Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Public Radio's Perfect Prank

I've written before about how I feel about April Fool's Day, the day when you're supposed to lie to your friends and loved ones.  (I can't believe it's been four years since I wrote that! No joke.)

My point back then was that April Fool's is a stupid tradition that is often executed in a lame way that's not even very fun or interesting.  I still feel that way.  This year I was supposed to get "fooled" by George Takei's announcement on FB that he was hosting Saturday Night Live.  And then... ha ha!  It was all a joke! He's not hosting SNL!  I love Takei's page dearly, and it probably makes up about 40% of my FB reading, but c'mon George, you're better than that.  I didn't really care that you were going to host SNL, so revealing it as a big prank was just lame. 

There were, however, two clever exceptions I saw this year.  One was from Inside Higher Ed, a nerdy education journal that posted a story about Bryn Mawr College deciding to stop using vowels:  "Bryn Mawr College is announcing today that it is dropping the vowels from its name and questioning the use of vowels generally. The college will now be known as Brn Mwr."

This is a good joke because it's so obviously fake that it's not trying to trick anyone. And it makes fun of the college's name, which already looks like it's missing vowels. This is humor worthy of The Onion.

But the best April Fool's joke I saw this year, perhaps the best one I've ever seen, was published by the NPR's FB page last week.  They published a story with the headline, "Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?"  If you followed the link to the actual article, it said:

Congratulations, genuine readers, and happy April Fools' Day!

We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven't actually read. If you are reading this, please like this post and do not comment on it. Then let's see what people have to say about this "story."

However, the clever people at NPR knew how some people would respond to this.  (They've probably experienced this phenomenon enough times to know how it would turn out.)  They knew "readers" would dive in with their angry and opinionated comments without having read the article.  And that's what they did. "I still read!"  they shouted at the misleading headline.

This was not just a sophomoric prank to show how smart NPR is and what a fool you are.  It actually proved a serious point: that people need to actually read the details of what they're up in arms about before they start bloviating about it.

Well played, NPR.  Well played. 


chocolatechip said...

I used to hate April Fool's because I don't think lies or practical jokes are funny. But lately it seems like big companies are putting out their "official" jokes, and they're obviously fake, and they are funny. My favorite recent one was when Starbucks pretended they were going to start selling a 32 oz coffee drink called the Gigante. And, did I tell you about this one from YouTube that features my niece

Tim said...

That's very funny, CC. How did they get a part in that video?

chocolatechip said...

We went to high school with the guy who was complaining that his baby can't read. Apparently he is the head writer of The Onion News Network and had some role in creating the YouTube video. He posted on Facebook that he was looking for babies to be in a video. He was a really funny, smart, and nice guy, so I was happy to hear that DKA is in touch with him. (I'm not.)