I still remember the first prank ever played on me. It was April Fool’s Day. I was 9 and my brother, Rob, was 6. The whole family was sitting at the dining room table when my Dad said, “Kids, we have a surprise for you… we’re going to DISNEY WORLD!!!!”
Rob and I screamed with excitement. We ran around the house and gave each other countless hugs and hi-fives. Breathlessly, we discussed which rides we’d go on, which characters we hoped to meet, and how amazing life would be in DISNEY!!
Then, our Dad looked at us and said, “Jason, Rob – we have one more exciting thing to tell you!! APRIL FOOLS! We’re not going to Disney World.”
I don’t remember how Rob and I reacted, but I do know this: my parent’s prank wakened a deep-rooted love of practical jokes.
In honor of April Fool’s Day, I want to share five of my favorite pranks. Also, if you’ve played or fallen victim to an amazing prank, please let me know in the comment section because I’d love to hear about it.
1: The, “Rooster in the Room” prank (2005)
After the infamous Disney World Prank, my parents became prime targets for Rob and I. In my opinion, the Rooster in the Room prank was our crowning achievement.
To preface, let me tell you about my family pet, Rosie. Rosie is a sweet little cockatiel and a true bright spot in my life. Cockatiels are the smallest breed of parrot measuring about 12 inches from beak to tail.
Rosie lives in a large cage, which is sometimes draped with a cloth at night to make it easier for her to sleep. Most of the time, the cage is kept in the living room, but occasionally, my mother brings Rosie into her room.
One of Rob’s close friends lived on a farm not too far from my parent’s house. I forget if it was Rob’s idea or mine, but we asked to borrow a rooster to put in place of Rosie.
On this particular night, Rosie’s cage was in my Mom’s room. Rob and I waited until the cage was covered, and I distracted my parents by taking them to get ice cream while Rob stayed behind.
Rob ran over to our neighbor’s farm to get the rooster. He then moved Rosie out of her cage and into my room where she happily went back to sleep. Finally, he placed the rooster in Rosie’s cage and covered it with the cloth. Miraculously, the rooster went to sleep and kept quiet.
Moments later, my parents and I returned with ice cream. Everything was set.
Before going to bed, my mom went to check on Rosie and lifted the cloth on the birdcage. When she removed the cloth from the cage, she woke the rooster who started making insanely loud cock-a-doodle-do noises. My Mom, expecting to see a small cockatiel, screamed and ran away saying, “What the fuck happened to Rosie?!?!?!?!”
Of all the pranks Rob and I have collaborated on, this is my personal favorite. It was also my Mom’s least favorite.
2: The, “Fake Menu” prank (2011)
When I lived in Washington, DC my close friend and roommates, W*, and I would go to our favorite dive bar, Red Derby, every Friday for Happy Hour.
In true dive bar fashion, Red Derby’s menu is extremely simple; it’s designed in Microsoft Word and uses size 12 Times New Roman font. The only design element is a few highlighted items. Here’s a photo of Red Derby’s menu:
One evening we stole one of their menus which W* used as a model to create an exact replica on his computer. He then took out two items, the “Fresh Veggies with Buttermilk Ranch” and “Foot Long Hot Dog and Fries” and replaced them with, “Buffalo Wings with Buttermilk Ranch and Blue Cheese” and a “BLT and Fries.”
We then printed 50 copies of our fake menu, highlighted and crumpled them, and splashed them with beer and water.
The end result? Our fake menus were virtually indistinguishable from the real menus. Here’s a photo of the fake menu. Notice the Buffalo Wings and BLT? They weren’t there before…
On the following Friday, W* and I posted up at the bar as usual. I used my, “I’m a former magician skills” to secretly swap our fake menus for their real ones.1
When the bartender, A*, came back, we asked her for food menus, and she – unknowingly – passed out the fake menus to W* and I.
W* studied the menu, and then proceeded to order the Buffalo Wings, one of the two fake items we snuck on there.
A* had a perfect reaction. She said, “You guys know we don’t have wings. What do you really want?” W* pointed out the new item on the menu. A* got really excited (she texted one of her friends to share the good news) and a bit annoyed that no one told her about the change.
When A* put in the order for Buffalo wings, the cook got confused and explained that they don’t stock wings. A* returned, now very confused herself, and apologized, explaining she had no idea was going on.
W* responded by saying, “Let me just get the BLT then [the other item we snuck onto the menu].” A* got overwhelmed, spoke to the kitchen and returned saying she had no idea what was going on, but they didn’t have BLTs either, even if they were on the menu.
As the evening went on, it dawned on her that the whole thing was a prank orchestrated by W* and I. In all honesty, it was the start of a beautiful friendship for A*, W*, and I. To the best of my knowledge, the owner still keeps one of our fake menus in her home as a souvenir.
3: The “Christmas Pecker” prank (2009)
Note: for those of you who have passed the point in life where penis jokes amuse you, you may want to skip this story. It’s a testament to the fact that, no matter how mature I may seem, my inner 17-year-old boy is still very much alive and well.
I used to spend my summers working at an amazing camp in Maine. On one of my days off, I wandered into a quirky store that had countless unusual gifts. One gift dubbed “Captain Pecker the Party Wrecker” was a six-foot tall inflatable penis. Obviously I bought it, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it.
A few months later, Rob and I were both home to celebrate Christmas with our parents. I inflated the ole’ Captain and put it in Rob’s room when he was out. When he came back he discovered the six-foot monstrosity and laughed. We then got down to business, brainstorming about how we can use this to prank our parents.
We waited until Christmas morning and got up at 4am. While our parents slept, we removed the decorations from the Christmas tree and hid it in the garage. We then put Captain Pecker where the tree had been and carefully decorated him with the ornaments and flashing lights from the tree.
Several hours later when my parents awoke on Christmas morning, they were greeted by a huge six-foot Christmas cock wrapped in twinkling lights and shiny ornaments. Fortunately, they both have great senses of humor and laughed. They did however make Rob and I return the tree and hide Captain Pecker before the extended family came over.
4: The “Breaking into Rob’s Room” prank (2007)
Rob’s bedroom is on the second floor of my parent’s house and has a big window. In fact, his window is so big that someone could easily climb through it and into Rob’s room if the window were open. Of course, the window has a lock for this exact reason.
One day, I was home from college, and Rob was at school. I snuck into his room and unlocked the window. I stayed up late that night, waiting until Rob was fast asleep. I then changed into all black clothing (including a black face mask) and quietly placed a ladder against the window.
I climbed the ladder and – making as much noise as I possibly could – proceeded to break into Rob’s room through the window.
From Rob’s perspective, a loud crash woke him from a deep sleep. When his eyes focused, he watched in horror as a cat burglar climbed into his room.
He screamed, “WHAT THE FUCK?!? WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!” and sprinted out of his room, presumably to call 911 or wake my parents up.
I fell over laughing, took off my mask and went to find my brother. I then explained that his room wasn’t being broken into; I was just an asshole.
5: The, “Hi, I’m C*’s mattress” prank (2004)
As kids, C* and I hung out every day. When preparing dinner, our parents would often ask, “Should I make enough for Jason?” or “Should I make enough for C*?”
Like many families, C*’s hid a secret key outside in case someone got locked out. As an honorary family member, they told me where it was.
During senior year of high school, I decided to take advantage of their secret key. In the middle of my study hall, I simply stood up, left the school building, and drove over to C*’s house. I used the secret key to get into his house, take the mattress out of his room, cram it into my car, and return to school.
In order to get the mattress into the school building, I had to walk right by the principal’s office. Miraculously, no one stopped to ask why the heck I left school in the middle of the day or even why I was dragging a mattress around with me.
I left the mattress outside of C*’s locker with a note saying, “Hi, I’m C*’s mattress!” He had to deal with dragging his bed around school for the rest of the day.
Note: this prank leverages one of my favorite quirks of human behavior: no one questions confidence. If you act like you’re supposed to be doing whatever you’re doing, very few people will doubt you, even if you’re doing something eccentric. I was not supposed to leave school (or my classroom, for that matter), and I certainly wasn’t supposed to be dragging a mattress around the building. However, I acted like I was supposed to be leaving school and returning with a mattress. Because I behaved with (false) self-assurance, no one bothered to question the validity of my actions. For people unfamiliar with this particular form of con-artistry, it’s tempting to dismiss it. Before you do, I encourage you to experiment. It’s weirdly powerful.
Post Script 1: Before you feel too bad for the people in my life…
When you read about the pranks I’ve done to the people I love, it’s probably tempting to feel bad for them. You shouldn’t. My friends and family tend to be just as mischievous as I am. Here’s a short list of pranks that people have pulled on me:
- C*, the same guy whose mattress I stole, spent four months growing a beard. He then shaved it, collected the clippings, and mailed them to me. To this day, I get nervous when a package arrives from him.
- Years ago, a few friends stole one of my shoes while I was at a party. When I asked, “Where the heck is my shoe?” they said, “We put it in your car.” When I went outside I couldn’t find my car. Turns out the bastards had stolen my car too. When I finally found my car, it was filled to the brim with those annoying pink packaging peanuts which I had to wade through to recover my shoe.
- My parents ended up getting Rob and I back for the Christmas Pecker prank. A few months later when Rob and I were home for dinner, they made an amazing pasta dish. Half way through the meal, we realized the noodles were shaped like penises. When Rob and I discovered what we had been eating we were surprised (to say the least).
- To this day, my college friends have a game called “Bully Jason hour,” where the primary focus of conversation is (lovingly… it is loving, right guys?) teasing me and recalling the stupid shit I’ve done over the years. Most recently the focus of attention was an – admittedly quirky – decision to shave my chest in my mid 20’s.
- There were a few months when every time I went out with a particular group of friends, they’d randomly rip my shirt off (like completely tearing it from my body) at whatever bar or party we were at. They took special delight in doing this when I was talking to woman. While it annoyed me at the time, I think it’s pretty funny now.
Post Script 2: The blue bird prank
The following prank is orchestrated entirely by my brother, and it’s one of the most clever practical jokes I’ve ever seen. Other than admiring it, I had no involvement.
I’ve already mentioned Rosie, my family’s pet bird. She’s white with flecks of yellow and bright orange. This is how Rosie normally looks:
Rosie loves to be sprayed with water from a hairspray bottle. She spreads her wings so you can mist her entire body.
At one point, Rob realized two interesting things:
1) Food coloring is entirely non-toxic
2) If you put enough food coloring into the bird’s spray bottle, it will dye the bird’s white feathers (I have no idea how Rob figured this out, but I admire his thinking).
One day, Rob was home alone, and he dyed the bird bright blue by spraying her with the water and food coloring mixture. Fortunately, the bird didn’t seem to mind or even really notice. This is how Rosie looked after Rob dyed her:
Rob then put a blue stuffed animal in Rosie’s cage with a note that said, “Which is the real Rosie?”
When my Mom came home, she only saw the stuffed animal and the note (Rosie was in a different room exercising her right to fly around the house), and my mom thought to herself, “Oh that’s a cute prank. Rob replaced the bird with a stuffed animal.”
Moments later Rosie – now bright blue – flew over to say hi to my Mom, who shrieked in confusion. She was screaming, “Why the fuck is the bird blue?!”
The funny part is that we all thought the food coloring would wash off the bird within a few days. Nope. She stayed blue for months.
A few years later, Rob reprised his prank and dyed the bird green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Since then, my Mom has made Rob promise not to dye the bird anymore, but Rob’s only promise is not to “dye the bird any festive colors.”