How to Be a Proper Prankster

It's all fun and games until an improper prankster ruins it for the rest of us. 

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #383

I have a guilty pleasure to admit: I’m a big fan of pranks where other people end up getting scared out of their minds. Nothing mean, mind you, but how Ellen DeGeneres throws her over-jumpy producer and nervous intern into a haunted house. I could watch their reactions to all things that go “spook in the night,” over and over. That is a great example of a prankster working her craft.

However, whereas Ellen has the team in on the joke and willing to participate, some people think (rather selfishly) that their idea of funny will always go over well with everyone. Not the case. So, before you think dumping a bucket of water on your coworker when they walk into the office will get you a round of laughs, check out my top three quick and dirty tips on how to be a proper prankster:

Tip #1: Know Your Target/Audience

The great Betty White once said, “I kid around a lot, but pranks are not my best strength!” I love this quote because, when it comes to someone like Betty White, you assume that everyone finds anything she does to be funny. So when a person like Betty White admits that pranking isn’t exactly her ideal swim lane in comedy, she’s willing to take a backseat rather than test her limits. I mean, she’s Betty White, and could get away with it but knows there is a fine line. Sadly, not many people see comedy and pranking the same way that the legendary comedian does. With that, some improper jokesters like to pull pranks simply for the laugh, regardless of how of affects other people. When this occurs, it only makes the prankster look childish and selfish.

You may find my use of the word selfish to describe an improper prankster a bit off, but when you think about it, that’s the best way to designate someone who only goes for the one-sided laugh. The partisan laughter is similar to a grade school bully tripping someone then getting the entire school to point and laugh at the pain of their victim. That is NOT funny, nor a real “prank” at all.  When you pull a prank simply to get your laughter over, and not work with the person you're kidding around with, it shows an utter lack of respect and manners. See, pranks are made to be fun, but it only works when the person getting pranked has a good sense of humor about it. So, before you pull that oh-so-funny prank, truly vet your target. Will they “get it”? Will this person find it funny enough to share with others? How will they react towards me? If you can confidently come up with a positive answer to these questions, then proceed with said prank. But it’s improper to assume that everyone will get your humor or your attempt at humor.

Tip #2: Nothing Harmful

Let me first say that I could watch hours of YouTube clips where people slip, fall, and get a football thrown at their groin by a toddler. I love that stuff. I could very well be the only etiquette enthusiast to admit that, but come on folks, you’re with me, right? Now, as much I do appreciate a good crotch shot (who doesn’t?), I hardly look at that kind of humor as a prank. So when I see or hear a prank where someone was purposely injured—even slightly—I tend to be turned off. For the life of me, I find nothing funny at all about pranking someone in which the end result is a trip to the ER. It’s kind of like the analogy I made in Tip #1, referencing bullies who push people around for their own sick enjoyment; pranking someone unwillingly in a harmful way is classless, unoriginal, and flat out rude. A similar situation happened with Bob who had his chair pulled from behind him by Patty during a Happy Hour. Bob landed on his back, and hit his head hard on the floor. Patty thought it was hilarious, whereas everyone around them failed to see the humor in this prank.