This is going to be my very last blog ever. I’ve just won £20 million on the lottery on Saturday night so I decided to go out on a high. Really? No, don’t be stupid. I don’t even do the lottery… April Fools!!!
Yes today is April 1st, traditionally the day where stupid people do marginally funny pranks on people who they think are as stupid as they are.
The origins of April Fools are unclear, there may be some links to the Roman festival of Hilaria on March 25th and also the Medieval Feast of Fools which was held annually funnily enough on my birthday, 28th December. I put the word ‘annually’ in there just in case anyone thought it had anything to do with me!
However the real inspiration for April Fools Day may be from Iran when the ancient Persians celebrated the 13th day of the Persian new year or Nowruz called Sizdah Bedar and which usually held on the 1st or 2nd April as long ago as 536BC and ever since then people have been playing pranks on each other and still do to this day.
The old English stories of Chaucers Canterbury Tales released around 1392 in ” Nuns Priest Tale” a vain Cock was tricked by a Fox on April 1st.
In much of continental Europe and parts of French speaking Canada there is the traditional of April Fish where people attempt to stick a paper fish to a persons back without being noticed. It sounds a lot like a 19th Century precursor to sticking an office Post-It note on someone with a silly message on it.
In some areas there is a tradition that you can only do the April Fools joke on someone until midday and if you do it after this time then you are the fool. Of course it was probably just a thing teachers said to try and get some work done in the afternoon at least.
I remember helping in one April Fools joke near my university campus in London where a group of students dressed up to pretend they were surveyors and handed a long piece of string to a passerby, asking if they could keep hold of it while measurements were taken around the other side of the building. Of course, no measurements were taken and instead on the far side of the building another passer-by was asked to hold the string as measurements were taken on the far side of the building.
Everyone walked off trying not to snigger and we waited until one of the string holders gave up. Put it this way, the students got bored before the victims did!
Its not just students and children who play pranks but the media too. Most papers in Britain and many around the world deliberately print a slightly outlandish story, of course the way the world is sometimes their hoaxes are sometimes less likely than the real events.
One of the earliest was when the normally very serious BBC investigative programme Panorama did a feature on Spaghetti trees. It claimed that the pesty Spaghetti Weevil had been eradicated and that the Spaghetti trees farms of Switzerland were all set for a great future. This all took place in 1957 when spaghetti in the U.K. was still a mysterious and exotic food and so the video clip of farmers harvesting live spaghetti from trees seemed very convincing. Decades latter CNN described this as the biggest and most convincing hoax that any reputable broadcaster had ever managed to pull off.
Infact it was only revealed as a hoax when the BBC were flooded by requests from viewers asking where they could buy their own spaghetti trees!
Later BBC jokes included the invention of smello-vision in 1965 which many viewers said was successful even though it was a total hoax and the esteemed astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who in 1976 said that due to a planetary alignment, if people were to jump up at precisely 9.47am they would be able to experience a strange floating experience. Several dozen people phoned in to say it worked including a woman who claimed that she and her 11 friends were floating in orbit around their living room!
The secret to a good April Fools day joke is to have something happen that though highly unlikely is just about possible and when you think about it, isn’t surprising at all only for the reveal which then makes you think… what an idiot.
Here are a pick of some of the ones doing the rounds today in the U.K.
Would the richest woman in the world really have fracking in her garden?
ITV’s breakfast show feature a breakthrough in square eggs.
I admit that I fell for the story below and wrote it off in my head as a typically stupid thing that he would want to do….
Of course not all bizarre stories are April Fools. The village next to my own is called Kings Langley and the mayor as temporarily officially renamed the village as Kings Landing, capital of Westeros in Game of Thrones.