In a world where a celebrity who had a role in WWE is the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world and our own Prime Minister shimmies onto stage to the tune of Dancing Queen, April Fools’ Day pranks seem slightly redundant when front page news could easily pass as a joke in itself. While the origins of the tradition are hotly debated, the day of pranks has been celebrated in the UK since the 19th century. As time has gone on and technology has advanced, a lot of the antics today take place online. Countless companies have since jumped on the trend, albeit to varying levels of success.
Unfortunately, gone are the days where everyone believed the BBC when Panorama told them that pasta grew on trees. Now, every business under the Sun has social media accounts and the vast majority will post some kind of hoax announcement in an attempt to stay relevant. The issue with this is that people now wake up on April 1st on high alert, ready to refuse to believe anything until the day is done.
What I’ve personally found is that far from being actually funny, it’s painfully obvious that the jokes that companies play have been brainstormed, strategised, and marketed for maximum media coverage. As a result, they tend to fall flat and inspire eye rolls rather than belly laughs. However, it’s not all bad news and I promise I’m not just a killjoy intent on scorning their attempts. The aspect of April Fools’ Day I most look forward to now is the reaction from the public.
When the hoaxes are clearly jokes meant to amuse rather than convince, they come off a lot better
This year, the pranks included McDonalds announcing the introduction of milkshake sauce pots to dip fries into, which people curtly replied to with remarks about the infamous inefficiency of their ice cream machines. Sainsbury’s did a Facebook post about new exercise trolleys and, while the hoax itself isn’t that funny, admittedly the company’s sarcastic replies to public comments did make me laugh. In response to one woman complaining that instead of bringing in the “stupid” contraptions Sainsbury’s should focus on “[clearing] our streets of abandoned trolleys”. An employee via the Sainsbury’s account requested the “exact address of the abandoned trolley” with promises to sort the issue out.
It’s apparent that the antics of the day can still inspire some laughter, even if it’s not the pranks themselves that we find funny. Some, like a tweet from Cambridgeshire Constabulary introducing Benni the drug-sniffer bunny and The Times’ drone that can walk your dog with an option to have a “voice shouting (some would say despairingly) ‘Fenton! Fenton!’” deserves a smile. When the hoaxes are clearly jokes meant to amuse rather than convince, they come off a lot better than companies insulting the intelligence of their customers with an actual attempt to fool them.
When the ultimate aim of the day is to insert some much-needed comic relief into life and people derive some light laughter from the pranks, it becomes hard to criticise
While April Fools’ Day may have lost the element of surprise, it seems that the novelty of attempting to prank others is yet to wear off. Although the day is becoming increasingly used as a marketing ploy, there’s really no harm in light-hearted jokes. It gets people talking and could perhaps even be used to highlight how easily fake news can be identified when you’re aware of the signs.
Ultimately, benign jokes form the basis of April Fools’ Day. The comedy of sticking paper on the back of your friend or, in the fashion of my Year 6 teacher, making an entire class of 10-year-olds complete a fake test won’t ever get old if you can pull it off. When the ultimate aim of the day is to insert some much-needed comic relief into life and people derive some light laughter from the pranks, it becomes hard to criticise.
However, it should be noted that people can become distressed when hoaxes go too far. This hazard is something the Daily Express should have considered when they posted the scarily convincing fake news that Brexit would mean the UK could be excluded from participating in the next Eurovision, and that is where I draw the line. Too far, Daily Express. Too far.