Special Report

30 of the Best Practical Jokes of All Time

With April Fools’ Day fast approaching, it’s time to take a look at some of the best practical jokes ever pulled off – on that day and at other times..

24/7 Tempo compiled our list from sources including History, Atlas Obscura, and Reader’s Digest Canada, as well as various reference works. Some of the practical jokes on the list date from ancient Roman times or the medieval period, and of course have continued to the present day. (No pranks were involved in the development of these ancient inventions you thought were modern.)

Newspapers got into the act in the 19th century, tricking many thousands of readers. The advent of mass media that included newspapers, radio stations, and television stations, meant the perpetrators could fool millions. The British Broadcasting Corp.,in particular, likes to get the public’s goat every April 1, and some of its pranks have made this list. So have the stunts from Swedish media outlets, which have tricked its audiences on multiple occasions. (For TV programming that amuses viewers in more conventional ways, see the best sitcoms of all time.)

Fast-food companies Taco Bell and Burger King gained widespread exposure for ad campaigns that were practical jokes. Merry pranksters at some of America’s premier academic institutions have pulled off elaborate stunts, as well.

Click here to see the best practical jokes of all time

There is no doubt that the perpetrators of practical jokes enjoy pulling them off. As to the victims of the prank, well, not everyone is happy at being proved gullible. Especially when the jokes are perpetrated by large, well-known companies or media outlets, their exposure can spark outrage and sometimes even lawsuits.

Two practical jokes that went awry: A BBC April Fool’s gag claiming London’s famed Big Ben was going digital and that its clock hands were being auctioned off raised the ire of the British. A man who spent years creating a faux eruption on a dormant volcano in Alaska created a panic.


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