Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't believe anything you read, 'cept this

If all’s gone according to plan, switchboard operators at the Pittsburgh Zoo will by now have fielded more than 20 calls for a Mr. L.E. Funt.

I spent the morning dialing 20 unsuspecting friends and handing the phone to my 8-year-old daughter. My malicious little accomplice then left persuasive scripted messages for them to call the zoo’s 800 number and ask to speak to the esteemed L.E. Funt about a trunkload of money due them.

In past years, 20 different friends were asked to return calls left by one Ima Lyon or her elegant long-necked friend, Mr. G. Raffe.

If the operator ever gets wise to who’s behind this annual April Fool’s Day prank she will herd me and Josie at gun point across the safety moat encircling the hungry Mr. Tiger.

You can keep Christmas, Halloween and all the other warmhearted holidays. I’ll take April Fool’s Day and will carry its cruel spirit with me all year around.

Lately, Val and I have begun to put more emphasis on the actual day because we want our daughters to grow up on their toes.

We emphasize that the world is composed entirely of either victims or perps. The girls need to be prepared to battle the black-hearted men who roam the world with evil intent.

You know, all my good buddies. The ones we pranked this morning!

We inflicted the first lesson of this on our then 6-year-old daughter on this very day in 2006 when my wife was heavy with child. Josie’s innocent excitement about the new arrival couldn’t have been more sweet. A look of pure joy blossomed on her lovely face when I woke her and said Mommy’d had the baby while we’d slept.

She crept down the steps and there was Mommy (God bless her, she’d agreed to play along) cradling a swaddled love loaf on the couch.

Josie crept forward and pulled aside the blanket aside in wonder. There in Mommy’s arms was Baby Bop, the stuffed green cousin to Barney The Purple Dinosaur.

For as along as I live, I’ll never forget the look on Josie’s face as the array of emotions crowded to the surface. First came confusion, then hurt, then disappointment and then -- and this was key -- fury. She dove into me with her tiny fists raining toddler thunder down about my head.

Then she saw the beauty of a well-executed joke and, hallelujah, was able to laugh at herself. We had a hug fest, a big family laugh and a story we’ll tell forever.

It was a pivotal moment in her development. She’d learned to be a skeptic and a more critical thinker.

One the downside, there is evidence that the lesson may have been a bit too well taught. Ever since, she treats her father the way Moe treats Curly. But that’s a price I’ll pay for a being an incorrigible practical joker.

Of course, I’m a piker compared to one of my heroes, Joey Skaggs, the world’s most impractical joker. His scams can involve more than 100 actors, phony press releases, leased and elaborately equipped offices and months of preparation and execution.

Practical jokes? There is nothing practical about them. Today, of all days, amuse yourself by visiting and reveling in more than 40 years of audacious pranks that have duped all the mainstream media and mostly likely you into believing there really are things like high-priced cathouses for dogs.

It was back years ago when Skaggs goaded big shot New York stations and major print media into believing that for $50, customers could get Lassie laid. A white-smocked on-site "vet" assured gawking reporters, “This isn’t about breeding. This is purely a sexual pleasure service.” The false story was circulated around the country, never retracted, and the legend persists to this day.

Skaggs is a self-proclaimed media satirist who figures if we're more suspicious of things like the existence of cathouses for dogs then we're less likely to swallow whoppers like Saddam Hussein's Iraq being awash in WMD.

Clearly, it’s a lesson we’d all foolish to ignore.

Of course, my goals are far less grand and I’m far too busy to spend my time on so many elaborate and pointless pranks.

Despite what the operators at the Pittsburgh Zoo might tell you, I devote all my time to productive pursuits aimed at elevating the discourse of my fellow man.


I’m not a lyin’.


Anonymous said...

Just kick'n back this early morn..readin' away and drinkin' away. Listen' to T.P. What else is there? OU of course...OUZO...ummmmm? Wish we were there this weekend....Soon I hope!!!! Brad

Peter Ian Staker said...

I don't know what happened, I called that number and asked for Mr. L.E. Funt and my trunkload of cash. I only wound up with peanuts though, which is what I told the nice lady on the other end of the line. Why did she giggle so?

Please help out a poor English sod. Pick up your mobile and dial 011 44 then after the prompt dial 020-7782 5000. Oh and be sure to ask for me, Mr. P.I. Staker. That's P.I. Staker. Thanks for your help.