In Brief

April Fool! Five of the best media pranks

From spaghetti trees to left-handed burger, here are some of the best 1 April gags

April Fool's Day has seen many pranks from the media, proving that fake news existed long before the presidency of Donald Trump.Here are five of the best.

Italian spaghetti harvest

In 1957, a film showed Italian spaghetti farmers picking their crop from trees, convincing the British public that this was how the pasta came into being. 

This classic hoax was produced for Panorama and is narrated in impeccable RP tones by Richard Dimbleby, father of broadcasters David and Jonathan and the incarnation of BBC respectability. 

To modern eyes, the film is in no way convincing, but the idea of Lord Reith's national guardian of morality telling an out-and-out lie was inconceivable while foreign foods were so exotic it fooled many. It is doubtful its producers expected their joke to be remembered for so long, but the spaghetti tree is now considered a cultural watershed.

The San Serriffe isles

In 1977, The Guardian produced an extensive travel feature on the entirely fictional San Serriffe islands in the Indian Ocean, complete with adverts from the likes of Kodak, who were all in on the joke.

It was the paper's "most successful April Fool's joke", it says now.

Alert readers might have noticed that the islands' Spanish-sounding name was a reference to typefaces, while a map showed them to be shaped like a semicolon. In addition, they were divided into Lower Caisse and Upper Caisse.

The typography jokes even extended to a dictator called M J Pica, a measurement used for typefaces.

While the humour seems gentle now, it succeeded because it was the first spoof of an advertising feature, says The Guardian.

YouTube closes down

In 2013, the video-sharing website teamed up with satirical website The Onion for its annual April Fool joke.

A video entitled "YouTube's ready to select a winner" announced that for its eight years of operation, the site had in fact been part of a competition and, with all the entries received, was closing down.

It added that a winner would be announced after every single uploaded video had been reviewed - in 2023.

Incredibly, a "live stream" of two announcers listing the many thousands of nominees went on for 12 hours, Time reports.

The NYC April Fool's Day parade

His humour may be predictable, but after 31 years of running the same joke, US prankster Joey Skaggs certainly deserves recognition for perseverance.

Every year since 1986, Skaggs has sent out a press release promoting a New York City April Fool's Day Parade which never happens. The release includes fake route maps and detailed descriptions of floats and participants.

However, this year is different, reports Heat Street. It appears Skaggs is so upset about Donald Trump's presidency that this year's parade is not fictional.

"You can certainly accuse me of being the Boy Who Cried Wolf, given my past track record with this parade," he told the site, "but the reality of this April Fool's Day makes it absolutely essential that I finally show up along with, hopefully, hordes of Donald Trump look-alikes."

Believe him – or don't.

The Left-Handed Whopper

In 1999, Burger King ran a successful prank still remembered by many, with the announcement of a Left-Handed Whopper burger.

The fast-food chain took out a full-page advert in USA Today to promote the "new product", which it said had all the condiments and ingredients loaded in the reverse direction, "thereby distributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of them skew to the left". 

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