I have to say I am terribly hypocritical about April Fools’ Day (I am not sure where the apostrophe is supposed to be exactly but I assuming that there are a lot of fools in the world). I think like a lot of people it is quite fun to have a laugh at someone’s expense who is not you; if it is you who is the victim then there is a good chance of a sense of humour failure, unless the wheeze is spectacularly funny (a rare occasion).
There are a number of problems with playing jokes on people and I never bother. First, I make a fool out of myself enough times in the week that I do not need help. In fact my mother always used to describe me a magician and a fool. The former because if I try hard enough I can make anything happen but the former because I’m like the fool that walks along the edge of the cliff, never looking quite carefully enough where he is putting his feet, because he is too busy fixed on his destination (or chatting to his companions). Personally I also feel that the old saying that ‘a fool and his money are quickly parted’ also could well apply in my case.
So personally I find that the one on one jokes are usually a bit cruel and not at all funny, especially as the people most at risk are the people least likely to get any amusement out of it, and that strikes me a lot like abuse. You would feel uncomfortable making fun of someone who had learning difficulties, so why is it OK to make fun of people who have trouble ‘having a laugh’ in the same way as yow do.
That said; I am a sucker for a well worked spoof, especially when it comes from a major broadcaster or usually impeccable sort (see, I told you there was hypocrisy this week). Famously there was the BBC report on the Spaghetti harvest (which is still hilarious) but it is still getting harder to fool people in the internet age… Or rather to fool people in that special way that they are taken in for a few minutes and then get the joke. Unfortunately people have gotten so used to believing everything they believe online these days – when so much of it is wrong, out of date or just plain lies – that I am not sure you can really pull off anything quite as classy these days, as it is either going to have to patently absurd from the outset or you might have fears too many people will take it seriously.
The only one I have seen this year that made me laugh so far was in the April issue of BBC Countryfile magazine where in an article on 15 historical sites that turned out to be different than first though there is one interloper, the shocking new finding of remains at Stonehenge -including a stone inscribed ‘Salutator Centrum’ – suggesting it was in fact not as old as first thought but a tourist orientated Roman reconstruction of a prehistoric site.
But I was thinking about what fooled me as a kid and I think my favourite was the arrival at London zoo of that rare Himalayan beast, the Lirpa Loof. As covered on ‘That’s Life’ in 1984 it is still very funny today, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwDwRsfUj6Y but what I like about this one – and what clearly fooled my 13 year old self for a few minutes – was that it was relatively understated, there are clearly some people fooled by it (the teenage girls are priceless) and most important of all, they got someone authoritative to add gravitas to the spoof. David Bellamy is classic here – not only was he a hero of mine at the time and well known to the audience, but he even talks about the ‘red book’ and sounds pretty convincing. How he kept his face straight I’ll never know.
So be warned – watch for Prof. Brian Cox today – don’t trust anything he says for twenty four hours, or you’ll be his patsy as I was Bellamy’s back in the 80s.