“It was just a joke!” – Planning Pranks for April 1st

This month kicked off, as it does every year, with a flurry of practical jokes and pranks to celebrate April Fool’s day. As tech giants kicked in with their newest pranks in the spirit, many more participated in their own small ways to the confusion and groans of family and friends.

Humor and pranks interrupt the habitual patterns of daily life and help us become aware of our programming. From hiding doors behind paneling to changing the languages on our computer keyboards, we are shocked into instant awareness. The smooth operation of life, things we generally assume we can count on, can no longer be taken for granted.

Of course, there are always instances of an innocent joke gone wrong. With just a step too far over the line we risk severely inconveniencing people, hurting others’ feelings, or harassing them. So how can you tell whether you’re on the good or bad side of humor?

Well, firstly there’s always the cardinal rule – safety, safety, safety. For all the planning that people put into their practical jokes, any dangers or unintended consequences of the joke should be thought through. For example, if you’re going to switch all the clocks to a different time in the household, you’d probably better first make sure that the person doesn’t have any important meetings or appointments that day. Can you ensure that the target of your practical joke will be the first and only person to encounter it? There’s nothing worse than snaring an unsuspecting prey with a trap set for another.

Next – think through what you’re trying to accomplish with the joke. Why would this joke be worthwhile playing on the other person? What are you helping them become aware of? What unintended negative consequences might impact your relationships with the person or others? If it’s solely at the other person’s expense, you might want to reconsider. The best jokes are done with love and with the intention of appreciating some aspect of the other person.

The best jokes, well-planned, can make for amazing stories that will be told for years to come. You have another whole year ahead of you to plan for April Fool’s Day. Best of luck to you, and let’s make April 1st, 2014 memorable!