Truth is the first casualty of war, so the saying goes. I’m betting that today will see a massive decline in April Fools’ pranks so maybe humour is the eventual casualty of a worldwide pandemic.
To keep us smiling through the gloom here’s a round-up of some of the best to ever grace the earth.
In 1957, BBC’s Panorama ran a story on spaghetti trees in Switzerland enjoying an abundant harvest as the result of warm weather and of course, the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” If the concept of pasta growing on trees appears unfathomable to you, it certainly wasn’t for the hundreds of us Brits who phoned up asking how they could plant their own. The Beeb’s hilarious response? “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” I’d like to think we’d know better now but somehow I doubt it!
UFO lands in London
A bizarre looking flying saucer led thousands of Londoners to call the police in 1989, warning them of an alien invasion. The saucer turned out to be a prank hot air balloon that had been designed to look like a UFO, masterminded by Richard Branson. The Virgin boss had intended for it to land in Hyde Park, but poor weather conditions meant he had to land a day early in the wrong location.
Google can’t resist a prank or two on April Fools’ Day. In 2011, the tech giant announced it was launching Google Motion, which would allow users to control Gmail with their bodies. Cue loads of people making ridiculous faces in front of their screens with to avail. Other fake Google products to add to the mix include Google Romance, Gmail Paper and Google Voice for Pets.
Instant colour TV
In 1962, the Swedish national network brought their technical expert onto the news to inform the public that its black-and-white broadcasts could be made into streaming colour – all they had to do was view the TV through Nylon stockings. Thousands of Swedes were fooled, with many flocking to buy stockings to place over their TV sets.
Big Ben goes digital
The BBC was back at it again in 1980 when its overseas service told Brits that Big Ben was getting a digital update. The station took the joke one step further by saying that the clock’s hands would be given to the first four people to call in. It was a step too far though, apparently, as “surprisingly, few people thought it was funny.”
The left-handed whopper
Left-handed products have, for reasons unexplained, become an April Fools’ Day tradition. The most famous is a Burger King advert published in USA Today in 1998 announcing the launch of a new “left-handed whopper.” The fast food outlet said it contained all the same ingredients as a normal whopper, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the comfort of left-handed customers. The following day, Americans flocked to Burger King demanding the new left-handed whopper, only to later realise that they had been pranked.
In 1977 the Guardian published a seven-page supplement detailing the idyllic features of a small island located in the Indian Ocean named San Serriffe. The Guardian was inundated with calls from members of the public wanting to know more about this up-and-coming holiday destination, not knowing that the fake island was named after printer’s terminology.
Let’s hope today proves me wrong and the media do decide to give us all a break from this unrelenting bad news.