How to Deal With a Practical Joker

young man and text happy april fools day
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Practical jokes might be funny to some people, but often the object of the so-called joke feels embarrassed or angry. That’s why it’s best to stop and think before pranking anyone. If you find yourself in the position of being the object of a practical joke, you have some choices of how to deal with it.

Why People Play Jokes or Do Pranks

One of the reasons people participate in these pranks is to feel as though they’re a part of the group. That’s also one of the problems because when the prank goes too far, it takes on a gang-like tone, and the object of the joke may feel as though they are being bullied.

Options for Dealing with Practical Jokers

Here are some ways to handle pranks:

  • Laugh along with the joke. Whether someone pranks you at work or a group of friends plays a practical joke on you at a party, you can choose to laugh at it and then move on. Sometimes people want to test you to see what your limits are, particularly if you’re the new employee or recent member of a club or group of friends. In a way, it’s an initiation into the group. Showing that you have a sense of humor will often stop the pranks from coming in the future, but that’s not always the case. It all depends on the people who are involved. Some folks don’t know when to stop and will keep pranking you as long as they think they can get away with it.
  • Tell them to stop. If you hate practical jokes, let the pranksters know that you don’t appreciate being the butt of their shenanigans. Most sane people will move on and find someone who enjoys playing the game, but some people who thrive on drama will see that as a challenge to continue, just to get a reaction. Pranking at work typically has bad results so if this happens at the office give the pranksters one chance before going to your immediate supervisor with the issue. Most likely, they’ll stop if they fear losing their jobs or getting a bad performance report.
  • Get revenge and play a joke on them. If you’re tired of being the object of the prank, you might consider turning the tables and playing a joke on one of the pranksters. Be extra careful doing this because you might find yourself in a competition for one-upping, and that can have some awkward, uncomfortable, or even dangerous consequences. Someone might get hurt, or you might face the risk of a reprimand at work if you do it at the office. You might even want to hold back on the pranks during personal time because going too far could cause you to lose the trust of your friends.

Harmless Practical Jokes

Some pranks are harmless and don’t warrant getting too worked up about. For example, if someone covers everything on your desk in foil, it’s annoying but won’t hurt anything in the long run. The same goes for rearranging the furniture in an able-bodied person’s office.

Harmful Practical Jokes

Any prank that can cause physical harm, property destruction, or a health problem should never be done at any time. If you are the object of something that is dangerous or harmful, you need to stand your ground to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Let the prankster know your thoughts and feelings. If they persist, go to someone in authority to end the pranks.

You might work for someone who is a prankster, which can be even more uncomfortable. If your boss is the one pulling the prank, you need to let them know you don't find it humorous. Your next step will be to go to human resources.

Here are examples of unacceptable practical jokes:

  • Switching the salt and sugar in the office kitchen. You could hurt someone who is diabetic or has high blood pressure. Don’t mess with any of the food that other people will consume, or you could cause all kinds of health problems.
  • Telling someone their family member had a serious accident for a momentary scare. This could cause a real accident or heart attack.
  • Putting a rope or other obstruction in an area where someone might trip. You don’t want to cause someone to fall and break a bone.

Your Reaction to the Prank

When you find yourself the object of a practical joke, try not to make a bigger deal of it than necessary. The only time you should react in a negative way is if the prank could result in a real danger to you or anyone else. If practical jokes annoy you, steer clear of the jokers and let them have their fun with each other.

If the practical joke doesn’t have any lasting negative effects, your best bet might be to laugh about it. This will give you something to reflect on as a group and provide “insider” punch lines that will bring smiles to the faces of everyone involved.

April Fools’ Day

One day of the year is celebrated by playing jokes on others, and that’s the first of April, also known as April Fools’ Day. No one knows for sure when it started, but many historians believe it had something to do with the 1564 calendar change in France. Anyone who refused to make the change was labeled a “fool,” as they continued to celebrate the New Year at the old time. One of the pranks people played during the last week of March through April 1 included sticking paper fish to their backs to let others know they were “fools.”

Some of the worst jokes are played on April 1, and many people don’t believe anything said to them on this day. Even corporations have gotten into the game with pranks that left people wondering what was real and what wasn’t.

Here are some of the most notable corporate practical jokes through history:

  • Smell-o-Vision—In 1965, the BBC managed to convince people that they could transmit smells through their TVs by breaking down the molecule small enough to send through the airwaves. Many people were convinced that they could smell the coffee, onion, and vanilla scents when they turned on their televisions.
  • Welcome to Chicago—In 1992, the Los Angeles airport executives erected a banner that read “Welcome to Chicago” across the racetrack in Hollywood Park. As the flights landed, the passengers would see this and panic that they were on the wrong flight.
  • Left-Handed Burger—Burger King launched what was called the “Left-Handed Hamburger” in 1998 for lefties. They even took out full-page ads to promote this silly concept.
  • Vowel-less Twitter—Twitter made the announcement in 2013 that their free version eliminated the use of vowels. If you wanted to include vowels in your tweets, you’d have to pay for the service.
  • Spaghetti Pickers—The BBC clearly loves their jokes. After a particularly mild winter season in 1957, they showed clips of Swiss farmers plucking strands of spaghetti from trees. Surprisingly, quite a few people believed them and wanted to know how they could grow their own spaghetti. The BBC told them to put a piece of spaghetti in a can of tomato sauce and plant it in their yard.