Welcome to April Fools’ Day, one of the most annoying days of the year. It’s the one day in which you can’t trust anything that you see on the internet, because everyone is trying to trick you. Hilarious! But here’s the thing: there’s a pretty huge distance between making a joke and lying, and most April Fools’ Day pranks fall distinctly in the latter camp.
April Fools’ Day is to comedy what New Year’s Eve is to parties: amateur hour. It’s the one day a year that everyone thinks they are hilarious, and you can’t escape the onslaught of poorly-conceived pranks and misinformation. Because today might be pitched as all about hilarious jokes, but the real focus is generally on tricking people into believing things that aren’t true.
Sure, there are some well-done April Fools’ Day gags. Funny or Die has been taken over by Rebecca Black today, and Improv Everywhere posted a video in which one of its agents was beaten up on the subway for dancing in a guy’s face while dressed as Jar Jar Binks. But these pranks are both fully-formed ideas, ones that were created by comedians who make funny videos all year anyways. If you are going to Funny or Die or Improv Everywhere, you want a joke video. They’re also self-deprecating jokes that end up making fun of themselves rather than anyone else. There’s nothing mean-spirited about either of them.
Compare this to “RIP Jackie Chan,” something that’s been trending on Twitter all week. You see, people are saying that Jackie Chan is dead when he is in fact alive. That’s the prank. Also, it was started like four days before April Fools’ Day just to trick more people. Things like this are not only not funny, but they make navigating the internet insanely frustrating, as you have no idea what’s a prank and what isn’t. When people are more focused on tricking people than making people laugh, they make their lies more subtle and hard to detect, which leaves people completely confused about what’s real and what isn’t all day long. And that’s not really funny.
What you’re left with, when you take away the tolerable handful of jokes you’ll see today, is a combo of unfunny lies being spread for no real reason and half-assed jokes made by companies looking to get their brand talked about (did you hear that Groupon is acquiring April Fools’ Day?!). So please, pay attention and don’t encourage this sort of thing by spreading it that around. And for the love of god, don’t try to trick people.
If you want to do something funny on the internet, I fully support it! I would never want to discourage people from putting themselves out there and trying to make something hilarious. Just, you know, maybe wait until tomorrow.