Today is an April Fool's Day like no other. As if coronavirus hasn't already put us in a spin, April 1 gives us one more thing to fret about. How much pranking is appropriate in the midst of a pandemic, when, in hospitals not far from us, severely ill people are fighting for their lives?
The knee-jerk answer is none at all. Or at least that is the line taken by Google which has a history of (honestly pretty awful) April 1 gags.
Not so in 2020, with the tech goliath telling staff to put any scheduled stunts in the recycle bin. At Google, tomfoolery is taboo.
Google will "take the year off from that tradition out of respect for all those fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let's save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one," went the email from Google's Carlow-born, DCU-educated head of marketing Lorraine Twohill.
"We've already stopped any centralised April Fool's efforts but realise there may be smaller projects within teams that we don't know about," she continued. "Please suss out those efforts and make sure your teams pause on any jokes they may have planned - internally or externally."
Given the quality of Google's recent pranks - last year it ran an ad for the fictional Aquaman II, which hilaaaaariously linked to a real trailer for Shazam - we probably aren't missing out enormously.
More problematic is the question of what to do with April 1 as we face into one of the biggest shocks, outside of war, to impact on modern society. As we consider the question it is probably important to ask who April 1 is for.
The obvious answer is that it is for our kids. Yes, we all enjoy a good April Fool's yack. But children adore it, which might be considered a change from when some of us were growing up (like everything else April 1 wasn't nearly as big a deal back then).
Consider, moreover, that now more than ever kids need something normalised to which to cling. Even if you switch away from Sky News and its carnival of doom when your children walk into the living room, there is no question that they are aware of the pandemic.
There is the obvious forced separation from their grandparents and the fact they haven't seen the inside of a school in weeks.
And while they are probably still looking on the sunny-side of the latter, they will of course have picked up on the fact that something is amiss.
Just the other day my six-year-old daughter was chasing her twin around the kitchen with a rubber bat, which she calmly explained "has the coronavirus". This morning I was informed the plush Pikachu doll which is ever-present on her bed needed extra cuddling as he had "developed breathing difficulties". Pikachu glared at me deadpan, like one of the Toy Story characters when they've just been picked up by a child.
Kids, then, are soaking it all in, which is a decent argument for not cancelling April Fools outright.
So, what makes a good prank? It helps to think big - and to take the massive credulity of your target for granted.
One of the most famous ever April Fool jokes was broadcast by the BBC's Panorama in 1957, with the depiction of Swiss farmers harvesting a bumper crop of spaghetti from the trees where it grew.
This was swallowed whole by viewers who wrote in eager to know how they might grow their own spaghetti tree. The official answer was that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best". If the shutdown goes on for much longer, I shall be attempting to cultivate my own spaghetti tree in the back yard.
Likewise, thinking big was Sweden's national broadcaster SVT which in 1962 brought on an expert to explain how viewers could turn their black and white TVs into colour sets - simply by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen (which would cause light to bend and the picture to colourise). Just like that, households across Sweden were full of dads desperately rifling drawers for nylon stockings with which to upgrade their tellies.
And that rates as a slovenly effort compared to the Alaska clever-clogs who, in 1974, created the illusion that dormant Mount Edgecumbe volcano was about to erupt. There was understandable alarm in the nearby town of Sitka Alaska, though this turned to annoyance as it emerged a local joker had transported hundreds of tyres into the crater - and then set them alight.
Nor should you be afraid of absurdity. In 1976 TV astronomer Patrick Moore told viewers in the UK that due to a rare "planetary alignment" the earth's gravitational pull would be briefly reduced. At 9.45am anyone jumping into the air would experience "a strange floating sensation". The appointed time came and went. Within minutes, BBC phone lines were jammed with members of the public who reported they had experienced just such a feeling upon leaping skyward
Caveats apply, of course. For adults, a little silliness right now might be appreciated. Or it might not. Use your judgement wisely. Oh, and no jokes about Covid-19. Perhaps, years from now, it will be appropriate to crack wise about the pandemic (though there are many historical tragedies still taboo when it comes to humour). Right now, we aren't even close to the endgame and there is nothing funny about coronavirus.
So, perhaps the best course should be to let our kids play jokes on us, rather than us on them or each other.
That advice feels particularly relevant given the level of misinformation already swirling around coronavirus. Covid-19 sits on the pressure point between a global health crisis and fake news.
How many times in the past three weeks, for instance, have you received an urgent WhatsApp message from a friend informing you a lockdown is about to be called within a few hours? It has probably happened more than once, long before the actual lockdown. In times of confusion, pranks and falsehoods exist along the same continuum. So whatever you do, make sure you enjoy your April 1 but try not to take the pursuit of fun too seriously.