Whimsy Scribble

The Art of Practical Jokes

LifestyleMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I have never considered myself a “jokester” or a particularly comedic person. I do however have a good sense of humor and like to have some creative fun. I’ve always enjoyed the trend of flash mobs and admire the work of groups like Improv Everywhere. I recently watched an episode of This American Life, a TV series based off the radio program, narrated by Ira Glass, that examines the recipients view of an Improv Everywhere “mission”. The Ghosts of Pasha, a little known band that got surprised by an unexpected rock band experience on their first tour, had much more negative feelings than the good-meaning “pranksters” intended.

I have created and participated in numerous scavenger hunts with various groups of friends and readily take the opportunity to participate in absurd endeavors (like the time my friend and I made a documentary while we stayed awake for 72 hours to see if we would go crazy). I’ve also at times set up what some people would consider a “practical joke”. Whether it’s spurred by my intense awkwardness at meeting new people or simply because I’m bored and need a creative outlet, I’m not sure. For years my best friend and I would bring up the fun fact that our friendship really started when I mysteriously left her a picture of my nipple (disguised as a gift from a secret admirer obviously).

Looking back, it’s clear that there is a very VERY fine line between a fun practical joke and a very creepy move. So I thought I’d take a quick look back at some of my best (?) pranks. You can decide for yourself if I’m super creepy or super hilarious, and either way, you may want to use some of these ideas for your own pranks!

  1. Past scavenger hunt items: braid a stranger's hair, use a makeshift bathroom, get the entire team in a strangers car.

  2. While living in the middle of the South African bush, my friend and I hid all of the silverware and made an elaborate treasure hunt necessary to retrieve it.

  3. As a new college freshman, I befriended another freshman living down the hall through a series of acts performed by a secret admirer. This included: breaking in to clean her half of the room, leaving a suggestive mix tape, and several overly blatant and often sexual secret admirer notes and pictures. Having gone back to read some of those old notes saved on my computer, I admit that it could have been extremely creepy if I had not taken care to chose a very good natured, equally fun spirited recipient.

  4. Mannequins - full ones are ideal, but miscellaneous body parts work too. I've also made occasional scarecrow style mannequins, but realism is key. These are then ideal for leaving around places in various positions for people to find. Some of my favorite spots are showers and behind doors. 

  5. I went through a long phase of turning unattended items into monsters....


I thought that perhaps looking back I’d realize that I had taken it too far, but in fact, this really has just sparked my mischievousness again. I think that as long as no one is physically or emotionally hurt from a prank, it’s all in good fun. While I am always very conscious of what the effects of my tricks may be on people, it’s certainly important to remember people may not react in the way that you expect or intend. Leave some comments, let me know if you’ve participated in either side of a practical joke, and if it was hilarious or maybe crossed the line over to a little bit creepy or even damaging.