Today’s the day when you can put on your play the fool onesie. It’s April Fool’s Day and that means, jokes, pranks and spoof stories will appear on broadcast media and all over the internet. The Verge has a good selection of what’s on offer on the internet for 2016. The problem in recent times is spotting the spoof stories from the ridiculous comedy of every day. With hundreds of thousands of blogs and thousands of media outlets, they are always on the look out for a funny or unusual angle, better still with a photo, to catch your eye. In 2014, Time brought us an article about humour, “The average American adult laughs just 18 times a day. That’s down from the eight laughs an hour they enjoyed when they were five years old. This, according to emerging research in the behavioural sciences, is a big problem.” True story or spoof?
April Fool’s Day is an international event, the French metro renamed its stations and in a world first, the London German embassy made a funny joke about rugby and eggs. In China the State media announced that April Fool’s Day should not be celebrated as it is un-Chinese. They really need to wear our Play the Fool Onesie when announcing that. But where did this Fool’s Day concept come from? Well the simple answer, as with so much to do with origins, is that nobody knows. Some say Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the first-ever reference to April Fools’ Day in a 1392 poem called “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” There is also some evidence that pranks were played in ancient Rome around this time of the year and, as we blogged about previously, the Spring equinox has always been a time for merriment. One theory is that April Fool’s proper can be traced back to Medieval France when they began using the Gregorian calendar. Not everybody was aware the New Year date had been moved so some “fools” kept celebrating around the equinox and their friends began to tease them.
Over the years there have been some famous pranks and website hoaxes.org has made a list of some of the best. In 1998, for example, an article in the FT detailed an agreement between the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England and the Guinness brewery, wherein Guinness would be declared the official beer sponsor of the Observatory’s millennium celebration. Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time. Or how about in 1934, when many American newspapers (including The New York Times) printed a photograph of a miraculous new invention which allowed a man to fly powered only by the breath from his lungs. The BBC though is responsible for some of the most notorious. In 2008, they aired a news clip of penguins flying as its April Fools’ Day prank. They were also in the mood in the early days of TV when in 1957, they showed a slot about the bumper spaghetti harvest in Europe – spaghetti that grew on trees. If you can come up with an idea like that we will send you a free play the fool onesie.