Bruce Toews (masterofmusings) wrote,
Bruce Toews

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The Art of Practical Joking

I heard a comedy routine years ago, where a talk-show host, Phil Montague, was interviewing a guy who specialized in fatal practical jokes.  He contended
that for a practical joke to be funny, the victim had to be killed in the process.

While my view on the subject of practical jokes is nowhere near this extreme, I do happen to be a big fan of the practical joke, provided, of course, that it's a harmless one.

For some reason, people are hesitant to play practical jokes on me.  About the worst one I can think of is when a friend of mine took me to the bank machine to deposit some money, and in the end had me convinced that my account had about fifteen hundred dollars less in it than I had expected.  I'm hoping someday for an intelligent, crafty, harmless-but-effective practical joke to be played on me.  When that day comes, I'll be ready for it ... I hope.

I think my favorite practical jokes that I've perpetrated on others have come at the expense of my wonderful family.  The first successful one that I can think of was played on my brother Brian.  I had just recently learned that the electrical outlet in the bathroom was tied to the light switch.  Turn on the light, and power is supplied to the outlet.

Armed with this bit of knowledge, I went through my rather vast archives of cassette tapes until I found a blood-curdling scream.  I transferred this scream onto another tape, leaving about two minutes of dead silence before it.  I plugged the tape player into the electrical outlet in the bathroom, positioned the tape at the beginning of the silence, hit play, and turned out the light, merrily going about my business.  It was Sunday morning, just before church, and my brother went into the bathroom to shave.  Click, on went the light.  I waited. Right on schedule, a woman on Star Trek being killed by a parasitic alien screamed her death scream.  My poor brother, who had to drive me to and from church that day, didn't speak to me all morning.  Success.

That was the first.  I think the best practical joke I managed to pull off on a family member was played on my dad around ten years ago.  I was out visiting my parents, and I had been watching a videotaped TV show.  After the show, there had been a football game on the tape, played some three or four months earlier.  Too lazy to stop the tape, I had just let the game's pre-game show play.  My dad woke up from a nap and walked into the living room.  I saw my chance.

"Who's playing?"  he asked.  I told him.  We proceeded to talk intelligently about the game, our predictions, the CFL (Canadian Football League) in general, and so on.  The game started, and we watched.  Dad thought it strange that some people were playing whom he had been sure the teams had traded some time earlier, but he decided he must have gotten that wrong.  Still we watched, for a good hour or so, until my mom called us to the table for dinner.  When Dad wanted to keep the game on so he could look over and watch during the meal, I decided that it was only fair to tell him it was a tape.  Dad didn't
speak to me for the rest of the day. Success.

While I may disagree with the fatal practical joker in the comedy routine, I nonetheless love a good practical joke.  Of course, practical jokes should be picked with care.  A joke that truly hurts the victim is not in any way worth it, and I'm sad to say that I have made some mistakes in that regard in my time.  But, if you know your victim and your subject matter, a good practical joke can make for wonderful memories and conversation pieces, not to mention the occasional Internet commentary, in future years.

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