I have an odd relationship to practical jokes.
While sometimes I find them hilarious, other times they are not only unfunny, but resentment inducing.
Jim, on the Office, helps illustrate the confusion. Sometimes I think, “hee hee hee.”
Other times I think, “If that guy were my office mate, I’d hire Dwight Schrute to take him down.”
Entire desk replaced with cardboard? Hilarious.
Stapler in Jello? Obnoxious.
During an on-line jokester feud a while back, the jokester knew his friend would be at a baseball game with his girlfriend. Jokester had an ad posted on the big screen, ostensibly from the victim proposing to the girlfriend. In front of a stadium of strangers, the couple broke up. (Can you blame her for not finding the situation amusing?)
To me that set up was neither practical nor a joke.
And yet, when the victim played a joke on the jokester, making him think he sunk a half court shot during a pro basketball game and thus won a truckload of money, I giggled nonstop.
So I love Candid Camera, and abhor the antics of Tom Green.
What’s the diff?
A mix of things, I suppose. For any encounter, I kinda ask myself:
-Was the joke mean spirited? (Punk’d kinda worked, in part because Ashton was spoofing on his friends, not trying to embarrass strangers or enemies.)
-Was anyone hurt? Was anyone designed to be hurt? (The baseball proposal prank was, by design, guaranteed to hurt people.)
-Is the victim likely to find this funny after the fact? (Earl Palmer, in his book The Humor of Jesus, talks about a good kind of funny – the kind that brings people together.)
And, in opposition to the above, and not very loving of me, but true none-the-less:
-Does the victim deserve it?
Sometimes Dwight is asking for it, no? And so I laugh. (Yeah, this is a character issue of mine that I need to work on. Thanks for bringing that up.)
I was thinking about this question because of this practical joke (one that I admit would piss me off, at least initially):
As I said, were I the victim, I would be pissed during the fact.
And I would feel manipulated after the fact.
But as it was for a good cause, while I wouldn’t have found it funny (it wasn’t meant to be), I just might have approved.
(In part because I would still have gotten my movie – it wasn’t a complete bait-and-switch, just a trailer-time prank.)
At the same time, when folks like Peta and those anti-smoking guys prank people on the street, the cause doesn’t justify the means in my mind.
Pranking for a good cause – what do you think?
Just my thoughts,