Episode 666: Joke Not a Joke

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle April Fools Day, which felt a little different this year, and the meaning of jokes and pranks.

Support Overthinking It by becoming a member for $5/month!

Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather, having warned future (or alien) archeologists to take what they say with a grain of salt, overthink April Fools Day 2021, what makes something a joke, and what makes something a prank.

Download (MP3)

Subscribe: iTunes Other Apps

Further Reading

One Comment on “Episode 666: Joke Not a Joke”

  1. John C Member #

    I think one of the reasons that I’ve always just ignored April Fool’s Day is that pranks basically boil down to three broad categories.

    First, there’s just open harassment by people who only contextualize humor from YouTube videos. In the real world, almost all of these are some form of “ha ha, I created a mess that you must clean up to go on with your day.” My favorite parody of the genre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGUG81-S2ok

    Then, there’s the irrelevant lie posing as a joke, which isn’t limited to a day, tying in to the sort of inverted expectations talked about in the episode. And those can work, but like every other kind of comedy, you need to actually be good at it to make it funny. “Cauliflower peeps” is a funny concept for roughly two words. The waiter who tells you that the restaurant is out of something you ordered (back when restaurants were a thing, I mean) when they’re not is never really going to be funny. And when it gets to the full inversion of expectations, if it’s not well-crafted (because a lot of pranks are just performative, after all), the real joke is when the reader asks why they’re paying money for a (I think hypothetical, but may be based on a real example that I’ve forgotten) streaming service that puts out a two hour movie that’s just a blank screen with no audio. The AP story is a good example, here, because we live in a world where the credibility of journalists is under attack, but they still thought that the best use of their resources was “this is just a prank.” It’s not unfunny, but the prank makes the brand a joke, instead of making the joke a joke.

    And then you have that bizarre Internet-only prank, arguably a fusion of the two categories, where a big company rebuilds their website to be…broken for the day. When I see those, I’m forced to wonder how nobody from the corporate office pointed out that a functioning website is a central piece of (for example) Google’s reputation.

    I have to say, though, Peeps made out of cauliflower sound a lot less repulsive than the normal kind…


Add a Comment