We’re taking a break from April Fools this year for a few reasons. The main reason is that the space has gotten so crowded; every brand in the world releases an April Fools video now. It’s near impossible to actually fool anyone online like it once was. Also, it’s my wife’s birthday, and it’s nice to not be glued to a computer all day releasing a video. Anyway, to celebrate the date, here’s a look at our history of April Fools hoax projects over the years.
Spider-Man In Real Life (2014)
On the heels of our popular Movies In Real Life series, we released an additional episode on April 1. We made it seem like we had pulled off a very dangerous Spider-Man stunt, but it was actually all special effects and actors acting surprised.
Reverse Times Square (2013)
While dangerous, we probably could recruit a couple of thousand people to walk backwards in Times Square, but it was much easier just to have just a few people walk backwards and then reverse the footage. We actually did a bit of reverse walking in our Mp3 Experiment later that year, in a less traffic-filled location. Anyone who watches to the end of the video should get that it’s a joke… but it continues to fool less observant folks. People will often tell me in person that they saw this video and thought it was amazing. I just smile and say thank you.
In an homage to our Human Mirror twins prank, we acted like we recruited 8 groups of identical quadruplets (who are exceptionally rare.) We really just recruited 8 people and cloned them with special effects. This was the first year that we put out a video that made it seem like we had done something awesome, rather than something stupid. I got tired of all the hate mail from people we fooled! It was more fun to trick people into thinking we did something great. This video has been shown on several television shows over the years, broadcast by people who think it is real.
Jar Jar Subway Car (2011)
This was probably our least successful April Fools video. The violence turned some of our fans off, even after they realized it was fake. Can’t win them all. Also, I think the absurdity of Improv Everywhere staging a follow up video to our massively viral Star Wars Subway Car with a video featuring Jar Jar Binks, the worst character in all of cinema, was lost on some people. I still love it– particularly the moment where Darth Maul enters the scene unaware that it’s gone south.
No Underwear Subway Ride (2010)
In terms of views, this was our most successful April Fools video ever. We pretended that we had topped our annual No Pants Subway Ride by going completely naked on the train. Of course, we were actually all just wearing skin-colored underwear that we blurred out in post. The outrage was tremendous. Multiple media outlets fell for it, including the NY Times. I probably made the wrong call when I told the Times reporter who called me that it really happened… but on the other hand, they did call a prank website on April 1 asking to verify something pretty ridiculous.
Best Funeral Ever (2009)
This was the first April Fools video we ever released, and it created the most outrage and controversy of them all. In a parody of our own Best Gig Ever, which itself was controversial, we pretended like we packed a random person’s funeral to make it awesome. To date there are still arguments in the YouTube comments over whether it is real (despite the title, description, and annotations clearing saying it is a hoax.) The craziest thing to happen was the WPIX 11 news in NYC ran a big story on the prank that evening, completely falling for it. Then when I put up the video of them falling for it on our site, they sent me a takedown notice (despite the fact that their broadcast used my footage without asking.) The whole thing ended up being an interesting look at the state of local journalism in the fledgling YouTube age. Also, we snuck a Dracula coffin into a real cemetery and filmed a fake funeral without permission. That was crazy.
Non Video Hoaxes 2001 – 2008
Prior to 2009, all of our April Fools hoaxes were either posts on our site or email newsletters. In 2008 we showed off a site redesign that looked like it was from the mid 1990s. In 2007 we claimed we were changing our name to HIPP, Humor in Public Places. In 2006 we claimed that the Improv Everywhere participants recently handcuffed at our No Pants Subway Ride were going to prison. In 2005, we claimed McDonald’s was suing us for our McDonald’s Bathroom Attendant Hoax and in 2004 we similarly claimed that we were being sued by the estate of Anton Chekov. In 2003 we claimed that the NYPD was shutting us down permanently (this was prior to any actual run-ins with the NYPD. We probably jinxed ourselves.) In 2002, our first April in existence, we claimed that Improv Everywhere had sold three television pilots to MTV. At the time, that was pretty unbelievable.
We’re sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping for a new hoax this year. We might be back at it a future April 1. Or not. I don’t know, and I can’t say!