Top 10 April Fool's Jokes in the Media

Top 10 April Fool’s Jokes in the Media

March 28, 2023 • General Interest

As we approach another April 1, some of us take this as an opportunity to use a vacation day or hide in our offices with the door closed in fear of inevitable shenanigans. The media has certainly never shied away from this day, as it provides an opportunity to relax and compose something a little more lighthearted than we are accustomed to reading.

Do you know the origin of April Fool’s Day?

Where did April Fool’s Day come from?

There seems to be several theories about its origin:

Change in the calendar: One popular theory attributes the origin of April Fool’s Day to the shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Pope Gregory XIII ordered the change to better align the calendar with the solar year. Before the switch, the new year was celebrated from March 25 to April 1. When the new calendar moved the start of the new year to January 1, some people continued to celebrate it in April, either due to ignorance or resistance to the change. They were mocked and called “April fools.”

Ancient Roman festival: Another theory suggests that April Fool’s Day has its roots in the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria. Celebrated on March 25, Hilaria marked the end of the winter season and involved games, processions, and people dressing up in disguises.

French Poisson d’Avril: In France, the April Fool’s tradition is called, “Poisson d’Avril,” or “April Fish.” Children would secretly stick paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting friends, who were then called “April fish.” It is believed that the custom might have originated in the 16th century when the new year transitioned to January 1. The term “April fish” might refer to young fish that are easily caught in April, symbolizing the gullibility of those who fall for pranks.

Vernal Equinox: Some historians believe April Fool’s Day could be connected to the vernal equinox, when the arrival of spring causes unpredictable weather, symbolizing nature “fooling” people. This theory suggests that the tradition of playing pranks and practical jokes during this time might have stemmed from ancient festivals celebrating the arrival of spring.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: Another theory points to Geoffrey Chaucer’s, “The Canterbury Tales,” specifically the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” In the story, a rooster named Chauntecleer, is tricked by a fox on the 32nd day of March (which would be April 1). However, some scholars argue that this interpretation might be due to a misreading of the text, and the association with April Fool’s Day could be coincidental.

While origin stories are wonderful, let’s talk about something a little more current.

With the advent of modern media and the internet, pranks, jokes and general misinformation are easier than ever to disseminate to the public.

woman laughing at computer
What’s the best April Fool’s joke you’ve seen in the media?

Here are our choices for the top 10 April Fool’s jokes from mainstream media.

BBC’s Spaghetti Harvest (1957)

What: The BBC’s news show, Panorama, aired a three-minute segment about Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees, attributing the bumper crop to the mild winter and the virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.

Why: The prank played on the public’s lack of knowledge about the production of spaghetti, making the incredible scenario seem plausible.

Reaction: Many viewers believed the hoax and called the station, asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees.

Left-Handed Whopper (1998)

What: Burger King published a full-page ad in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for left-handed customers, featuring the same ingredients but with the condiments rotated 180 degrees.

Why: The joke poked fun at the idea of unnecessary product customization and gullibility of consumers.

Reaction: Many customers ordered the joke burger, while others requested the “right-handed” version.

Google Nose (2013)

What: Google unveiled a new search feature called “Google Nose” that supposedly allowed users to search and experience over 15 million unique scents, using a technology called “Aromabase.”

Why: The idea of a scent-based search engine seemed hilariously outlandish and bizarre, poking fun at the rapid advancements in technology.

Reaction: People were amused and intrigued by the prank, and some even attempted to use the feature before realizing it was a joke.

Richard Branson’s UFO (1989)

What: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, collaborated with a hot-air balloon specialist to create a UFO-shaped balloon. On April 1st, they flew it over London, even landing in a field where a police officer approached it, only to be greeted by Branson in a silver space suit.

Why: The elaborate prank made people believe they were witnessing an alien invasion, adding a sense of excitement and curiosity.

Reaction: Both the police and the public were initially alarmed, but once the prank was revealed, it was generally well accepted.

Taco Liberty Bell (1996)

What: Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in several newspapers claiming they had purchased the historic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to help reduce the national debt, renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell.”

Why: The absurdity of a fast-food chain purchasing a national historical monument and using it for promotional purposes was comically outrageous.

Reaction: Many were outraged before realizing it was a prank. The joke generated significant media coverage and attention for Taco Bell.

The Guardian’s San Serriffe Island (1977)

What: The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement about the fictional island nation of San Serriffe, complete with detailed descriptions of the geography, culture, and history of the islands, which were shaped like semi-colons.

Why: The elaborate hoax played on the public’s desire for exotic travel destinations and demonstrated the power of storytelling and persuasion.

Reaction: Many readers believed the hoax and even contacted travel agencies to inquire about visiting the island, eventually appreciating the humor once the prank was revealed.

BBC’s Flying Penguins (2008)

What: As part of a fictional nature documentary, BBC released a video showing a colony of Adélie penguins suddenly taking flight and migrating to the Amazon rainforest. The video was created using cutting-edge CGI and was presented by renowned presenter Terry Jones.

Why: Penguins are famously flightless birds, so the idea of them suddenly gaining the ability to fly and migrating to a tropical rainforest was delightfully fantastical.

Reaction: Viewers were initially amazed, but soon realized it was an April Fool’s joke and enjoyed the humor behind the prank.

Netflix’s Rotating Categories (2013)

What: Netflix created a series of bizarre and overly specific movie categories for April Fool’s Day, such as “Movies Featuring an Epic Nicolas Cage Meltdown” and “Reality TV About People With No Concept of Reality.”

Why: The extremely niche categories highlighted the sometimes-confusing nature of Netflix’s recommendation system and poked fun at the streaming platform itself.

Reaction: Subscribers found the joke entertaining and shared screenshots of the strange categories on social media, appreciating the self-aware humor.

Airbnb’s “Lairbnb” (2016)

What: Airbnb announced a new service called “Lairbnb,” offering accommodations in famous villainous hideouts, such as Dracula’s Castle, Lex Luthor’s Lair, and an underwater base resembling Atlantis.

Why: The concept of notorious villains renting out their lairs as vacation spots was a hilariously absurd spin on Airbnb’s business model.

Reaction: Users appreciated the humor, and the prank received widespread media coverage, sparking conversations about fictional villains and their lairs.

Google’s “Mic Drop” (2016)

What: Google added a “mic drop” feature to Gmail, allowing users to end an email thread with an animated GIF of a Minion from the “Despicable Me” franchise dropping a microphone. Once the feature was used, the sender would no longer receive replies from the recipients.

Why: The idea of ending serious email conversations with a silly animation was comically inappropriate and highlighted the lighter side of professional communication.

Reaction: While many found it amusing, others accidentally used the feature in critical or professional emails, causing confusion and frustration. Google ultimately apologized and removed the feature due to the unintended consequences.

That’s our list!

Which was your favourite? Do you have one we missed? Who do you think will be the standout in 2023? Let us know!

Make sure to check back here on April 1…

You never know what might happen!

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