I really don’t like April Fools Day. It’s in part because I wasn’t a terribly popular kid in elementary school, and there are some cruel things people say to that kind of kid on the first of April. Things that never fool you and aren’t intended to and are just a chance to be cruel. But beyond that, I’d say that the kind of jokes most people make aren’t actually funny. After all, they’re mostly intended to make someone else the butt of the joke, and that is less funny than most people think.
That said, there are some genuine, bona fide classics in pop culture. Number one on most lists is the BBC presentation about the annual Swiss spaghetti harvest. And why not? It’s honestly charming. It’s not cruel. It’s silly if you know the truth. Time and effort have gone into the production. And, sure, a lot of people apparently contacted the BBC about where to get the seeds, but that’s about the worst anyone was harmed. Surely not bad, as such things go.
Seattle’s long-running sketch comedy show Almost Live! (the reason Saturday Night Live aired in Seattle half an hour later than in other markets for many years) did an April Fool’s bit about the Space Needle collapsing. Obviously, this was before 9/11, as the show was off the air by then, but it’s still the kind of prank I’m slightly less okay with, such as the guy in Alaska who managed to convince the population of Sitka that their local volcano was erupting—though I will say that at least he cleared it with some, if not all, of the local authorities, including the FAA.
Fake products don’t tend to bother me, so long as they’re not cruel to any group in particular. There’s a whole lot of fake left-handed stuff, and that, I could kind of do without. I’m right-handed, myself, but both my sisters are left-handed. Both my dad’s parents were naturally left-handed—Grandpa got beaten into submission on that one as a kid, as kids were in those days, but not even being whapped with a ruler all the time could get Grandma to do what she didn’t want to. It’s not mean, exactly, but it’s annoying, and I feel as though it ignores the very real difficulties for left-handed people. Get my sister started on elementary school desks before joking about a left-handed Whopper, is my advice.
I honestly dread the sort of jokes people will come up with this year. I suspect but cannot prove that celebrity death hoaxes are more common on April first than any other day of the calendar, and that’s bad enough at ordinary times. And I know any number of people who’ve had to deal with friends whose jokes deal with very real issues like miscarriage; friends’ joke pregnancies aren’t funny to them. And I think we can all agree that no virus-related jokes are going to be funny for some time to come.