Today, we’re talking about a joke.
90’s reenactment, would you do it?
Show notes and links:
Hootie and the Time Travelers Love the 90s (NPR)
Spaghetti Harvest in Ticino (BBC)
Jesting Our Limits: Do April Fools’ Day Pranks Alienate or Engage People? (Scientific American)
Full episode text
On NPR on April 1, 2013, a story ran about 1990s reenactment, complete with slap bracelets and Hootie and the Blowfish concert reenactments. It was one of a long series of April Fool’s jokes that large organizations have been playing, and one that I found particularly amusing, as someone that grew up partially in the 90s.
The connection between April 1st and foolishness or fun was possibly first made in 1392, in the Canterbury Tales. There’s a number of theories as to the exact origins of April Fool’s Day as we currently know it, but no matter where it originally came from, it’s now par for the course to play some kind of big prank on April 1st.
And it’s not always one-on-one pranks. One of the first big media pranks as in 1957, when the BBC showed a “documentary” about the spaghetti tree harvest in Italy. Since then, companies such as Taco Bell, Twitter, Google, and even NPR make it a habit to get in on the game.
April Fool’s Day jokes, however, aren’t always harmless fun. Jokes and pranks rely heavily on shared cultural understanding. What counts as “fun” to one person may be childish and tasteless to another. Moira Smith from Indiana University Bloomington points out that pranks are “designed to show off the strength of the relationship by testing that relationship.” And like many tests, failure is as much of a possibility as success. Especially when a prank comes with an undercurrent of aggression, which many one-on-one pranks do.
So mix aggression, embarrassment, and an attempt to show off, along with possible misunderstanding – and it’s a potent mix. So I’m curious what you think about pranks. Or if you do 90s reenactments.