The Best Pranks in Recorded History
(No, none of Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d gags made this list)
Happy April Fool’s Day! The one day a year when you’re obligated to lie to everyone you see. You can scream out “fire!” or “active shooter!” in your workplace and it’ll be a hoot, just as long as you qualify those warnings with a loud, cheerful:
In honor of this lovely, prank-filled day, allow me to recount some of the best pranks in recorded history.
Jesus Fakes His Death
Who could forget this one? Before Ashton Kutcher, there was Jesus H. Christ, always foolin’ people with his tricks. Water into wine. Curing the blind. This guy was a regular prankster, no doubt about it.
But the ultimate prank: faking his death. With the help of some buddies, Jesus staged a fake crucifixion. His entire village was there to witness it, and he even got his mom to play along, shedding a tear or two for her “dying” son. Jesus was placed in a tomb and escaped via a secret backdoor. He hoped to return on Easter, which was April 1st, and give his community a big, hearty “APRIL FOOL’S!”
Unfortunately, while crawling out of the backdoor, Jesus tripped, hit his head on a rock, and was knocked unconscious for several weeks.
He awoke to find that he accidentally started a religion. His friends Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not have the heart to ruin the prank, so they doubled down and wrote a book about it.
The American Revolution
Prank wars are often a thing when it comes to friends, spouses, and even coworkers. It’s seen as a fun way to blow off steam.
Well, did you know entire countries have engaged in April Fool’s prank wars?
Great Britain and the colonies were constantly one-upping each other when it came to pranks. Britain passed the Tea Act as a funny little gag, and, in return, the colonists dressed as Native Americans and dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.
It was good times, and these little skirmishes continued for some months. However, the colonists, as much more creative thinkers, were underwhelmed by the pranks of Great Britain. It seemed the only prank the British knew was enacting new tax after new tax.
That was until colonist George Washington brilliantly thought outside the box to offer up a prank by the likes of which we have never seen.
“What if,” George pondered, “we pranked the British so hard that we were no longer a part of their country, but rather our own country?”
Young Thomas Jefferson stood up in astonishment. “You mean… seceding from Great Britain? Sir… THAT’S THE GREATEST PRANK EVER! OMG!”
With that, the Founding Fathers got to drafting a Declaration of Independence.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to leave another people who totally aren’t good at pranks, and in that we finish this prank war with our final prank, the prank to end all pranks, as we have pranked our way out of a union with Great Britain and the King and into our own prank Haven where we are free to prank independently and interdependently as such.”
You can tell this was just a rough draft, but the essential points remain throughout the finalized document.
(SIDE PRANK: John Hancock tricking people into thinking he was important just because his signature on the Declaration of Independence is so freakin’ huge.)
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Just letting you know, this prank has to be one of my favorites. We all know William Oliver Shakespeare as a great playwright and poet, but I’m willing to bet you did not know he was arguably the greatest pranker of the Elizabethan Era.
Shakespeare did not even want to be a writer. He was just so involved with his pranks that he became a writer by necessity. Allow me to explain.
William Shakespeare was a master with language. He could prank you and you might not even know it until you got home, realized what happened, and exclaimed, “DAMN THAT SHAKESPEARE! ALWAYS PRANKIN’ PEOPLE!”
His favorite prank was using his flowery language to get men to dress as women in public. Shakespeare would keep tossing clothes at young men telling them to try the clothes on, and, before you knew it, there was a full-grown man in a sundress. Then Shakespeare would point and laugh, “Ha ha! You’re a very pretty lady, good sir! I bet your womb is ripe to host a child!” Then he would scamper off to find his next victim.
The only problem with this was, over the years, it was getting harder and harder to trick males into wearing women’s clothing. Shakespeare almost gave up his passion.
That is, until he had an ingenious idea.
He began writing all sorts of plays — tragedies, historical pieces, comedies — and included large casts in each play, consisting of both men and women.
Then, Shakespeare opened up the now-famous Globe Theatre (spelling “Theatre” like that was just icing on top of the prank cake for good ol’ William). With the Globe Theatre opened, Shakespeare was now free to cast his plays. This is where the brilliance of Shakespeare can be seen on full display.
In his poetic, persuasive way, William convinced the world of theatre that all roles in his plays — whether male or female — should be played by men. ISN’T THAT A HOOT? Men playing women, when there were perfectly capable women available? Never underestimate a pranker as adept as William Shakespeare.
So men of all ages would dress as women and try to be taken seriously by the viewing public, even though they looked so ridiculous in female clothing. Amazingly, Shakespeare’s prank was deemed as an ordinary practice for all plays, and not just his.
To this very day, the prank still lives on, as some theaters insist on casting plays as Shakespeare intended, with an all-male cast.
Damn, William! Back at it again with those pranks!
When Dad Called Me a Failure on Easter
Boy, this was a good one! There I was at the dinner table, with the family, just enjoying my Easter meal. Then conversation turns to me and what I’ve been up to.
And then my dad goes off:
“Jared, well what’s there to say, really? He’s perpetually unemployed. He skated through life, riding his brother’s coattails. There’s nothing else to say. He’s a failure. A failure.”
Ouuuchhh. It stung at first, I admit. But then I realized something…
April Fool’s! Of course, my dad was just joshin’ me! He’s always had a bad concept of time and probably forgot April 1st wasn’t for another five days.
I caught on to the prank and joked back with my dad:
“Yeah, well you’re as absent as a father could be without actually being absent!”
I was about to add the much-needed “April Fool’s!” just in case my dad thought I was being serious, but my dad was quick to respond with his own humdinger of a joke:
“I have friends who can say they are proud of all their kids. When they talk about that, I usually just say I only have one son so I don’t have to lie about being proud of you.”
My dad surprised me with his acting chops. A vein even popped in his head. I never knew he could prank like this!
The other family members looked uncomfortable in the wake of all this good ol’ fashioned father-son pranking, so I opened my mouth to calm their nerves. I was happy to see my father also opening his mouth. Were we about to jinx each other with our “April Fool’s!” cries? That would be lovely!
“April Foo — ”
“ — Fuck you.”
Note to self: Get dad a calendar so he can plan accordingly for April Fool’s next year!
Brussels Terrorist Attacks
The attacks in Brussels weren’t a prank. They were reminders that the world is a miserable fucking place and the enduring existence of humanity is perhaps the greatest prank of all.
Jared is an award-winning (that’s not true) writer who has published featured articles (also not true) in Playboy, Maxim, and Entertainment Weekly (no, no, and no). In his free time, he donates his time to help (don’t know where this is going, but it’s probably not true) inner-city youth learn how to read (yeah, not true). If you enjoyed this piece or would like to troll Jared on social media, his Twitter is here and his website is here.