Who likes being had on April Fools’ Day? Probably no one. But we polled dozens of joke masters to discover their idea of a primo gag—whether pulled, schooled, or still a prank-in-waiting.
(Howie Mandel Does Stuff)
I told my kids we were going to do an Easter egg hunt on April 1. I got them up really early, gave them each a basket, and sent them in the backyard. After an hour of disappointment, they didn’t find any eggs, and I explained to them, “It’s because we’re Jews.” So it wasn’t only an April Fools’ thing, it was also a teaching moment.
I was taking my daughter and nephew to the movies—they were 10 or 11. As I’m driving, people keep looking in our back seat. I say to the kids, “If y’all are back there giving the finger, I swear to God I’m gonna turn the car around.” I pull up to a gas station, go inside, and this sweet, old lady comes in and says, “Sir, are those your kids in the car?” These psychopaths had gaffer’s tape over their mouths, pretending they were being kidnapped. There were no movies that day.
At my neighboring high school on the outskirts of Philly, they released a bunch of opossums on April Fools’ Day. There were 40 or 50, which was a nightmare. Some were lost, and it took forever to find them. People were horrified. I was like, “How is this April Fools’?” You can’t really take that back because the opossums are still there.
After a gig at a comedy club on April Fools’, I put my bag over my shoulder and after a few blocks, I realized it was way too heavy. The busboy had put about five pounds of silverware in my bag. I still have the spoons to this day.
I used to watch a commercial when I was young about a construction worker who put glue on his hard hat, and he put it on one of the pipes on the building and he hung from the building. I was looking at my father’s toolbox one time, just playing around, and I saw Krazy Glue. I was like, “Oh, this is the thing that’s in the commercial!” I took it to school, and I realized you can’t really see that this is glue. It’s clear. So my friend got up in class to throw something away in the garbage, and I stealthily put this glue on his chair. He sits down. It’s time for recess. But he’s stuck. He can’t get up. He’s like for real, for real stuck. They had to saw him out of the seat.
My youngest siblings and I have an age difference of 11 years. I managed to convince them that I was actually their father and that we were currently living with their grandparents. I remember saying, “Ever wonder why I’m the one who drives you to school every morning?” My dad then started driving them to school every day to prove he was their father, so I’d say the prank was totally worth it.
(The Secret Show @ Blind Barber)
I’m almost afraid to put this in writing because I hope to one day do it, but I think it would be great if someone changed the signs outside of Fred Segal to say “Steven Seagal.” Is there any point to this prank? Not really. Is it something I think about every time I pass Fred Segal? One hundred percent.
(Late Night with Seth Meyers)
I would love to rerecord a museum audio tour for a fancy place, like MoMA or the Met, and record it so that it’s like 98 percent accurate and normal, and then periodically make repeated mentions about how something in a painting reminds me of an egg bagel.
(The Real Dirty Dancing)
I think it’s so funny when people replace all the photos in someone’s house with photos of a celebrity, like Willem Dafoe. I once saw a prank online where a kid dipped Brussels sprouts in chocolate and wrapped them in the Ferrero Rocher wrappings and tricked their dad into eating them.
Nate Bargatze and his father, Stephen Bargatze
(The Greatest Average American)
Stephen: My other son was painting all the doors in his house, and he had all the doorknobs on the table. They were all identical. So I took one so they would think they were missing it. But then I had a better idea—I went over to Ace Hardware, bought an extra one, brought it back, and set it on the table. When it came time to put everything back together, they got into the biggest fight. They probably got about ten doors in their house. They were marking all the doors with numbers to figure out where this extra doorknob was supposed to go. They had their kids at every door, yelling, “I got mine! I got mine!” They thought, “We’ve got a door somewhere that doesn’t have a knob on it!” It lasted about three days before I finally broke down and had to tell them.
Nate: With pranking, if someone walks into it, you just kinda go with it. I stayed with a friend in a hotel when I first started comedy, and he was like, “Hey, is this lotion? It says ‘conditioner’ on it.” I go, “Yeah, it’s conditioner for your skin.” So he rubs it all over his body. Then we had to leave to go to the show, and he’s like, “Why am I so sticky?”
A thing I did with Adam Pally and Ben Schwartz was we used to make each other say certain sentences during big pitch meetings. You had to say it completely serious. One of them was you had to say, “It’s like Frasier—for babies.”
(The Wrong Missy)
Whenever my aunt would visit from Texas, it was always a surprise to my brother and me. One time we shuffled outside to help my mom unload groceries from the car, and my aunt popped out of the trunk.
(Gettin’ Better with Ron Funches)
My son is on the autism spectrum and had never shown much interest in traditional activities like April Fools’, but last year he played several pranks on me, like putting toothpaste on my houseplants and filling my cereal bowl with water instead of milk. This would have been delightful enough, but he went the extra mile and labeled each prank with a Post-It note to make sure I wouldn’t miss them. I still smile when I walk by my houseplant, thinking of the Post-It that simply read, “Toothpaste April Fools!”
This was a prank that backfired on me. It was my first-ever prank on my older brother. I was 8, and we watched an episode of The Twilight Zone. It had a character that was a Shadow Man, who would appear to beat up kids’ bullies. It was super creepy. So that night I slithered into my brother’s room with a dark sheet over me, and while he was sleeping, I stood over him, whispering and mumbling incoherently. It worked too well. He screamed bloody murder, and I’ve never been accidentally punched so hard in my balls in my life.
(The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder)
When I was about 11, I had football practice, and my brother was like, “You gotta hurry up and get your equipment out of the closet. Something seemed to be wrong with the helmet, so you better go look at that.” I go in the closet—where my sister had on some fucking witch-skull mask and she was under the clothes—and when I reached in to get my stuff, she rose up [screaming]! “April Fools, you better get to practice.” Meanwhile, I’m gonna be late because I gotta clean the shit outta my pants.
(The Call Girls)
I used to do gigs for these 55-and-older Jewish developments in Florida. They were very hard when I was a younger comic because they didn’t laugh. I used to call my mom all the time and tell her I bombed. She would get so upset that I was being treated like that—and by my own people. So one time, I called her as an older Jewish person: “Hello, I found this phone. I was told it was the comedian Jessica Kirson’s. She didn’t do well. She left her phone, and she ran out of the room.” My mother was freaking out. I had the person—who was me—saying that I was hysterically crying, that people were heckling: “Who hired this clown?” That people were throwing food. It went on and on and on. She started yelling, like, “Someone needs to find my daughter!” Getting that horrible Jewish anxiety. Then I was like, “Mom, it’s me.” She started hysterically laughing.
(Straight Out The Mud Tour)
Around 2008, I was working at this place called Georgia Power. There was this guy named Bone, and I bought him a fake lottery ticket because he liked to scratch them. It was a $10 ticket. I was like, “Bone, you gimme $5, you can have this ticket because I don’t think I’m gonna win.” The ticket said he won $250,000. At this time, all the big bosses and supervisors were on the job site. He was talking like, “I don’t need this job anymore! I been wanting to tell y’all this—I can’t stand this damn job!” And I was like, “Wait, Bone, Bone!” He was like [don’t worry]—“I’m gonna give you some!” And I was like, “No, the ticket’s fake!” Then, I walked off slowly. He looked up, all the bosses just looking at him. He stayed on the job a long time, but they treated him a little different.
My mom, for my birthday—I was like 19, 20, or 21—gave me this present. It was a Juicy Couture tracksuit set. I almost started crying, because it just meant so much. I used to be obsessed with Paris Hilton and those Juicy Couture tracksuits. I wanted one so bad, but I didn’t have the money for it. It was sexy and cool and what L.A. people were doing. She was like, “Look closer.” I was like, “I am. Thanks so much!” “Closer!” She had taken the time to print out a fake Juicy Couture label and put it on this Kohl’s knock-off. Then I had to take a picture with them. This is one of the many reasons why I’m in therapy.
(Welcome to Flatch)
I’ve always wanted to create a flash mob for only one person I don’t know very well. Like I go to a movie with a group of new friends and then everyone in the whole theater has the routine ready except for Ashley W. And it’s at least a ten-minute long dance. Maybe it’s to Taylor Swift’s ten-minute “All Too Well,” so Ashley W. thinks we all have been harboring huge feelings for her.
A few years ago, one of my best friends, Jaime, was having a queer co-ed bachelor party in Vegas. So I cat-fished my other good friend from high school, Yliana, by posing as another girl we went to high school with, [pseudonym: Victoria]. I made Yliana believe that she was the only girl invited that Victoria felt safe to room with and that she really needed her allyship, because she felt like all these other girls hated her in high school. It was an eight-month-long, codependent, volatile, love-bombing relationship that involved emailing Yliana about dreams wherein she held Victoria’s [unborn] baby while Victoria cried. I revealed to Yliana on April Fools’ Day that it had all been a prank, and she said, “Oh my God, it wasn’t true?! You make my life so much better and so much worse.”
When I first started dating my boyfriend, he gave me a set of keys to his apartment. I thought it would be a fun thing to surprise him with a 12-pack of LaCroix—cran-raspberry. I snuck into his apartment while he was at work, and then before I left, I set up this Goofy doll that I got him on a chair facing the front door. Later that night, he walked in, saw the Goofy doll facing him at the front door, and turned right around and left. He thought someone broke into his apartment and was still in there. So he called his sister, his mom, and asked if they went to his place. He then called his landlord and asked if someone did maintenance. Then he called me, freaking out, saying, “Were you in my apartment?!” I was like, “Hmm, why? Aren’t you thirsty? Did you check your fridge?” He hadn’t, and he was seconds away from calling the cops. It would have been a huge disaster, and he did almost break up with me because of this.
No one has ever April Fools’ Day pranked me… does that mean I’m ugly? I wish someone would go into my apartment when I’m not home and then clean it—so that when I get back, my apartment is clean.
Lil Rel Howery
When I was living in New York, I went out one night and I see Peter Dinklage. I’m like, “Man, I’m a fan!” So now we’re hanging out: We started at The Fat Black Pussycat, right by the Comedy Cellar, and then we went out for a night on the town. People were giving us free drinks, and I posted on my Instagram, like, what a night to remember with Peter Dinklage. The next day, I walk into the office, where we used to do our writers’ room [for Friends of the People], and on the TV is my Instagram post. Everybody is hysterically laughing. They’re like, “Rel, that is not Peter Dinklage.” Come to find out the dude was Peter Dinklage’s stand-in. To this day, I get a text message from all of them, in tears, with that Instagram post.
(La Vie En Rhodes)
I was doing a webseries when I first moved to LA and sometimes would do live shows on YouTube. I was very gullible at the time, and the producer said he just got real news that an asteroid was going to hit earth in a few hours. I bought into it and panicked for about twenty minutes, freaking out live to my fans, until finally, I realized I was just an idiot.
I worked on the MTV prank show Buzzkill in 1996. I wrote a prank where Dave Sheridan and the other cast members pretended to be a sober ride service at Spring Break in Florida. Once the kids were in the van, Dave and the other guys drove the kids to the middle of nowhere and started acting crazy. Full-on Deliverance. The kids lost their shit because, yeah, it was super terrifying.
My friend Kyle Mizono and I interviewed our friend about what his perfect day would be. Then we made him drive to an airport, where we were going to surprise him with a trip. We recorded it for our podcast, so all along the way we were like, “Where do you think we’re going?” He was like, “I don’t know? Vegas?” And we were like, “Oh, it could be Vegas. We could be seeing Criss Angel! But where else? Think different climates.” He was like, “Hawai’i?” “Yeah, it could be Hawai’i! We could be swimming with dolphins!” We fed him the ability to dream. But the background of this is actually that we needed to do this as quickly as possible. So we flew into Tri Cities, Washington, got off the plane, walked into the airport, and said, “Here’s your big surprise!” Which was we made him turn around and see that the gate said, “Now boarding back to Burbank.” We caught on audio the moment he found out, which was total deflation. I understand that this sounds mean, but it was very loving, I’d argue.
Grace Freud & April Clark
April: Grace had gone back to school [to finish her degree in classics]. What I did, because her specialization is with the Roman Empire, was I created a series of fake academic articles that made it look as though it had just been discovered in the last year that the Roman Empire had never existed. There were a lot of details. I threw in there that Latin was invented in 1988 by Dr. Richard Latin.
Grace: April hired a guy on Craigslist to give a speech on this at Boston University, just in an empty classroom. So I presented my undergraduate thesis, and I quoted some of the articles that April had sent me. The premise of the thesis was, “Obviously, Rome was a joke.” Just like… a new Greece? That’s insane. The same gods? The thesis got torn to shreds, and I left school.
April: You didn’t go back to finish?
Grace: You did what a prank is supposed to do: ruin someone’s life. If you had not done this prank, my life would be very different. Pranks are really powerful.
I was up for SNL several years in a row, and the timing a lot of the time was not great. In 2011, I tested for the first time. In 2012, I had a pilot at Comedy Central in contention so I wasn’t available. And then in 2013, they asked me to come in again. At the beginning of the year, they had a showcase in February—because I think they were looking for a possible mid-season person. So we did a showcase in February, and then we knew we would be waiting. So on April 1, 2013, I’m sitting on the toilet in my apartment in Brooklyn. I was doing sketch stuff at the PIT, which was my home base theater. There was a guy there, and not that I didn’t like him, but I just felt like we were on the same track. So there was this sort of unspoken competition. So I’m sitting on the toilet and my wife goes, “Hey, what’s the name of the guy from the PIT who you’re on and off with?” I said his name. She goes, “He got SNL.” I kicked the bathroom door open, pants around ankles, and was like, “WHAT?” She let it simmer for a moment—then, April Fools. There was a relief, but it was also a lesson: What a disgusting person I am, that I’m so angry at somebody else’s good fortune. Cut to LA a couple years later: We’re friends now. There was no reason to ever be that competitive in my own head about it.
It’s really not the most creative prank, but in college, my friends told me the toilet was clogged really badly. I went into the bathroom with gusto thinking I was about to be the poop hero, but the only thing in the toilet was a Smirnoff Ice (in a Ziploc to keep it sanitary). Getting Iced in high school and college is a prank to some, but to me, it was actually a blessing because I genuinely loved the taste. Also, this was the night I came out of the closet to my friends so it was really cute and very lesbian of me to play the role of plumber.
(Brittany Runs a Marathon)
One year for April Fools, my sister and brother-in-law decided to give me a heart attack. The three of us live together and that day I had been out of the house shooting a project that was intense. I came home exhausted at 1AM, ready to change into my PJs and hit the hay. I happened to look over and peeking out underneath a bag on my floor was the biggest, scariest spider I’d ever seen. Not a big deal to some people I’m sure, but I am arachnophobic. I am terrified of spiders. As I stared at the spider in shock and panic, it didn’t seem to be moving. I was almost positive it was fake. But my tired brain still insisted on calling out to my sister and her husband, “Guys…. Is it real? Is it real?” I should mention, by now, I am full-on weeping. They wake up and come into my room to tell me it was all a prank. I was at work too late so they forgot they even put the plastic spider in my room. But I vowed then and there to seek vengeance…
What I would like to do is take one of my friends who’s pretty straitlaced, somehow sedate them—in a really good way, in the middle of the night so they can’t wake up—and then take them out to the desert, probably out to Joshua Tree somewhere? Bring a random mattress, put them on the mattress, somehow get some hair department to give me a tutorial on how to put a wig cap on, so it looks like they’ve shaved their head. Then I want to get a whole bunch of fake tattoos and put them all over the face and on the fake bald cap. Then I want to get some guy that’s gorgeous, but looks like he could’ve been a criminal, and put him in bed with her. So she’s like, “Who is this? I’m slightly attracted and terrified.” Then, I want there to be a handle of some whisky. Most of my friends don’t drink, so this will be really dark for them. Some sort of costume. Slightly Burning Man-esque. Then she wakes up in this and is in the middle of the desert, and we set up mirrors all around the bed. And make them funhouse mirrors, so she’s getting a distorted image of herself, so she thinks she’s still fucked up from the drink she never had. And then we’ll come out and be like, “Surprise!” Basically, I want to curate a nervous breakdown.
(What We Do in the Shadows)
A couple years ago, I was filming the movie Werewolves Within, and we were going to have [a team] dinner pretty early on. I kept joking, like, “Oh, I can’t make it. It’s my birthday.” But at the last minute, I was like, “I’m gonna stay. I’m gonna do it.” Eventually, one of the cast members was like, “Is it really your birthday?” And I was like, “No, I was joking.” But that didn’t get around to everyone. So [some people] went to the director [Josh Ruben], then he went to his parents. Then the parents made a huge thing about it. It was like a game of telephone. And unbeknownst to me, they planned this huge thing for my birthday at the director’s parents’ house. So I was [there] having a good time. But then out of the corner of my eye, I see a giant cake coming out from the corridor. I was like, “Oh, no. Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.” My facial expressions in the video of it throw me under the bus because I can’t hide anything. And then throughout the night, Josh’s parents were like, “How you doin’, Birthday boy? More cake for the Birthday boy? All right, let’s have a drink for the Birthday boy!” I was like, “Please stop saying Birthday boy.”
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