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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The art of pranking

Dan Zak Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Your stapler is encased in Jell-O, your desk has been moved to the bathroom and you start receiving faxes from yourself … from the future.

Another Monday morning at the office, or, rather, “The Office.” The NBC sitcom is a thesis on how we use pranks to deliver ourselves from the purgatory of dullness and discipline. It’s also just one part of an entertainment niche founded on watching people get pranked.

That art – and it is an art, as you’ll see – has never been more alive and sophisticated, says the self-described King of Dot-Comedy, Sir John Hargrave, who is not, in fact, a knight. He changed his first name to “Sir” a while back to prank Buckingham Palace, which he haggled for the requisite knightly benefits.

“I would argue that Sacha Baron Cohen doing Borat, Stephen Colbert doing his character – those are extended performance-art pranks,” says Hargrave, creator of the comedy Web site Zug ( and author of “Prank the Monkey.” “It’s very attractive to us in this day where we’re so media-saturated that it’s hard to tell fiction from nonfiction and real media from fake media and truth from spin.”

But pranking seems to be the province of Pam ‘n’ Jim and “Punk’d,” Cohen and Colbert. We regular citizens, we’ve got reputations to uphold. And somewhere along the line, college campuses – whose draconian rules once nurtured rebellion – got too lax.

Britain’s royals, apparently, also indulge in pranking. Last month, British papers reported that princes William and Harry recorded this outgoing phone message for the queen: “Hey, wassup! This is Liz. Sorry I’m away from the throne. For a hotline to Philip, press one. For Charles, press two. And for the corgis, press three.”

Simple, harmless, effective. The hallmarks of a good prank.