Books & Literature: November 1991


Pranks, <obs. prank to play tricks>: trick; a malicious act; a mildly mischievous act; practical joke; a ludicrous act.


As a person “ma- seems to get lost and is tures” the idea of pranks perceived as childish, meaningless, unworthy of an “adult.” But there are those who use the medium of pranks to make social and political commentary well into “adulthood,” and see the value that pranks can play in society. Pranks become a method for indirectly affecting people, causing them to think through their values and moral codes and redefine them. This book is not about whoopee cushions and cans of snakes, but organized activities which poke fun at culture and social norms and taboos. Pranks become a way of awakening society from it’s slumber of complacency and apathy, hopefully and ultimately making “reality” a more livable state. 

The pranks of many famous and infamous persons are documented herein by ReSearch publishers Andrea Juno and V. Vale.

Among the list of celebrity pranksters are: Jello Biafra, Boyd Rice, Abby Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Henry Rollins, and John Waters. Many of these prank anecdotes are vicarious experiences of the teller while most are carefully planned strategies of the people interviewed. Some are even opportunities taken when presented so as not to waste a great event and possibility of a “teaching” experience.

Throughout: Pranks! we are informed of the fallibility and gullibility of the media, community leaders and our fellow humans. Prank “artist” Joey Skaggs relates countless stories of his ability to fool the press into believing the most ridiculous things such as Fish Condos, bordellos for dogs and super-strains of roaches whose chromosomes cure “arthritis, acne, anemia, menstrual cramps and makes one invulnerable to nuclear radiation.”

Many of these pranksters participate in public performance pieces involving food products, sheep heads, pigeons or any variety of props to get across their point. There is a certain shock value used in their process of “awakening” but the actual physical harm is only threatened  or not at all a factor.

And each perpetrator recognizes and distinguishes between “bad” pranks where people are hurt physically or mentally, and “good” pranks where one’s level of consciousness is raised. Those who indulge in these pranks have a set idea or message that they are trying to get across and usually think through these pranks so that they reach that conclusion.

When people put so much faith in institutions beliefs and symbols that have no meaning or are unworthy of that faith, it is time for the pranksters to go to work, realigning what is truly real and eradicating false notions of reality. Pranks provide this opportunity, with the added attraction of a humorous edge. If you don’t get the punchline, at least you can enjoy the telling of the tale until it’s meaning becomes clear.


For more from the SLUG Archives:

Record & Tape Reviews: November 1991

Film & Video Reviews: November 1991