DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Started a Joke

Man, did you see those huge headlines out of Washington, DC today?
  • In Rebuke of NRA, Senate Passes Strict Gun Control 100-0
  • Clarence Thomas Resigning Supreme Court to Replace Leno on Tonight Show
  • Nats Moving to Milwaukee; Trade Harper, Strasberg, Zimmerman
What a date in DC history. And speaking of dates, did you check today's. It's April 1, fool. 

For more than 5 centuries, April Fools' Day (April 1) has been an international day for jokes and pranks. No one is exactly certain how the custom started. The most popular theory focuses on France. In the 1500s, France changed its calendar so that the New Year would begin in January to match the Roman calendar instead of beginning at the start of spring, in late March or early April. However word of the change traveled slowly, and many people in rural areas continued to celebrate the New Year in the spring. These country dwellers became known as "April fools," the story goes.

Others contend that April Fools' Day simply grew out of age-old European spring festivals of renewal, in which pranks and camouflaging one's identity were common. Still others maintain it all began with Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Nun's Priest Tale" in his The Canterbury Tales.

The origin of April Fools' Day was even itself the victim of a national prank, according to National Geographic.  In 1983, Joseph Boskin, professor emeritus of American humor at Boston University, told an Associated Press reporter that the idea came from Roman jesters during the time of Constantine I in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. As the story goes, jesters successfully petitioned the ruler to allow one of their elected members to be king for a day. So, on April 1st, Constantine handed over the reins of the Roman Empire for one day to King Kugel, his jester. Kugel decreed that the day forever would be a day of absurdity. Newspapers around the country picked up on the fake report and had to run corrections.
Young Americans tie a kite string on an elder for an April Fool's prank.
Although most April Fools' jokes are played on family, friends, and co-workers, the idea of pranks on April 1st has become big business, with Madison Avenue and social media sites getting in on the fun. One company, Procter & Gamble, along with several of its agencies, introduced a web site, a video clip on You Tube and a Twitter hashtag for a new variety of Scope mouthwash called Scope Bacon, billed as the mouthwash “for breath that sizzles.” (To read more about April 1, 2013 and Madison Avenue, click here.)

Social media sites engaged in a competition today to see which one could pull off the biggest hoax. For example, Twitter announced it was moving to a 2-tier system, one of which would allow tweets with vowels (a pay service) and another free tier which wouldn't. Twitter's move prompted comedian Joan Rivers to post on her own Twitter site: "Twyttyr? Why byy vywyls whyn yyy gyt "Y" fyr fryy? Syckyrs!" (To read more about today's social media pranks, click here).

D.C. institutions had a fun day on line. Politics and Prose posted on Facebook: Forget books. We're throwing in the towel. We've decided to become Politics & Pogues, your one-stop shopping for all the best in Irish musical protest wear. Synetic Theater's Facebook page read: Synetic Theater will be re-locating all of its operations to New York City in the next season! Come visit us Off-Broadway! 

Meanwhile, the Hirschorn proclaimed: “Hirshhorn to Curate Outer Space by 2024.” The full, faux-press release post read:
The Smithsonian announces a plan to launch the Hirshhorn into low Earth orbit in time for the Museum’s 50th anniversary. Having judged the historic Gordon Bunshaft-designed structure “too freakin’ cool to remain on the ground,” the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents has formed an interdisciplinary task force to conduct feasibility studies.
“It will be necessary to rotate the structure around its central axis to establish artificial gravity,” said a source close to the project. “Next-gen shuttles will probably dock in the Lerner Room,” although alternatives are being considered.

Even the White House got into the pranking act today. The presidential prank began with a Twitter post promising a “special video message from the President” at 10a.m. Viewers who looked at 10 saw this message. But, as is the danger with any joke, not everyone appreciated the humor. Here is one of the printable negative comments about the video:

15% are unemployed before the  video.
15% NET unemployment after this video.
-$64k from the US Treasury... but who gives a damn. Not like that money could be spent on anything to help some kids get meals or back to some poor family that paid 7% sales tax and 22% income tax last month.

So maybe, if you are prone to pranks, but don't want a video of yours to go viral next April Fools', you might want to play some more old-fashioned tricks. Here is a website that can help do just that.

And by the way, I'm so elated that you read this post, that I'm sending you $1,000. No fooling. Happy April 1st.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Of course, internet pranks aren't limited to one day in April. Most of us encounter them regularly in our email boxes or social media pages. So if you doubt that something you are viewing is true, you can check it out before you pass it on. Urban Legends at About.Com is one such check site. Snopes is another site many people consult.

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