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A Serious Look at April Fools’ Jokes

A Serious Look at April Fools’ Jokes

For a few years my daughter’s “favorite holiday” was not the one with all those lights and presents or the one with colored eggs and all the chocolate she could eat. No, instead she loved the day dedicated to making others laugh, the first of April. However rather than tricky pranks, she instead went for …

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For a few years my daughter’s “favorite holiday” was not the one with all those lights and presents or the one with colored eggs and all the chocolate she could eat. No, instead she loved the day dedicated to making others laugh, the first of April. However rather than tricky pranks, she instead went for “April Fools” Jokes. There is a difference and it’s an important one.

My daughter was scared of the dark for a long time. One night, while walking upstairs with her before bed, I reached my arm into her bedroom to turn on the lights. Thinking I’d have a little fun with her, I acted as if when I put my arm into the darkness something grabbed it and yanked me into her room. She screamed, but in the moment she decided whatever my fate was in the darkness, she would share it. She came into the room and when she realized it was all a set-up, she cried from relief and anger at my deception.

While they may be funny, “pranks”—like Jimmy Kimmel’s yearly prank where parents tell kids they’ve eaten all of their Halloween candy—are often tied to betrayal and fear. The humor inherent in these kinds of pranks is based on the relief that some kind of trauma didn’t actually happen. It fosters distrust and can make actual emotional trauma more painful, because the “punchline”—that this was all a gag—isn’t there.

Interestingly, it was my daughter’s own sense of humor that helped me see this distinction. Her April Fools’ Jokes were either subtle or silly, but the “butt” joke was always her. Some were simple, such as wearing odd outfits or claiming to have a new, odd passion. One year she “went country” and asserted that she would only listen to the twangiest country music around. Of the musical genres I enjoy, this particular brad of country music is at the bottom of the list. However, the joke worked because with my daugther’s ever-evolving tastes, the change was possible, however unlikely.

Of course, it all boils down to your family’s sense of humor. Most of my April Fools’ Jokes are surprisingly uncreative, boiling down to a ridiculous song, dance, or outfit. Yet, these old standbys make my daughter laugh every time.

The trick for selecting your own April Fools’ Jokes is to ask yourself two questions: Is this something my kids will find funny and does the joke rely on “disappointment” for its punch? If the answer to the second question is “yes,” it doesn’t mean the joke has to be discounted.

For example, this year I plan to disconnect all of the cable boxes and declare the household “television free.” If she believes me, that’ll be great. However, she’ll know I’m kidding. The “fun” will come with playing along with gag.

What are some of your favorite April Fools’ jokes you’ve pulled on your kids? That they’ve pulled on you? Tell us below!


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