Prank videos are stupid.
I'm sure that it would've been nicer to kick this column off with some kind of witticism before stating my thesis, but prank videos are too stupid to deserve that. They've become tremendously popular on YouTube, and out of the glut of them, you can count the ones worth watching on your thumb.
Prank videos take the most annoying and baffling aspects of entertainment and roll them together until something ghastly emerges. They're a blob that swallows up the decency of everything within reach, and they mutate their participants into obnoxious clones of each other. The only reason they're popular is because you literally wish harm on the people pulling the pranks.
Also, they're stupid. And here's why:
#4. No One Is Laughing With Them
Once you're over the age of 15, it's hard to find pranks funny. I'm sure that there are adults that think they're the most hilarious things ever, but there are also grown people who like the movie I, Robot. Eventually, you have to accept that certain human beings are going to have interests that you can't possibly fathom.
As you get older, pranks become more of a nuisance than anything else. People have schedules and things that they carry, and most pranks either deal with delaying someone for a while or covering them with something. If a prank involves me getting wet, after it I'm going to worry that my cellphone doesn't work. If I'm walking to my next destination and a person stops me in an attempt to trick me, I'm going to get irked, because now I might be late. What I'm trying to say is that getting older rips all the joy and surprise from your life. Pranks become exponentially less entrancing when you have to be at work in six minutes.
"You thought I just ruined your day with crippling financial damage! Burn!"
Another big problem with pranks is that there is no set definition of what they are. Pranks are an area that would definitely benefit from a law saying, "These are pranks, and anything else is unqualified nonsense," because as long as it vaguely follows a certain format, anything that I say I'm going to do and then don't really do could be considered a prank. By the standard set in these videos, if I walked up to someone, announced, "I'm going to hit you in the mouth!" and then kicked them in the junk, I could say, "It was a prank! Like, share, and subscribe!" It would hit all of the requirements for being a prank, of which there are two:
1. Someone feels soooooo smart when it's done.
2. Someone else feels sooooo stupid when it's done.
That'll teach people to show concern for their fellow human beings, assholes!
However, it's just such an oddly malicious attempt at screwing someone else over that it becomes impossible to laugh with the person doing the prank. They can put the "humor" tag on it as much as they want and it still won't make a difference, because these prank videos aren't intricately designed traps that unsuspecting people fall into. These are excuses for us to watch something where some idiot might get punched in the end. They're hidden morality tales. You wait for the guy doing the pranks to get his comeuppance for being such an uncomfortable cock ring on the dick of the world. If it was anywhere else but the Internet, it would be the story of someone who messed up and was taught a lesson.
But this IS the Internet, which is built on the backs of confused people trying to come to terms with the idea that they're not good at as many skills as they'd like to be, so they bask in humiliation with a lack of self-awareness that seems almost robotic. It's the kind of climate where a vlogger couple will immediately broadcast their pregnancy announcement and subsequent miscarriage announcement, because, holy shit, look at all of the clicks that we're getting. The cleverness of the prank is never what is applauded. There are barely any successful compilation videos of the pranks going well. But millions have watched them go poorly because we legitimately don't care if the worst thing happens to their stars.
There is no emotional rise and fall like there would be with a great joke. When the most personal thing that you say is, "Thanks for checking out the video, guys!" there is no sense of attachment. It is just us waiting for you to get swung on. We anticipate that clumsy swing at your clumsy swing at getting praise for something. In a schoolyard, prank videos are the kids chugging hot sauce packets because people will watch them chug hot sauce packets. People are looking at me, so that must mean that I'm doing good, right? I am liked, yes? And, through your teary eyes and blurred vision, you can't see the lack of interest build on the faces of the people around you because you haven't choked on that hot sauce yet.
#3. Their Participants Dress Like Douches
I know that it's usually considered petty to comment on someone's physical appearance, because we have to follow that mantra of "It's who they are underneath that counts." Well, this guy just tried to derive humor from stealing phones out of people's hands, so I'm guessing that underneath is just a swarming layer of Ray-Bans, memes, and Google AdSense. Once you go out of your way to be an asshole to people, the way you dress is open season. The biggest prank ever pulled is your parents laboring under the delusion that you would be a contributing member of society.
Somewhere, a father is regretting not reading enough bedtime stories.
It's a little beside the point, but I wish, just once, that one of these people would dress like they weren't trying to pick up younger girls in West Palm. They're a parade of Instagram filters, with the requisite backwards hats, hair gel, and polo and V-neck shirts. There seems to be a uniform for people that aren't trying to grasp any sort of goal or dream as much as they're just trying to be famous, and YouTube prank personalities strictly adhere to it. It's a fashion choice that lets the world around them know that they're also DJs/actors. And it exudes an aura of fakeness that threatens to shatter their surrounding realities.
The idea that we should be free from having any kind of conversation that we don't want to have is a dumb one. I've been in enough video game stores to understand that if you stand in one place for any extended period, people will come to you with a full list of their likes and dislikes. But there is some kind of switch that goes off when a blinding vision of artificial humanity comes into close proximity with you. It's akin to when you see guys go clubbing and they start regurgitating the degrading things that forums have taught them to say in order to properly flirt with women.
"That wasn't a condom; it was a Snickers wrapper! Pranked!"
In the case of the android-style flirting, it's meant to establish subtle dominance in the conversation, because, according to online advice, flirting is only worthwhile when you're trying to sneak "My apartment, value, and penis are all HUGE!" into every sentence. And it's never not slightly threatening, because it comes off as nothing but cold. The same goes for these people that approach pranks with deranged confidence and the clothing choices of a person who was on his way to get a lemon drop shot and got horribly lost.
If you're dressed up like you're trying to specifically appeal to the college freshmen that skip past your auto-playing videos on their Facebook feed, it's going to be eerie when you walk up to folks and ask them if you can "touch their melons." What you're doing is dull, but how you dress is unnerving, because everyone your age who is tumbling through a search for recognition is dressed like you.
It's like an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog came to life after an accident with a radioactive Jagerbomb.
No matter how severely you've caught someone off guard, there is still a permeating stench of "This guy is up to something!" that eradicates the surprise of the prank. You make yourself the enemy immediately upon contact, as you're obviously setting up something that the other person is not privy to. I don't want to give any advice to prank gremlins, but you could possibly try to dress and act like a normal, unassuming person, instead of the Southern California protocol for "I'm looking for an agent."
This is a man who watched Entourage and thought it was an inspirational documentary.