Maybe the first recorded prank in history was when the Greek army hid themselves in a giant horse and pretended it was a gift to the Trojan people. While the Trojans slept, the Greeks slipped out, yelled “Surprise!,” and… well, it didn’t go too well for the Trojans. Not funny? Maybe the joke gets lost in translation. Maybe you had to be there (pro tip: you should not have been there).
Pranks these days are a little more about silly jokes and tricks, and less about pillage. We also usually reserve them for April Fools’ Day, a day so rife with mischief that everyone is on edge, wondering if everything they hear is a joke.
That’s what makes it such a great day for a party celebrating goofy fun with a gag gift exchange. A lot of people don’t like April Fools’ Day because they think it’s just a chance to be cruel—and to be fair, we all know the guy who says, “Hey, the boss wants to see you now… April Fools,” then yuks it up over your irregular heart palpitations. But it’s not meant to be a day for malice or mean-spiritedness. It’s a day to have a good time reveling in the absurdity of everything, of life. It’s wearing mustache sunglasses not to disguise yourself, but to show who you really are.
So have a celebration! Exchange gifts! Just don’t invite your friends for a party, and then claim it was just a joke. They might still make you provide snacks. Better use my party ideas instead.
No Fooling: Gag Gift Exchange Ideas
One year at my office, a buddy of mine decided it would be a good idea to have an April Fools’ gift exchange. At first, I was confused. Were we actually having an exchange? Or were we not? And if so, were we swapping real gifts?
I didn’t understand the goofy (or dark) genius of it all. It was a real gift exchange, but you didn’t know if you were going to get a gag gift or a real one. You didn’t know if your gift was going to actually be a prank, or if you were just so worried that a nice, normal gift was, in fact, a prank that you didn’t want to accept it. It played with the very concept of pranks in such a way that anything was possible, making the unexpected the expected.
This was perfectly illustrated by my gift: a box of assorted chocolates. It’s well-known in certain parts that I love those old-fashioned assorted chocolate boxes. Also well-known is my almost heroic (Homeric) bravery. I never just nibble a chocolate or look at the maps and legends. No, I just bite right in. It could be sea salt and caramel (bliss). It could be coconut (terror). But the point is, you never know. And that’s what made it such a good gag gift.
I was terrified of what could be in them. Was the nougat somehow replaced with mud or castor oil? Was there a mouse? Or worst of all, were they all coconut? Could such evil exist? I couldn’t eat one all day, so nervous was I. Of course, it turned out to be just a perfectly delicious box of candies. But the joke was the very idea that it could be a joke. It was brilliant.
Now it’s your turn to explore the boundaries of what makes a clever prank. Set up a gift exchange, so that whether you’re hosting it in your office or with friends across the country, you can be sure that everyone who wants to be involved can be in an easy and organized way. Save the uncertainty for the actual gifts.
Some other great gag gift ideas include:
- A very realistic fake bug: Can also be used as a paperweight, regifted, or sent shrieking through the window!
- Funny personalized plates: I like this one that says, “You’ve been poisoned by XYZ.” With this gift, you aren’t pulling a prank on someone, but giving them a way to play a trick on someone else.
- A dribble glass: Is it corny? Yes. Is it old-fashioned? Yes. Is the dribble glass still funny every time? Of course it is.
- A hollowed-out book: This is a great gift if the person is bookish because at first they’re excited about getting a book… until they see it isn’t actually real. Such a good gag! But then, they realize it’s actually still useful, and fun, and it’s something they’ll use—and think about you when they do. Maybe the perfect combination of a gag and a thoughtful gift.
Throwing an April Fools’ Day Party… for Real
As you may know if you read this blog, my wife and I don’t need much of an excuse to have a party; we’ve been known to throw them for such special occasions as “a new color of the year” or “the changing of the season into fall.” So while having a party for April Fools’ Day isn’t totally normal, it isn’t completely unexpected from us either. The only surprise is what the celebration entails.
So, the party is a standard one. You don’t have to have costumes or an over-riding theme with it—and that’s sort of the point. It should seem like a standard get-together (chips, dip, some music), except that around every corner, there’s an opportunity for a joke.
Remember that you aren’t having a party to humiliate your friends with cruel pranks or a laugh at their expense. That’s sort of lame and pretty childish and only fun for a brief and acrid second. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at all.
The nice thing about being an adult is that the stuff that’s silly and funny when you’re a kid can still be silly and funny now. You laugh at, just differently, at the goofiness and cheesiness of it. Such ideas like glow-in-the-dark eyeball ice cubes won’t actually scare anyone, but they might produce a quick start before the mark dissolves into giggles at how delightfully dumb it is. The realistic toy alligator in the bathroom will do the same.
If you want to go bigger, why not try putting toothpaste in Oreos? Not in all of them, of course. Just a few. You want it to be a surprise. I’ve also seen people put out a bowl where Skittles, M&Ms, and Reese’s Pieces are all mixed together. Throwing a handful into your mouth produces a very unusual taste sensation.
The whole point is to have fun, to laugh at yourselves, and to laugh with each other. Make sure you stay in people’s comfort zones. It’s true that the classic idea of “the fool” is to highlight the absurdity in others, but there’s enough that’s annoying and frustrating and downright scary right now. Use the day to highlight the silly laughter that comes from love, from dumb jokes, and from the kind of pranks that bring people together. The day might be about gags, but it’s really just a Trojan Horse smuggling in friendship.
It’s not a joke! Elfster wants to hear your favorite April Fools’ Day stories. Tell us about them on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting ideas, browse our gift guides.