The week contained something that has become quite a time-honoured tradition, a historical event that still comes as a surprise to many. I’m talking, of course, about a subzero snow storm in April. And I’m not fooling; this 10-month winter thing is getting, like, enough already! Oh, and also, it was April Fool’s Day.
And even though it’s come and gone for another year, I’m all for being foolish, and April 1 is as good a time as any for foolishness. But why April 1, I ask you? And since I can’t hear you from here, I’ll go ahead and look it up. Back in a minute. …
OK, thanks for waiting. … It’s 2.5 hours later and I’ve been very busy ‘researching,’ which consisted mostly of watching funny April Fool’s pranks on the interweb. More on this later, but as promised, I have discovered the answer to the burning questions of ‘Why foolishness?’ and ‘Why April 1?’ And also ‘Why not?’
According several articles in the Associated Press back in 1983, the definitive origins of April Fool’s Day were finally provided by a Professor J. Boskin of Boston University, who explained that quite a while ago, in 306 AD (literally: After Dinner) an amused Roman emperor Constantine was talked into letting the court jesters and fools run the empire for a day. The head jester then passed a decree that everyone should be “absurd” for that day and, voila, he was thrown to the lions.
No, actually, according to Prof. Boskin, the custom became an annual event and spread like Cheez Whiz throughout the world and history itself. In fact, I found out through countless amusing YouTube videos that a form of April Fool’s is popular everywhere from Poland to Pretoria, from Ireland to Iran, where it has been celebrated since 536 BC (literally: Beyond Comprehension) and is the “oldest prank-tradition in the world still alive today.” Those wacky Iranians — who knew?
But what are some examples of April Fool’s jokes, I’m sure you are wondering by now, if you haven’t already turned the page to the sports section, and if you haven’t already read about a great many humorous April Fool’s anecdotes in various publications, including the Red Deer Advocate earlier this week.
Glad you wondered. Because here are some more good ones I dug up specifically for your personal amusement:
Haven’t you always wanted Smell-O-Vision on your TV or cellphone? I know I have. Well, as far back as 1965 the BBC in merry old England aired a segment on television that claimed they could now transmit smells over the TV. The “scientist” even cooked bacon and brewed coffee for people to sniff from their TV screens at home.
And just last year on April 1 the world’s most popular interweb search engine introduced Google Nose, an app for your phone or tablet that supposedly allowed you to search for smells on the worldwide web and then snuffle your screen to experience the odors. All I can say is, I could really see this being used for evil rather than good. I know what my buddies would do with Google Nose.
How about Left-Handed Burgers? Back in 1998, Burger King put up full page ads introducing a new Whopper that “had all the same ingredients but with condiments skewed to the left.” People actually ate it up (sorry).
Or in 2008 when CBC radio “broke” the news that the Canadian Mint was replacing the five dollar bill with a three dollar coin called the Threenie. And many of us recall the several April 1s that it was announced that we all had to change our clocks to “metric time” — whatever that is.
Closer to home, this year a Calgary newspaper announced on the front page that the mayor of Cowtown had purchased the entire newspaper company.
And SAIT, the big technology college, published a drawing of a “weather dome” that they were purportedly building over the entire campus to keep the weather comfortable all year round. This may very well have been prompted by April snowstorms and this year’s interminable 10 month winter.
And even closer to home, there was the time local media told people to put plastic bags over the handset of their telephones. This was waaay back when phones were attached to the wall and the listening/talking handset thingy was attached with a curly cord to the telephone thingy. The public pranksters said the telephone company was going to “blow out the lines” of the telephone to “clean out all the dust” and that people should attach a plastic bag to the phone to avoid making a mess in their homes.
I also remember one local radio station, quite a few years ago, running breaking news announcements all morning in a very dramatic War of the Worlds fashion that a giant “amoeba” had been spotted dragging itself up the banks of the Red Deer River near the 49th Avenue bridge and it was heading toward downtown. There are a lot of scary things downtown these days, but a giant amoeba isn’t one of them. You’d have to be pretty gullible to forget what day it was that time.
And speaking of gullible, I always try to get my Better Half and the Rotten Kids, and get ’em good. One year, I told them that the city had announced they were painting a giant happy face on the big green water tower to cheer up all the citizens. Another time, it was that their beloved school, Joseph Welsh Elementary, was being torn down and replaced with a shopping mall. Lots of room over there; turn the playground into a parking lot. I got quite good mileage out of that one.
And this year I might have mentioned that Air Canada inexplicably cancelled our flights to see our Rotten Kid in Vancouver this weekend. The BH is still hyperventilating.
Oh and by the way, that history thing that AP printed internationally as undisputable fact about the original Constantine Court Jesters declaring a Day of Absurdity? Prof. Boskin had made the whole thing up. As a little joke. After all, it was April Fool’s Day.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.