They’ve made a right fool of you
Ever wondered about the history of the April Fool? Well, it seems it’s pretty mysterious. However, some sources credit the origins of the day to 1582, when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in which the new year begins with the spring equinox, you’ve got it, April 1. It’s also been linked to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, meaning joyful, which does make sense given the context of the day in popular culture.
Whatever the true root is, the day is certainly embedded deeply into the modern consciousness, and why not? There have been some fantastic April Fools jokes on a huge scale over the years, here are just some of our favourites.
1. The Great Spaghetti Shortage
A legendary prank from a usually conservative channel, which is probably what made it all the more memorable. The BBC ran a story in 1957 about an ‘exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop’ in Italy with visuals of farmers harvesting long, flimsy strings of pasta from trees.
How did such ludicrous stuff fool everyday people? (Which it did, by the way; the BBC had plenty of calls from people about how they could grow their own harvests!) Perhaps because this was a time when pasta wasn’t as culturally relevant as it is, at least not in the UK, or perhaps because of the naive trust we have in our broadcasters… but that’s a story for another day!
How can you recreate this? Find yourself an unusual looking plant, attach some (definitely not naturally grown) food and shockingly announce your discovery to a friend.
2. Virgin Airlines’ new business line
On 31 March 1989, Richard Branson set up a pretty extravagant April Fool’s joke. In the evening, several residents of London reported seeing a UFO land in an empty field. So far so strange…
Police were called and sent to investigate what we imagine they thought were odd and impossible claims. On arrival, they found the stationary alien vessel and an alien within. Turns out the prankster, Branson, was hidden behind the disguised ‘alien’ emerging from what was in fact a hot air balloon.
We’d say this one would be hard to recreate…but if you’re a whizz at tech, how about rigging some video and editing a craft to shock a friend with. Some VR programs even allow you to superimpose visuals onto a live stream if you’re really dedicated.
3. Taco Bell makes a historical purchase
In 1996, Taco Bell put out a press release in six major newspapers about its newest acquisition of the Liberty Bell which would be rebranded respectively. The release went into minute detail about the reason for the sale being to relieve national debt, making it believable to even the most sceptical of readers – this probably accounts for the outrage which followed!
Thousands called the National Park Service to complain, including aides from US senators! It didn’t end there though, as the White House released a statement to confirm the story and get in on the joke. Too far?
Even more difficult to recreate…but why not Photoshop a certificate of ownership for a local landmark and send it around your friends? Might be a tough sell but your powers of conviction should prevail!
4. eHarmony gets a woof slating
Popular dating site eHarmony released communications to their customers and social media channels in 2018 about their newest dating service: for dogs. They highlighted their success in the realm of humans and how they thought they should extend their skills to helping another species find true love and happiness.
People took this pretty seriously and there was a lot of outrage over what, if serious, would have just been a very very niche product. Obviously the whole thing was a farce and got a few chuckles after the fact.
Are you feeling curious? Why not set up your dog on Tinder and see how many matches they get? There’s someone for everyone, right?
Rooted in history and revealing something about the collective human psyche, we can all agree that April Fools is more than just a little bit of fun, especially in tough times like the ones we’re living through. These moments of fun and frivolity are what keep us all sane, connected and above all laughing.