Tips for planning a great prank

Scaring people isn't the only prank option

I love April Fool’s day. I think it’s hilarious to see all the pranks people pull every year. Since my day job is in marketing, I especially love it when brands get in on it. Starbucks never dissapoints. And my favorite blog, Young House Love, also puts out great April Fool’s content. Planning a prank, however, can be a daunting task.

I like to think I’m pretty good at pulling pranks when I want to be. I’ve had some shining moments over the years. My crowning glory was a prank I pulled on my high school biology teacher, who was known for using a squirt bottle to get his classes’ attention. I was good friends with him and usually ate lunch in his room, so I managed to rig an identical-looking squirt bottle to shoot backwards and swapped it for his real one when he stepped out during lunch one day. The whole thing culminated in him mixing up the rigged bottle for the regular one and squirting himself in the face by accident. I still can’t tell that story without laughing.

In hopes of inspiring you to become your own master prankster, here are my top tips for planning a great prank:

  1. Prank someone you know well, and play off your personal connection. The best pranks are derived from something specific to the person you’re pranking, like the squirt bottle switch I mentioned above. Most people appreciate a very well thought-out joke, and focusing on your personal relationship with your recipient is a good way to come up with something unique and creative. It also helps ensure the whole thing is just good fun by building a sense of camaraderie, which leads me to my next point…
  2. Make sure your joke is fun, not mean. Pranks should be funny for everyone involved. Things that require someone else to do a large amount of tedious cleanup, like toilet-papering someone’s house, are just mean-spirited. Likewise, jokes that play on someone’s deep hopes and aspirations just to let them down aren’t fun for the person on the receiving end. I wouldn’t pretend to be pregnant to my parents or in-laws, for example. That’s pushing it too far. Finally, any prank that causes actual damage to someone’s person or property is always inappropriate at best, and at worse could lead to criminal charges. Please make sure the only thing lingering from your joke at the end of the day is a good story.
  3. Sometimes things can be made funny just by sheer volume or frequency. You know those things that stretch out for so long or so frequently that they go from funny, to annoying, to hilarious? If you can hit that frequency you’ve found a pranking sweet spot. When my brother and I were younger, he thought the Mona Lisa was kind of creepy because of the way its eyes seem to follow you. For April Fool’s Day one year I printed out about fifty miniature pictures of the Mona Lisa and hid them places where he would find them randomly, like taped to the underside of the remote and inside his textbook. The only reason this was funny was because of the volume of pictures. (Note: if this was a deeper rooted fear this prank would have fallen into a “too-mean” category. I think I got away with it because it wasn’t a major phobia and because there’s a little extra leeway for sibling pranking).
  4. Don’t underestimate the humor of a classic prank. There are a bunch of examples of this: tin-foiling someone’s office, putting post-it notes all over their computer, putting little bits of plastic in soap and shampoo bottles so nothing comes out when you squeeze. These are all simple, but highly effective. The person being pranked usually doesn’t see it coming, and a lot of the time they’re amused by seeing something they’ve heard talked about executed in real life. I’ve seen the best success from this when people have done the tin-foiling an office prank. That’s always a classic!

I hope you’re feeling inspired to try out your comedic prowess. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have anything planned this year! You don’t need a specific excuse to pull a prank if you have a great idea. A lot of the best pranks happen on ordinary days when the recipient doesn’t suspect a thing. If you are planning a prank, or just pulled a great one for April Fool’s Day, please share it with us. We love to connect with you on social media!

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