Up until this point, all members of our Asshole Hall of Fame have been people (or ‘people,’ depending on how you look at it). Today I’d like the offer up a new and different type of Asshole: The Asshole Holiday. Specifically, April Fool’s Day.
April Fool’s Day is the worst holiday that isn’t based on honoring genocide (I see you, Columbus Day). Like, objectively.
It generally sucks, mostly because I don’t think most people who play pranks really think about how their pranks will be perceived, and in my experience, the people who enjoy it are vastly outnumbered by the people who either don’t care about it or actively hate it.
I’m hopeful that because April Fool’s falls on Easter Sunday this year, people will just let it go, but I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of people excited to unleash their unexpected April Fool’s day prank onto their partner or child, so I felt the need to add it to the Asshole Hall of Fame. There may be some version of it where it’s just a fun holiday that people opt into, but we aren’t there yet (and I doubt we ever will be), so until that time arrives, into the Asshole Hall of Fame it goes.
I don’t have a lot of respect for the choice to refer to oneself as a ‘prankster,’ whether all year long or just on certain holidays. I aggressively side-eye parents who hide their child’s Halloween candy and then film that child crying in despair. I cringe when I hear stories about ‘on-set antics’ from an actor talking to a late-night host. I shake my head at the ‘joke’ Facebook posts that pop up each year.
If someone doesn’t play along, they can be seen as humorless, so some grin and bear it. But the truth is, unwanted pranks are usually not funny, and are often downright mean. They create a sense of distrust, and can cause people completely unnecessary stress just for the amusement of others.
In recent years, corporations have jumped onto the April Fool’s train, posting ‘clever’ new products that are usually obviously a joke. But of course they aren’t obvious to everyone, and end up tricking a least a few people. And for what purpose? So we as a society can collectively laugh at someone who trusted someone else, as a bizarre way to make ourselves feel better while a corporation gets free press?
And it’s worse when it’s a friend or family member playing the prank, because the whole premise is that it’s funny to make someone who should trust you feel bad for trusting you. I don’t find it entertaining, and I think it’s actually pretty fucking cruel once you peel back the layers.
That said, I know there are some people out there who love April Fool’s Day. So to you I offer some advice on how to be less of a jerk* when playing pranks this Sunday.
1.Do not make up a fake pregnancy. Ever. That is NEVER funny, and falls into a special category of cruel. Also no fake diseases, illnesses, or deaths, either. (These seem less common than the fake pregnancy, but still needed to be said.)
2. Do not make up any story that will cause someone, even for a moment, to believe that their life is about to dramatically change for the worse. So no fake layoffs or foreclosures.
3. Do not make up any story that will cause someone, even for a moment, to believe that their life is about to dramatically change for the better. So no fake lottery tickets.
4. Do not put anyone in a situation where they might be physically harmed. So no switching the hot and cold water taps, or replacing one beverage or food item with another.
5. Do not put anyone in a situation where they might feel the need to physically protect themselves. So no hiding in the backseat of a car, or sneaking up behind someone.
6. Do not post signs that In-N-Out Burger is coming to NYC (Still the cruelest corporate-related prank ever.)
7. Make sure that everyone involved in the prank is on board and okay with the general idea of pranks. Maybe you are part of a group of siblings, or a group of friends who have been doing this forever. (I still think that everyone has to genuinely know that everyone is okay with being pranked, and there can’t be negative consequences for opting out.) In those cases, where everyone has agreed to the ground rules and none of the six items above are involved, then go to town.
Finally, you’re like me and hate the holiday (or just generally don’t find the day amusing), may I suggest a complete social media and news blackout? That way you won’t inadvertently spread false news. Anything that is real and true on Sunday should still be real and true on Monday.
So, congratulations inductee number 54, and welcome to the Asshole Hall of Fame. You’re in horrible company.
*If you’re playing pranks, you’re being a bit of jerk no matter what.
Note: This post was updated to add item #7 above after original publication, as well as to correct some other errors. Shout out to Amanda for talking through this with me.