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“You’re Not Fooling Anyone”

Harlan Sands isn’t bald

Written by Andrea Brazis

Hi there, Case Western students!

Everyone loves a good joke or prank from time to time. However, once a year, we Americans take pranking to another level.

April Fool’s Day is an annual holiday that takes place on April 1st every year. This day is dedicated to carrying out practical jokes and hoaxes on people, typically friends or family. The execution of a joke is generally followed with the tag, “April Fools!” April Fools Day jokes can range from anything as simple as vinegar on a toothbrush to large-scale pranks like putting someone’s mattress in a pool (whether they’re on it or not).

The origin of April Fools Day dates 30 years back, to our Canadian-bordering neighbor, Alaska.

The origin of April Fools Day dates 30 years back, to our Canadian-bordering neighbor, Alaska. At this time, the people in the city of Sitka believed their dormant volcano was going to erupt. Sitka went into a panic as black smoke filled the air; they even notified the National Coast Guard to assist them in evacuating the city. The Coast Guard did a quick flyby of the volcano, and instead of finding themselves atop a brimming, active volcano, they saw burning tires forming the words “April Fool.”

Something about these pranks creates a sense of excitement for the person playing the joke. Over the years we’ve tried every hoax in the book; some of these have been private in-house among friends and family, while others have been taken internationally and publicly. Today, let’s look at some of the best (and worst) April Fools Day jokes of all time.

Pasta Grows on Trees

Only pasta grows on trees, not money; this is no longer worth the read.”

This headline captured audiences from across the world and became known as the Number 1 April Fools’ Hoax of all time, according to CNN. This hoax took place in Switzerland, in the small town of Ticino. An article by CNN features a video of farmers removing pieces of spaghetti off trees. The video is presented in a nonfictional way, explaining the ideas of spaghetti plantations and harvesting pasta.

The video explains the process of spaghetti plant production, along with details on how pasta is dried and prepared. To us, the idea of spaghetti growing on trees is outrageous; we find it fantastical and unrealistic. Keep in mind, this hoax was pulled off in the 1950s.

The influence of the media has always been strong; outrageous news headlines have often flooded our media. However, many people believed this hoax simply because they trusted the media. This was a time when the media had been more accurate, more reliable. Sources around this time tended to be more credible than we might think.

Nowadays, in our skeptical world, we often distrust the media. Fake media has slowly become a more prominent part of our world. Except now we are able to search the web and seek out credible sources to back up information given to us. In the 1950s, technology was different, and most people relied on what the media told them because they had no way of citing the information.

Toilet Paper Shortage

FYI: this hoax occurred in 1973, not 2020. Ironic though, right?

American TV host and comedian Johnny Carson created mass panic when he made a joke about an upcoming toilet paper shortage during his bit on “The Tonight Show.” People were unaware that his comment was comedic, and it resulted in a nationwide toilet paper purchase spree. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic buying of toilet paper only reinforced the legitimacy of the shortage. Additionally, a Republican Congressman sent out a public press release, further legitimizing the shortage.

Although no one was directly harmed from this hoax, our country couldn’t afford to experience shortages of any kind, as this was in the middle of an extreme economic recession. Convincing the public of the falsity of the hoax took time and evidence that was difficult to find (again, shortages were starting to emerge because of the scare, but this wasn’t initially an actual threat).

Let’s just say, after this incident, TV personalities have learned to better phrase their public and comedic comments.

(This apparently doesn’t apply to Trump.)

Taco Liberty Bell

Taco Bell: every young person’s favorite 2 a.m. hotspot.

On April 1, 1996, an article was published stating that Taco Bell had bought the Liberty Bell. The published article can be found on The Museum of Hoaxes. To summarize, the article stated that Taco Bell decided to purchase the Liberty Bell and it would furthermore be called the “Taco Liberty Bell.”

This press release shocked the public, stirring up frenzy and panic. Citizens were calling the Taco Bell Headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia to confirm if the purchase was legitimate. Following the announcement, the National Park Service in Philadelphia arranged a news conference to inform the public that the Liberty Bell had not been sold, nor was it up for sale.

By noon of April 1, Taco Bell formed a press release confessing the buying of Liberty Bell to be a hoax, calling it, “The Best Joke of the Day.” Following this hoax, the company announced their donation of $50,000 to assist in the upkeep of the bell.

While this hoax seemed harmless and comical to most, some critics and public figures were not amused. One individual said: “To appropriate one of the cherished symbols of our national heritage and use it as part of some cheap, thoughtless advertising ploy is totally disgusting.”

This hoax had no mal intent, according to sources; however, the usage of the Liberty Bell, to some, felt like a breach of American pride. A variety of conversations between the Taco Bell spokesman Jonathan Blum and other critics landed with no clear conclusion. Blum said that he believed the hoax to have no harmful intention and that it would likely generate more attention and popularity to the bell.

What do you think? Was this hoax a violation of American pride? Or was it simply a harmless gag?

Psychologically Exploring

So why DO people make jokes? Why do they prank people? Why is deceiving other people so enjoyable that we created a holiday for it?

... there’s a fine line between a joke and self-pleasured social aggression.

Believe it or not, there’s scientific and psychological evidence that explains why we react this way to jokes. As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” When someone laughs, a certain level of happiness is released in the body, increasing oxytocin levels and endorphins. Laughter is something that connects every single person in the world; it’s pure and innocent. It doesn’t require skill or work.

However, there’s a fine line between a joke and self-pleasured social aggression. A lot of people use jokes and humor as a coping or defense mechanism, and sometimes this can be mentally destructive. Be aware of your audience before expressing a joke or playing a prank. Even jokes can have negative elements, so make sure to think and act kindly.

April Fool’s Day is easily one of the best and most underrated holidays. It allows parties to let loose and enjoy some good-old-fashioned jokes with minimal discomfort. The joy created by a joke is untouchable; it’s the warm fuzzy feeling in our heart that makes our day a little brighter, our week a little livelier and our life a little happier.

Further Reading/Sources

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