What Makes the Perfect Gag Gift?

What Makes the Perfect Gag Gift?

With an office Christmas party coming up in a couple of weeks, I’m kind of at a loss for what to get for the White Elephant (aka Yankee Swap) gift exchange. I know I want to get a funny gag gift, but almost everything I know is derived from movies and TV shows. And so, the only points of reference I have for gag gifts are those from the Christmas episode of The Office and the Joker from Batman. With The Office, the central joke was that the gifts weren’t suitable for a Yankee Swap, so that’s no help. As for the Joker, while he’s great at handing out stuff like chattering teeth and joy buzzers, they mostly, y’know, kill people, so that’s not any better.

Before I end up as that guy who brings a Starbucks gift card to this thing, I decided to reach out for some advice from experts on what makes for the perfect gag gift, as well as a few specific gift suggestions. Here’s what they had to say…

Alice Vaughn, Owner of Offensive Crayons/Milktoast Brands

Expertise: Offensive crayons are quality crayons with names like “Boner Pill Blue,” “Insufferable Vegan Green” and “Suspicious Cold Sore.”

Gag Gift Suggestion: Original Offensive Crayons ($9.50); and Pen Bundle Pack including “Offensive Pens” and “Demotivational Pens” ($20)

Advice: “The whole purpose of a gag gift is the joy you get out of making someone laugh more than anything else. It’s usually a little silly or weird, and part of the fun is the surprise factor when someone first sees it. The gifts aren’t meant to be expensive or necessarily useful; it’s just more about getting a good laugh in the moment. You know, like those quirky things you wouldn’t buy for yourself but are funny to get as a gift. The trick is making sure it’s funny for the right reasons, they get the joke, and it doesn’t get anyone in hot water. We’re aware of the irony of saying this as a company that makes offensive products.”

David Wahl, VP of Creative Services at Archie McPhee

Expertise: Archie McPhee is a novelty toy company that manufactures strange and impractical items.

Gag Gift Suggestion: Meditating Squid ($4.95); and Biggest and Loudest Rubber Chicken ($20.95) 

Advice: “In my opinion, the perfect gag gift is something that recognizes the individuality of the person you’re giving it to and makes them laugh because there’s an unexpected element to it. We do that by trying to find things that very few people like, so they’re excited to find an item of it — like Bigfoot’s underwear for someone who believes in Bigfoot — or there’s a mix of two elements together. For an example of the latter, the biggest selling item we have this year is Goth Cats, which is a series of cats that are different kinds of goths. The idea being if someone is a cat lover and maybe was a goth in their past, if you give them one of these they’re going to smile and be proud to show it.

“That advice works when you know who you are getting it for, but if it’s a White Elephant gift exchange, I’d go the absurd route and get something weird like a yodeling pickle. What’s good about that item is that it has what we call the ‘double laugh’ where you see it and laugh, then you press the button and laugh again. Also, in my opinion, the best gag gifts are under $20 because once you get past $20, you get into ‘real gift’ territory, and that’s not what you’re going for.”

Arik Nordby, Co-Founder of Prank-O

Expertise: Prank-O is a company specializing in gag boxes, meaning you can slip a personalized gift inside of a funny box. These work best when you know who your recipient will be, but Pranko offers a line of bizarre prank items, too.

Gag Gift Suggestion: Broccoli Buddies prank cereal box ($8.99); and Cheek Speak suction cup for hands-free phone calls ($6.99) 

Advice: “Our boxes are great for converting a real gift into a prank gift, so if you want to give a sincere gift and still get that prank gift reaction, they’re perfect. But when speaking about prank gifts in general, there are three points to consider: absurdity, danger and disgust. Absurdity is about being strange and funny — like our Cheek Speak suction cup, which sticks your phone to your face. For danger, a joy buzzer, for example, has a sense of danger to it. As for disgust, toilet humor always works very well. At White Elephant parties, the goal is to get something that gets passed around and laughed at, and if you can create that, you’ve won.

“As for how much a gag gift should cost, I’d stay between $10 and $15. Any time you hit that $20 price point, your brain starts to go ‘Is this really worth it?’ for a gift that’s simply supposed to create a moment of joy and humor.”

Erin Ransom, SVP of Strategic Growth at Tofurky

Expertise: The plant-based meat substitute Tofurky has decided to lean into its ironic place in pop culture by opening a White Elephant pop-up store near Portland, Oregon (and online) with random Tofurky-themed items.

Gag Gift Suggestion: Tofurky Scented Candle ($15); and Howling Wolf Tofurky Moon Tee ($15)

Advice: “You never know if what you think is funny is what other people will find funny, but the ideal item for a White Elephant gift exchange is something that hits. Meaning, do people pick it up and want to keep it, or are they trying to get rid of it because they’d be embarrassed to walk away with it? Both reactions can be fun, and as the gift giver, you want to walk in and bring something so novel that it creates energy in the gift exchange. So, by bringing something like a Tofurky roast-scented candle, you’ve created a moment at the party that people can talk about later. The stories you tell afterward are the best part of a White Elephant party.”

Travis Peterson, Founder of Joker Greeting

Expertise: Joker Greeting specializes in musical greeting cards that don’t stop until the battery dies an hour later (or, if you break it, a hidden glitter trap is activated). They also have various “Hide & Prank” items, which resemble a USB thumb drive or a Christmas ornament, that make funny sounds (like goat screams) at random times, forcing the victim to figure out where the sound is coming from.

Gag Gift Suggestion: Endless Meowy Christmas Card with Glitter ($10.99); and Hide & Prank USB Intermittent Cricket ($10.99)

Advice: “The clearest definition of a gag gift is when you see one thing, but when you touch it or open it, you get something else. It twists on you, and that’s when the joke really lands. For example, when you open my greeting cards, you don’t know that it will go on and on after you close the card, sometimes for even 12 hours. What often happens with those is that you give the card to someone, and hours later, they’re texting you saying, ‘Dude, what did you get me?’ That creates an experience. I also don’t think a gag gift should be ruinous, where it frustrates someone to the point where it stops being fun; just being unexpected is enough.”

Tami Rose, Founder of Romantic Adventures

Expertise: Romantic Adventures is an adult toy store. Among their many erotic gifts are actual ball gags (in case you want to take the term “gag gift” extra literally).

Gag Gift Suggestion: Candy Ball Gag, Strawberry Flavored ($11.49)

Advice: “The person getting a gag gift wants to make things slightly awkward, and an actual gag is great for that. When getting a ball gag, I wouldn’t want to get anything that isn’t silicone — you want something that isn’t going to damage your dental work. Also, you can sanitize silicone. It’ll take high heat, and you can put it in the freezer. Plus, no one is allergic to silicone, whereas a lot of people are allergic to latex. Any ball gag — or any gag gift, really — should create a sensation, not irritation.”

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