It’s hard to tell if the Wikipedia article on April Fools’ Day is itself an April Fools’ prank. Tidbits of the ubiquitous holiday’s history seem like jokes in and of themselves;
“In France and Italy, children and adults traditionally tack paper fish on each other’s back as a trick and shout “april fish!” in their local language (“poisson d’avril!” and “pesce d’aprile!” in French and Italian respectively).”
And this brings me to my point; The Internet has killed April Fools’. Back in the day you used to be able to tell your friends you were engaged, pregnant or had Cancer without them gushing all over your Facebook page or Twitter and immediately freaking out people who you didn’t want to prank, like your family.
April Fools’ jokes also used to be less saturated and thus harder to catch: People have been perpetuating the “Washing of the Lions” prank (tricking people into arriving places to see a free washing of lions, sort of the trick precursor of a flash mob) from the 17th to the 19th centuries. One reason it won’t proliferate on April 1st in the 21st is that any time you see an ad for a “free lion washing” — bear with me, this is a metaphor — you’re likely to either a) Google “lion washing” and realize it’s a well-worn stunt or b) already be immune to the joke because your April Fool-dar is on Orange alert.
Nowadays the Internet bombards you with jokes earlier and earlier, In order to avoid being suspected, the most savvy pranksters used to pull out their efforts March 31st; Now it’s March 30th. I’m pretty sure the fooling will end up bleeding into April 2nd. And every site and their mother has to participate, straining themselves to be funny when it’s clear they are not. Most April Fools’ jokes are more “har har” than “ROFL” anyways, BUT especially when their powers are combined.
The worst thing about April Fools’ is that you get to see how tragically unfunny everyone is.
So what’s a genuinely humorous person to do come the first of April (not saying that I am one or anything)? Well keep in mind that the most truly funny pranks are still pulled off in real life, like when you change the background image on someone’s desktop, hide all their files and watch as they click their screen furiously, bemused. That never gets old.
Or like when our Admin Greg wrote in my calendar that I had a panel at 2:45 at Fort Mason today, to talk about startups with Robert Scoble. So I put on work clothes and took a taxi down there on a Sunday to pontificate about tech media and startups, only be told that there was an Opera going on instead of a startup conference. Turns out the Scoble panel is actually on April 2nd! Oh, that was just a mistake? Still, best inadvertent April Fools’ joke ever.
Real life pranks have yet to be overkilled, mostly because humans are lazy and too busy to actually put some elbow grease into them. So the next time you want to inflict your stale humor on someone come the beginning of Spring, think of the immortal words of George W. Bush, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
If you’re not sick of the whole thing already, you can check out our April Fools’ round up here.