Thursday 29 September 2016

April Fools' Day - the best pranks from spaghetti trees to left-handed burgers

Will you fall for an April 1st prank today? You won't be the first. From spaghetti trees to left-handed burgers, our reporter looks back at some of the best hoaxes

Published 01/04/2016 | 02:30

Bombshell: A WHO April Fools' joke predicted that natural blondes like Claudia Schiffer would be extinct within 200 years
Bombshell: A WHO April Fools' joke predicted that natural blondes like Claudia Schiffer would be extinct within 200 years

A bra that sends tweets, "invisible" Marmite, an iced dessert inspired by Kim Kardashian's "booty" - yes, April 1 is here again and sure to bring with it the obligatory deluge of wacky jokes and hoaxes.

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The tradition of April 1 pranks extends back to the Middle Ages and was referenced by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales. There was even a distinctly Irish brand of April 1 hoax, according to chroniclers of Celtic folklore and tradition.

"A common practical joke was to send someone to deliver a note that read 'send the fool further'," says the website Irish Cultures and Customs. "In many places, these 'fool's errands' would be accompanied by a verse for the recipient which said 'don't you laugh, and don't you smile, send the fool another mile'."

In honour of this most sacred of days, then, here is a countdown of the most impressive April 1 wheezes of recent decades. Just remember that, going by certain traditions, April Fools Day ends at midday - if someone tries to prank you after that time, received wisdom dictates the joke is on them.

Dangle with care

A 1957 edition of the BBC's esteemed Panorama programme showed farm workers in the Swiss canton of Ticino "harvesting" spaghetti from trees and laying the strands on the ground to dry.

In the age before Twitter or Wikipedia, audiences were credulous and the hoax was widely believed. That respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby had narrated the sequence was regarded as placing its veracity beyond doubt ("Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley," he said sternly. "For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair...). Viewers were reported to have called up the BBC in their hundreds, inquiring where they might source a spaghetti tree of their own.

A tight situation

Swedish television viewers received some good news in 1962 when the national broadcaster announced a method by which they could convert their black and white sets into colour. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over the screen - thus "reconfiguring" the light particles and, hey presto, turning black and white to colour.

To speed up the process, the public was advised to "adjust" the screen by tilting their heads from side to side. Thousands were said to have participated in the prank. How many saw colour as a result is not recorded.

Spaced odyssey

In one of the most famous April Fools gags of all time, astronomer Patrick Moore in 1976 told his audience that for a few hours Earth would experience reduced gravity (due to the "Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect"). Anyone who jumped in the air during this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon would feel lighter than usual and might even drift about in the air.

One women who followed Moore's advice reported that she had indeed become weightless and "orbited gently around the room".

Fast fool nation

April 1 1998 was heralded as a new dawn for left-handed fast food fans as Burger King unveiled a version of its Whopper Burger especially for them. The chain announced a special "left-handed Whopper" for the benefit of the 11 million or so lefties who dined at its Irish and UK outlets annually.

"We are delighted that Burger King has recognised the difficulties of holding a hamburger in your left hand that has a natural right bias to it," said the company. "We urge all left-handed hamburger lovers to visit their nearest Burger King and taste the difference for themselves."

Crafting a left-handed burger was no easy feat, Burger King insisted. "All condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of the condiments will skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger."

Feathered frauds

A rare species of flying penguin had been discovered in Antarctica according to the 1998 trailer for a (non-existent) BBC series, Miracles of Evolution. "We'd been watching the penguins and filming them for days, without a hint of what was to come," said narrator Terry Jones (of Monty Python). "But then the weather took a turn for the worse.

"It was quite amazing. Rather than getting together in a huddle to protect themselves from the cold, they did something quite unexpected, that no other penguins can do."

Tongue out to dry

Six years ago The Sun newspaper celebrated April 1 by introducing its readers to a cutting edge new technology: "flavoured" paper. A white square on page 17 urged the reader to "lick here". "Our ink-redible printing breakthrough comes after we teamed up with Brit boffins," said The Sun. "It means that readers can lick this page to reveal a hidden taste".

A bombshell for blondes

The World Health Organisation had alarming news on April 1 2002. Because of a "proliferation" of dyed blondes, the last natural born blonde was predicted to die out within 200 years. This was, of course, a hoax - though many fell for it, including several prominent news organisations. The knee-jerk consensus was that a body such as the WHO didn't "do" humour.

The fruit and nothing but the fruit

What happens if you cross a banana with a pineapple? The British supermarket Waitrose had the answer in 2009 as it unveiled the "pinana". "Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50pc off our essential Waitrose strawberries."

Copper order

Also in 2015, police in Manchester invited Twitter users to vote for their "favourite" prisoner, who would then receive early release. "Know someone in prison? You can get them released early by voting for them on here. The prisoners with the most votes also wins a holiday.''

A bra that sends tweets, "invisible" Marmite, an iced dessert inspired by Kim Kardashian's "booty" - yes, April 1 is here again and sure to bring with it the obligatory deluge of wacky jokes and hoaxes.

The tradition of April 1 pranks extends back to the Middle Ages and was referenced by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales. There was even a distinctly Irish brand of April 1 hoax, according to chroniclers of Celtic folklore and tradition.

"A common practical joke was to send someone to deliver a note that read 'send the fool further'," says the website Irish Cultures and Customs. "In many places, these 'fool's errands' would be accompanied by a verse for the recipient which said 'don't you laugh, and don't you smile, send the fool another mile'."

In honour of this most sacred of days, then, here is a countdown of the most impressive April 1 wheezes of recent decades. Just remember that, going by certain traditions, April Fools Day ends at midday - if someone tries to prank you after that time, received wisdom dictates the joke is on them.

Dangle with care

A 1957 edition of the BBC's esteemed Panorama programme showed farm workers in the Swiss canton of Ticino "harvesting" spaghetti from trees and laying the strands on the ground to dry.

In the age before Twitter or Wikipedia, audiences were credulous and the hoax was widely believed. That respected broadcaster Richard Dimbleby had narrated the sequence was regarded as placing its veracity beyond doubt ("Many of you, I am sure, will have seen pictures of vast spaghetti plantations in the Po valley," he said sternly. "For the Swiss, however, it tends to be more of a family affair...). Viewers were reported to have called up the BBC in their hundreds, inquiring where they might source a spaghetti tree of their own.

A tight situation

Swedish television viewers received some good news in 1962 when the national broadcaster announced a method by which they could convert their black and white sets into colour. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over the screen - thus "reconfiguring" the light particles and, presto, turning black and white to colour.

To speed up the process, the public was advised to "adjust" the screen by tilting their heads from side to side. Thousands were said to have participated in the prank. How many saw colour as a result is not recorded.

Spaced odyssey

In one of the most famous April Fools gags of all time, astronomer Patrick Moore in 1976 told his audience that for a few hours Earth would experience reduced gravity (due to the "Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect"). Anyone who jumped in the air during this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon would feel lighter than usual and might even drift about in the air.

One women who followed Moore's advice reported that she had indeed become weightless and "orbited gently around the room".

Fast fool nation

April 1 1998 was heralded as a new dawn for left-handed fast food fans as Burger King unveiled a version of its Whopper Burger especially for them. The chain announced a special "left-handed Whopper" for the benefit of the 11 million or so lefties who dined at its Irish and UK outlets annually.

"We are delighted that Burger King has recognised the difficulties of holding a hamburger in your left hand that has a natural right bias to it," said the company. "We urge all left-handed hamburger lovers to visit their nearest Burger King and taste the difference for themselves."

Crafting a left-handed burger was no easy feat, Burger King insisted. "All condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of the condiments will skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger."

Feathered frauds

A rare species of flying penguin had been discovered in Antarctica according to the 1998 trailer for a (non-existent) BBC series, Miracles of Evolution. "We'd been watching the penguins and filming them for days, without a hint of what was to come," said narrator Terry Jones (of Monty Python). "But then the weather took a turn for the worse.

"It was quite amazing. Rather than getting together in a huddle to protect themselves from the cold, they did something quite unexpected, that no other penguins can do."

Tongue out to dry

Six years ago The Sun newspaper celebrated April 1 by introducing its readers to a cutting edge new technology: "flavoured" paper. A white square on page 17 urged the reader to "lick here". "Our ink-redible printing breakthrough comes after we teamed up with Brit boffins," said The Sun. "It means that readers can lick this page to reveal a hidden taste".

A bombshell for blondes

The World Health Organisation had alarming news on April 1 2002. Because of a "proliferation" of dyed blondes, the last natural born blonde was predicted to die out within 200 years. This was, of course, a hoax - though many fell for it, including several prominent news organisations. The knee-jerk consensus was that a body such as the WHO didn't "do" humour.

The fruit and nothing but the fruit

What happens if you cross a banana with a pineapple? The British supermarket Waitrose had the answer in 2009 as it unveiled the "pinana". "Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50pc off our essential Waitrose strawberries."

Copper order

Also in 2015, police in Manchester invited Twitter users to vote for their "favourite" prisoner, who would then receive early release. "Know someone in prison? You can get them released early by voting for them on here. The prisoners with the most votes also wins a holiday.''

'Copper Face Supermacs' is a match made in heaven - pity it's an April Fools!

'We're truly sorry' - Gmail forced to ditch 'Mic Drop' April fool as email users claim they lost potential jobs  

Irish Independent

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