s experts agree (yes, they exist), some argue April Fool’s Day originated in 16th-century France, when Pope Gregory XIII mandated that the new year begin on January 1 instead of the end of March. Those who failed to follow the new calendar were dubbed “April fish.” Others claim it originated from ancient spring festivals that included mischief making.
A spaghetti harvest causes a stir…
When it comes to the best April Fool’s pranks of all time, Great Britain is a world leader. Indeed, many believe a BBC TV hoax, broadcast over half a century ago still comes in at #1. In 1957 the news show Panorama reported that, thanks to a mild winter, Swiss farmers enjoyed a bumper spaghetti crop. To prove this, it broadcast a three-minute report of Swiss farmers carefully plucking, or “harvesting,” strands of spaghetti from trees. Legions of viewers were duped and many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their very own spaghetti tree. The BBC advised each caller: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
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The best April Fool’s pranks around the world
France: According to Le Parisien, in 1986, the Eiffel Tower was going to be dismantled and rebuilt inside the new Euro Disney park.
Denmark: In 1965, a Copenhagen newspaper reported that Parliament had passed a law that all dogs be painted white to improve road safety because they could then be seen clearly at night.
Norway: In 1987, after reading that the government was planning to distribute 10,000 litres of wine confiscated from smugglers, hundreds of citizens turned up carrying empty bottles and buckets.
China: Claiming that it would reduce the need for foreign experts, the China Youth Daily joked in 1993 that the government had decided to exempt PhDs from the nation’s one-child-per-family policy. After foreign press picked up the hoax, the government condemned April Fools’ Day as a Western tradition.
Great Britain: In 1980, those serial pranksters at the BBC announced that Big Ben, London’s historic clock tower, would undergo a face-lift and become digital to keep up with the times. Enraged callers flooded the station with complaints.
Canada: In 2008, WestJet airlines advertised its overhead cabin bins as “among the most spacious of any airline” and said it would charge passengers an extra $12 to use these “sleeper cabins.”
Taiwan: In 2009, the Taipei Times claimed that “Taiwan-China relations were dealt a severe setback yesterday when it was found that the Taipei Zoo’s pandas are not what they seem.” The paper reported that the pandas, a gift from the Chinese government, were brown forest bears dyed to resemble pandas. Among the complaints sent to the paper was one from the zoo’s director.
Germany: In 2009, BMW ran an ad promoting its new “magnetic tow technology.” The invention enabled drivers to turn off their engine and get a “free ride” by locking onto the car ahead via a magnetic beam.
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Corporate April Fool’s Day capers
Reasoning that a well-executed prank can result in valuable publicity, firms such as Google, Microsoft, BMW, Guinness, and Virgin regularly try to get in on the fun.
In 1996, fast-food chain Taco Bell announced it had purchased the famed U.S. Liberty Bell, which it claimed it was renaming the “Taco Liberty Bell” and relocating from Philadelphia to its headquarters in California. The company claimed publicity from the hoax increased sales by $1 million over a 24-hour period.
Google is another chronic hoaxer. It once insisted that it was launching a broadband service using cables that would run through the sewer system. In fact, its reputation for pranking was such that when the company launched its Gmail service on April 1, 2004, few believed them.
On April 1, 2009, YouTube turned some of its videos upside down. A page on “Tips for Viewing the New Layout” suggested users hang their monitors upside down from the ceiling.
Did this roundup of the best April Fool’s pranks in history inspire you? You’ll be glad these embarrassing prank stories didn’t happen to you!