The Surprising History Of 5 Classic April Fools’ Day Pranks


Photo via GameInformer.com

Today is April 1st, and if you’re not pranking someone, you’re dead inside. There’s all kinds of ways to play a good prank. Psychological warfare’s always fun–like convincing a loved one you’re dying of some rare disease, or calling a buddy and pretending to be an IRS agent with some questions about his “suspicious” tax return–but we also love the pranks of yore. (Bonus: No one ever expects the classics.)

Here’s how to do five old-school pranks, plus their unlikely origins.

1. Whoopee Cushion

This gassy bundle of joy has been used since the days of the Roman Empire…by Roman Emperors. The modern version appeared in the 1920s, but the inventor of the Joy Buzzer (more on that in a second) refused to manufacture these “vulgar” devices, which then made a fortune for the entrepreneur who did.

The most fun place to use a whoopee cushion is at a movie theater. Go see a romantic comedy on a Friday night and sit next to a couple engaged in PDA. When one of them heads to the food line or the bathroom, leave the cushion there and wait to ruin their date.

2. Joy Buzzer

Back in the 1920s, prank industrialist S.S. Adams decided to make handshakes super annoying. This one’s always cooler on TV and in movies, like when the Joker from Tim Burton’sBatman” movie uses it to give actual electric shocks to his enemies. In reality, the joy buzzer is a weak little prank–it doesn’t even have an electric current–that’s only fun to use on homophobes and people with high blood pressure.

3. Fake Vomit

This awesomely gross prank has been around in the exact same form since the ’50s, and the inventor loved it so much that he’d prank his own son with it constantly. The best way to use a piece of fake vomit is to leave it on a really clean surface, like a kitchen counter or in the fridge.

If you’re thinking of leaving it in the bathroom, there’s a better way: pour a glass of orange juice into a bowl of Apple Jacks and Corn Pops, then pour it all over the floor of a public bathroom stall. People will see that underneath the stall and never use it.

4. Itching And Sneezing Powder

S.S. Adams either invented or commercialized every prank or gag toy there was, but he had a special love for his special sneezing powder: Dude would even spray it himself into the path of marching bands. You never see CEOs today using their products with that kind of gusto.

Itching powder’s been used forever, and you can make your own. Get your hands on some rosehips, crush them up and pour that down the back of someone’s shirt for the most fun you’ll have all week.

5. Stink Bombs

While the origins of the stink bomb are unknown, everyone knows about its power and dreads it. The ones you buy at a novelty shop are made with sulfur, so they smell like rotting eggs and flesh.

It’s easy to go from prankster to douchebag with these. Don’t break one in someone’s car, locker, or bedroom. Kitchens, bathrooms, classrooms, and fast food restaurants are OK. Although depending on the fast food joint, no one’s going to smell the difference.

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Charlie Kasov (@charliekasov) is a comedian and editor of Pride Incredulous.