April Fools

This morning I started my ride on Zwift to find everyone riding tricycles. There has been a history of Silicon Valley companies doing something special for the day since Google posted its MentalPlex hoax on the 1st of April in 2000. but to me, no one does an April Fools quite like the English. 

Sarcasm is the use of words usually used to either mock or annoy someone, or for humorous purposes.

Wikipedia

To understand April Fools Day in the English speaking world, you need to understand something of the playful English humour. It is common for kids growing up to trick each other, as a battle of wits, with ever-increasingly elaborate statements delivered with complete sincerity at random times. The game is to try and say the most unbelievable thing you can think of at the most arbitrary time and to deliver it as earnestly as possible to catch your friend off guard and get a response that shows they believe it for that first split second.  

Quote: “If you say the word ‘Gullible’ slowly it sounds like oranges”

Anon

A similar test of wit is to ask a question so obvious as not to need a response but delivered completely deadpan so that the victim is caught off guard and responds. The best one I have ever seen was a childhood friend who joked with my sister-in-law, who had generously taken a long lunch break to take us to the London Aquarium. My friend asked, ‘Where is the London Eye’ while standing directly in front of, and facing, the 135-meter Ferris wheel, to which my sister-in-law being the caring human she is, responded by pointing it out… we cried with laughter.

These harmless attempts to catch out your friends into believing something ridiculous and beyond reason are often followed by fits of laughter from the protagonist and red-faced embarrassment by the victim. They are funny because they are a never-ending two-way test between friends – it only works if it is in good faith, playful, and immediately obvious that it is a joke.

Gullibility is a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into an ill-advised course of action. It is closely related to credulity, which is the tendency to believe unlikely propositions that are unsupported by evidence.

Wikipedia

Each year on the 1st of April, these jokes are taken to new levels of preparation and creativity. As long as the prank is done before midday and immediately apparent that it is a prank, anything is fair game. Commonly, as soon as someone has fallen for the hoax, the perpetrator shouts ‘April fools!’ to let them in on the joke.

The BBC and April Fools

Traditionally April fools jokes were about playing a prank on your friends and neighbours, but corporations have recently got involved. The best April 1st hoaxes have been by the British national broadcaster, the BBC. 

In 1957 the BBC’s prestigious Panorama investigative journalism show played a segment called ‘The Swiss spaghetti harvest‘ that showed farmers picking spaghetti from plants that tricked many watchers who contacted the BBC asking where to get the plant. 

In 1965 and then again in 2007, the BBC told viewer they were testing Smell-o-vision and to call in if the experiment was successful; many did. 

In 1976, on BBC Radio 2, the famous astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners that there was a unique alignment of two planets increasing the upward gravitational pull that would result in everyone being lighter at precisely 9:47 am. Sir Patrick suggested listeners should jump at this time to feel a strange floating sensation; many called in to share their experiences. 

In 1989, the BBC sports show Grandstand had a segment where the presenter shared his praise for the broadcast team’s professionalism while a fight broke out between staff in the background.

In 2008, the BBC ran a high-quality nature video segment sharing a newly discovered flying penguin colony. The presenter shared that the penguins use their unique skill to summer in the amazon rainforest. People were amazed.

Keep it fun. Keep it classy.

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