By Ryan Kupperman, executive news editor
My phone buzzed every five minutes.
“Where are you?”
“How long are you going to be?”
I had no choice; we were already too far in. I had to lie. “Sorry, something came up. I’m leaving shortly.” Little did they know, my brother-in-arms and I were in the driveway loaded with sticky notes and the American dream. All is fair in love and war… and pranks.
Hours earlier, on that fateful April Fool’s Day, my friend and I spent a grueling ten minutes searching the internet for the perfect plan of attack.
As dusk began to fall, we worked past the cold bitterness of the wind, feverishly grabbing sticky notes that our hands couldn’t feel and applying them to the car. After 45 minutes, we had created a masterpiece. But on that faithful prankster’s night, we had sparked something much bigger than ourselves.
Within the weeks that followed, everyone kept their heads on a swivel. Our arsenals very quickly upgraded from sticky notes to saran wrap. Bedroom walls and cars were sticky noted and furniture and cars were saran wrapped. Some friends framed others for their pranks and others sought revenge through pulling their own pranks.
Although pranks were once considered fun practical jokes you could pull on friends, the internet, specifically YouTube, has transformed pranking into mean-spirited, one-sided jokes. Because of the amount of children who have access to these videos, the meaning of a prank has been distorted so much that kids believe they can do anything to anybody and justify it with the words, “It’s just a prank, bro.”
According to New Statesman.com, Youtuber Sam Pepper posted a video entitled “Killing Best Friend Prank” in November of 2015. In the video, Pepper kidnaps a young man and forces him to watch his friend be “murdered” by a person wearing a mask. Tied down to a chair, the 19 year-old sobs and screams, “We’re just kids!”
Similarly, the ViralBrothers, a Youtube channel in which two brothers prank each other, posted a video where one brother pranks his girlfriend by telling her he has been cheating on her. Working with her boyfriend’s brother, she pretends to jump out of a window and kill herself to prank her boyfriend back, which prompted a look of horror on her boyfriend’s face before the “prank” was revealed.
Pranks are supposed to be harmless with the intention to confuse or annoy, not to physically or emotionally harm. For example, the use of sticky notes and saran wrap is a harmless yet annoying prank that all those involved can learn to respect… overtime. Although it might be annoying or slightly embarrassing at first, the goal of pulling pranks is to have even the victims look back and laugh at them.
According to YouTube Pranking Across Cultures, by the University of Illinois in Chicago, pranking can release built-up tensions as we make “deliberate mockeries of standard social, professional, and gender-derived behaviors.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, pranks have been celebrated in mythology and in practice for centuries. Leonardo Da Vinci told the “demon-phobic” people of the 16th century that he had captured a little Satan after he had constructed wings from reptile skin and mercury and mounted them to a lizard. On top of that, Da Vinci painted eyes, ears and a horn on the lizard’s head. Now that’s a prank!
Forget that it was Da Vinci, but some dude just painted a lizard and called it a demon. Although it is a little extreme, this kind of prank should be what pranking is all about: using one’s creativity to construct a joke that people can laugh at.
According to the New York Times, research suggests that getting pranked can cause self-reflection in a way few other experiences can, which may function as a check on arrogance or obliviousness when one falls for an obvious or gullible prank.
Although pranks have been demonized within our society, pulling genuinely funny and clever pranks is a great way to connect with friends and an even better pastime. After all, it’s just a prank, bro!