You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Bare Necessities

It's that time of year again! National Public Nudity Day is upon us, that day when all Americans are required by the Articles of Confederation to take off our clothes and wigs (it's a Revolutionary era thing) and otherwise conduct business as usual. As unpleasant as that may be for most of us, it is our patriotic duty as Americans, so get naked, people!

Being a non-citizen won't get you out of this. If you've got a green card, are here on a student visa, or are vacationing legally in the country and aren't tooling around in the buff tomorrow, expect to get repeatedly tasered by cranky, naked local law authorities. (You'd be cranky too, if you had to pin a cold, metal badge on your naked body.)

No, seriously, it's just April Fools' Day.

No, SERIOUSLY, put the pants back on. (Underwear first, please.)

The thing to remember about April Fools' Day is that 99% of April Fools gags are lame. (Editor: Starting with the opening of this piece.) This results in the complete waste of a day that should be dedicated to a variety of witty japes, sublime pranks, and obtuse tautologies.

Wait, scratch that last one. Those aren't funny at all, unless you're an easily amused logic professor.

Fortunately, we're here to help! Here are a few tips to make your April Fools' gags memorable.*

1. Plan ahead.

Nothing is more pathetic than a last minute, off the cuff April Fools gag. Most of these are of the "Don't move, there's something crawling in your hair" variety. Occasionally, someone will throw out a "Are you OK, you look really pale," or a "You're still here! I thought I heard the boss say they were transferring you to Montana." Very desperate, unorganized wannabe pranksters will fall back on the unconvincing, "Look out!"


If you want a really convincing prank, you must put some thought into it, and plan accordingly. Take the example of the feudal barons who presented King John with the Magna Carta. The original idea was that they were going to scam him into giving them access to his personal archery range and a keg of porter. Instead, by creating a convincing document, and hiring some very intimidating early football hooligans, they were able to convince John to sign over Stonehenge, wear a dress for a month, and hoot like a barn owl (along with the usual hodgepodge of rights that dull historians like to focus on, to prove how smart they are).

2. Use convincing props.

Don't rely on cheap rubber snakes or bugs when real ones will do. For example, the average person is not going to know the difference between a Fer-de-Lance and an agitated Corn Snake.

If the prank involves fake fires, you might consider placing small, safe fires much closer in the line of sight of the intended victim, to create the illusion of a large, dangerous fire melting their Lexus. However, do not just stand in front of them, holding a lighter and making clumsy explosion noises.

3. Instead of cheap shocks, go for awe.

Most April Fools pranks involve scaring the bejeebers** out of people. Save those gags for Halloween, Rush Week, and Flag Day. A proper April Fools Day jape should leave your victims with a sense of awe. Whether you leave them feeling totally fooled or merely quizzically befuddled, leave them thinking for just a moment that they're seeing something they never expected to see.

The fake celebrity sighting is a nice move in this direction. Who among us wouldn't feel just a little bit more special after having a Charlie Sheen impersonator tell them they were "winning?" Well, most of us, but some people are really awed by Charlie these days.

Even more effective is the "supposedly dead celebrity" sighting. However, avoid Elvis here, as the number of professional impersonators makes a definitive Elvis sighting highly implausible. The same rule applies to Cher, in certain sections of New York and San Francisco.

Even better is the extraterrestrial sighting, or the mythical creature sighting (The Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, or Sasquatch, outside of the set of a Jack's Links commercial). The key is "authenticity," the level of which depends on the relative IQ of your victim. Rule of thumb: For an Albert Einstein you'd need a highly crafted, anatomically accurate costume and carefully modulated sound effects. For a Kim Kardashian, a G.I. Joe doll with the words "I AM BIGFOOT," written on in crayon, should do the trick.

4. Use your imagination.

Don't take the simple route if an artistic flourish might produce better results. When Lewis and Clark pretended to travel to the Pacific Ocean (still one of the all-time greats), they didn't settle for a collection of fake Indian trinkets, "exotic" tree leaves, and a couple of quickly scribbled maps. They went out and hired an Irish seamstress named "Sacajawea" to portray an authentic Indian woman to sell their joke. To this day, most Americans don't know that "Sacajawea" is Irish Gaelic for "Gone fishing."

The creators of the Leaning Tower of Piza went so far as to build the entire town of Piza at a slight angle, just to convince tourists that the tower was leaning. When visitors ask why their coffee wants to lean up against one side of their cup, the locals just tell them the cups are made lopsided, "in honor of the tower."

5. Have fun.

Nothing kills an Aprils Fools' Day prank like an over-serious prankster. It's not life and death (unless you do one of those pranks*** in which case it is life and death, you lousy sociopath), so enjoy your pranking, and join in on the fun by acting as though you too are amazed that "Celine Dion" just happened to shop at the same Safeway as your brother-in-law, or that you just realized your girlfriend's cat is "half-Yeti."

And if the joke doesn't come off, don't skulk around for the rest of the day****. Start planning for next year!

* According to our lawyer, F Johnny Lee, we are required to inform you that this advice is for entertainment purposes only, and you are a "freakin' idiot" if you follow this "advice."
** Or as the kids like to say, the "justinbeibers"
*** Which again, we must insist you do not, under any circumstances, do... ever. Even if you have a brain impairment.
**** Unless of course this is part of the prank. One of the greatest April Fools Jokes of all time was perpetrated by a Mr. Stanley Waugh of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1974, when he pretended to stage a lame April Fools joke that "didn't work." He then spent the rest of the day pretending to sulk and becoming gradually more depressed, resulting eventually in a spectacular faked suicide involving a chainsaw, his head, and three cannons.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Five Keyboarding Fingers of Death!

You too can learn Kung-Fu online!

Well, I actually haven't learned Kung-Fu online myself, but I am considering it now that the world's first online Kung-Fu school is in business. Soon, I will be dealing out thunderous punishment to obnoxious thugs with the devastating art of 7 Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu. And based on the sample video, I will be doing so to the raucous sounds of ear-splitting* rock music.

(Quick Quiz: What's the best style of music for practicing Kung-Fu? Answer: Thrash.)

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with my new found Kung-Fu prowess, once I obtain it. I'm torn between being the new Chuck Norris and getting one of those Hong Kong wire-fighting gigs. Since I can't grow a decent beard** or speak Cantonese, I may have to find an alternate solution.

I'm trying to avoid the more disconcerting questions about learning Kung-Fu online. For example, how do you learn how hard to strike human bones to make that cracking noise you hear in Bruce Lee films? Also, who am I going to practice that on? (I figure in regular Kung-Fu schools they hire people for that, the same way neurologists hire people for sleep studies and brain probing.)

Also, what kind of insurance guarantees come with the courses? I would like to avoid relying on my regular health insurance, should I lose concentration while walking on air or performing a flying spin move with a sword. In this latter case, I am of course referring to liability insurance.

Unfortunately, I can't start training right away, as I'm recovering from a bad ankle sprain*** and a pulled back muscle. Given that it's online Kung-Fu training, I'm hoping there are a lot of virtual exercises I can do from a reclining easy chair. Anything relating to breathing or leaning way back, I can easily handle right now.

One of the moves described on the Web-site is call the "Crushing Step." I'd like to learn that one, but only if it isn't a description of a violent, self-inflicted ankle sprain.

Also, I'm wondering if they do virtual sparring? I've always thought the word "Skype" sounds like an act of violence, like "shiv" or "shank." Now, I might get the chance to find out.

My only real concern is that if I convert my hands into steely weapons of death, I'm that much more likely to kill my computer while typing these posts.****

* Get it? Kung-Fu? Ear-splitting?
** Also, I don't look good in a cowboy hat.
*** It was in a soccer match, if you must know.
**** Bonus points for those of you who thought "If only!"

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