Real pranks never work out the way they do on movies and TV. It's a lot harder than it looks to fill a guy's apartment with pudding, or replace the Statue of Liberty's torch with a giant dildo. Real-life practical jokes are usually small-scale and largely annoying.
Yet... every once in a while somebody will strike gold.
#7. Fidel Castro Says You're Gay
We're not sure what would be considered the best possible outcome for a prank, but man, getting a world leader to become so enraged he calls you a "faggot" in public has to be way up there.
Prank calls have long been a radio DJ staple, which is one reason why so many of us don't listen to the radio any more. But at least once, this annoying stunt yielded awesome results: In 2003 a pair of Miami DJs, Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, started by calling up Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Tragically, Chavez has been stuck in 2003 ever since.
You wouldn't think getting Chavez on the line would be easy. If it were, world leaders would constantly be getting calls from pranksters and other bored world leaders all hours of the night. But while the unofficial requirements (balls that can be used to anchor hot air balloons) are probably hard to come by, Ferrero and Santos only had to bluff their way past a few aides before using pre-recorded clips of Fidel Castro to chat with Chavez himself.
Eventually the hosts broke in with a few well reasoned, intellectual arguments (by which we mean they swore at him for a bit) and hung up. They received a fair bit of both praise and criticism, but they weren't finished yet.
A few months later they pulled the same stunt on Castro, this time using clips of their conversation with Chavez to pretend to be him. Now, pulling a prank on a head of state is kind of impressive, but ultimately you're still just phoning up some old guy and insulting him. Unless, of course, the head of state in question decides to start swearing back at you, at which point you have something greater. And a minor international incident.
When Castro realized what was going on he called the DJs "shit eaters," "faggots" and, in a stunning display of ingenuity, "big faggots," along with a couple of other choice phrases before hanging up.
"Yo momma so fat, bitch cut her leg and all that came out was gravy."
So what would have been a minor, quickly forgotten event instead made international headlines, since everyone realized that only the lack of a camera on his phone saved the two DJs from getting a retaliatory photo of Castro's balls. The FCC fined the radio station $4,000, which is apparently the fine for provoking a communist leader into insulting your sexuality.
Is there still a fine if he comes on to you?
#6. You're All Going to Die! Haha, Not Really
Back in 1980, a local news station in Boston decided to pull the classic April Fools' joke, "Make People Flee in Fear for Their Lives."
The station reported that a volcano near Milton, Massachusetts was erupting, and the announcement was complete with stock footage of lava and a statement by then-President Carter, assembled with sound bites.
The very end of the report revealed the truth, but by that point most viewers in Milton were already trying to escape a fiery death, calling the authorities before abandoning their homes.
The producer behind the prank was fired, and the FCC got on their case for "showing library film footage without identifying it as such," which is FCC code for "What the fuck were you guys thinking?"
You know what their prank was missing? An actual, physical, simulated volcano eruption.
Maybe they should have learned from Sitka, Alaska resident Porky Bickar, who, six years earlier, managed to pull off a much more elaborate and better thought out prank. On April Fools' Day, he used a rented helicopter to carry a hundred old tires, rags, fuel, oil and smoke bombs to an actual volcano a few miles away, where he wrote "April Fool" in giant letters in the snow before setting all of that shit on fire.
"Is this maybe a little excessive? Nah."
Of course, from a few miles away his letters weren't visible, all residents saw was a column of fucking black smoke drifting up from the local fucking volcano. Residents of Sitka were understandably terrified, also fleeing their homes and calling the authorities.
We know what you're thinking: When a wacky prank gets pulled, the cops are immediately going to go looking for the guy named "Porky." But here's the twist: They already knew about it.
Porky had cleared his prank with the local police and the FAA ahead of time, who told him to go for it. Yes, the 70s were a different time, kids. An awesome time.
#5. A Millionaire Gives a Kind Gift to Strangers In Need... Of Being Laughed At!
What would you do if a stranger came up and offered to buy you a new wardrobe?
Under normal circumstances you'd probably back away slowly or go for your pepper spray, since the alternative almost certainly involves starring in some videos that will shame you and your family forever. But if you were hearing it at a clothing store, from a woman who rolled up in a limo and claimed she'd just won the lottery, then you might be a little more receptive.
Well, that's exactly what happened at a Burlington Coat Factory in Columbus, Ohio, where a woman named Linda Brown went to the cash register and announced she would pay for everyone's purchases.
Where dreams go to die.
Customers predictably reacted to this generous offer by grabbing all the shit they could get their hands on, as well as calling friends and family members to come get a piece of the charity action. The result was that 500 people crammed into the store, along with up to three times as many outside trying to get in. Oh, and two dozen police officers also showed up to try to control the crowd and/or score some sweet new coats.
After about an hour of letting people shop, Brown hopped into her limo and disappeared. People stood around a bit, figuring she just headed to the bank to bring back some suitcases full of cash.
She never came back.
A small golden apple was found resting on the scene.
So, like mature, responsible adults, they accepted the fact that they had been tricked and went on with their lives. And by that we mean they rioted, damaged the store and ran off with tons of unpaid-for merchandise, which they figured was now theirs since a stranger who was not associated with the sellers in any way had told them they could have it.
Law enforcement officials noted that riot gear only makes you feel like a badass when the riot isn't retarded.
As for Brown, no, she wasn't a millionaire, and the limo was rented. It turned out that it was hard for a pretend millionaire to pay for even a rented limo, so she was turned into the police. At least she got to travel there in style.
#4. A Man Earns Multiple College Degrees While Not Existing
This is the prank that turned into one of the longest running jokes in history.
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that all the coolest pranks are pulled at college. Students go to college not for the academics but for the chance to commit wacky hijinks and finally get that mean old dean, possibly with the aid of a goat or a large number of bras. Needless to say, those of us who were raised by 80s movies were extremely disappointed when we went to college and discovered that the average prank involved waiting for a dude to pass out and then drawing dongs on his face.
The truly elaborate shenanigans seem to exist only in the movies. But that's only because so few pranksters these days possess the perseverance and apparently limitless spare time of one William Edgar Smith, a Georgia Tech student from 1927. Though maybe we shouldn't be surprised by the spare time thing considering he had no Internet, TV, video games or legal alcohol available to him, and only the most primitive forms of pornography.
What he did have was an extra copy of the school's enrollment form, that had been sent to him by mistake.
"Man, I can't wait until Porntube is invented."
Smith signed up a fictitious student by the name of George P. Burdell and enrolled him for all of the same classes Smith was in. Then he proceeded to do this fictional student's course work, in addition to his own. For the entire time he was in school.
To keep up the ruse, Smith would change up both the wording and the handwriting for a second copy of every single assignment, just to make it look legit. On exam day, same thing--in the time allotted to the rest of the students to take the exam once, Smith would do it once for himself and then knock out a second copy for his imaginary friend. Just for the pure hell of it.
We, on the other hand, couldn't even manage to show up sober.
Of course, this being a prominent university and full of smart people, it didn't take faculty long to catch on. Well, unless you consider the time it took the fictional student to earn a Bachelor's Degree to be a long time. Because he did just that. It was only upon graduation that the story broke and the university realized they had awarded a degree to the equivalent of Russell Crowe's imaginary roommate in A Beautiful Mind.
That was just the beginning of Burdell's career, however. The fake student stunt immediately became legendary at Georgia Tech, and other students kept turning in work for him until he earned his Master's Degree. Later, jokers in the military would list Burdell as one of the crew members on their bombers, and MAD magazine for years would claim he sat on their Board of Directors. In 2000, some wise guy declared him to be an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
In 2001, he was in the lead for TIME magazine's Man of the Year before they yanked him from contention and told the pranksters to just fucking give it up already because the joke was 70 years past its comedy expiration date. If only they understood that when a running joke runs long enough, it becomes funny again.