January 26, 2010

Practical Jokes 101

I like a well-designed and well-executed practical joke as much as the next guy... but the internet is riddled with epic failures of pranks gone wrong, most of which end up with "wacky blows to the genitalia" that I've already seen a million times with a lame Tom Bergeron-pun to add insult to injury.

One exception to this rule is the "one-upmanship" that Streeter and Amir at CollegeHumor.com have been documenting over the past few years. What started out as mere juvenile attempts to embarrass each other has evolved into an art form... there's tons of planning and coordination involved, and the pranks are so "authentic" and complex that the overly suspicious victim still falls prey to the hoax.

Here's some video of one such stunt, where thousands of extras were more than happy to help fool poor Amir into thinking he'd just won $500,000.

Of course, imitation is the sincerest from of flattery... but you've got to do a much better job of pulling such tomfoolery off. A high school in Kansas tried to "zing" a member of the faculty with the same stunt - a blindfolded half-court shot for a big prize - NCAA Final Four tickets. However, they didn't think it through...

The problems are myriad here... 1) The victim already thinks something is up - notice how long it takes him to shoot the ball. He fears a pie to the face or some other such attack is looming. 2) The prize is way too big for these kids to come through on. No way they'll be able to score the tickets... nor is there any real reason for them to offer this prize, unless there's an ulterior motive behind it. This joke is too telegraphed. 3) Even if the ball hadn't gone in, the reaction by the "oblivious victim" makes it clear that he's wouldn't really have fallen for the prank had it gone as planned.

Mercifully, the happy accident of making the shot turned the tables on the pranksters, and made lemonade out of lemons - and made this clip an unexpected pleasure to watch, in spite of all the reasons it shouldn't have ever seen the light of day.

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