PETALING JAYA: It’s April 1. Do you know what that means? It’s April Fools’ Day! So, watch out for pranks your family or friends may be pulling on you today.
While it’s (sadly) not a holiday in Malaysia, April Fools’ Day is a good excuse to play practical jokes, or spread hoaxes for the giggles.
Yet, despite most people being aware of the day’s significance thanks to movies and television series, the exact origins of the day remain quite murky.
Some historians suggest that the first April Fools’ Day was observed in 1582, when the French swapped out the Julian calendar for the Gregorian calendar.
In the Julian calendar, the new year fell on April 1, so folks who were unaware of the calendar change were called “April fools”.
There have also been theories that April Fools’ Day is linked to a Roman festival called Hilaria, which saw celebration and feasting.
Whatever the case, many Malaysian brands have hopped onto the bandwagon, seeing April Fools’ Day as a great advertising opportunity.
For example, in 2019, Domino’s Pizza advertised a crust-only pizza, devoid of any topping or gooey centre whatsoever.
In that same year, Durex, the condom company, jokingly announced a new product: a condom with Mala hot pot flavours.
Rather amusingly, many Malaysian internet users took quite well to the idea, suggesting alternative flavours such as tom yam and bubble milk tea.
On the topic of condoms, in 2021, myBurgerLab announced that three new products would be made available namely three condoms of different flavours.
With names like “In & Out”, “Beautiful Mess” and “Juicy Lucy”, one must have wondered about the flavours. Alas, there were no actual condoms to be had.
Jumping on the April Fool’s Day bandwagon, GrabFood announced that same year, the GrabFood Copter, taking deliveries to… err new heights.
Funnily enough, this was two years before ‘that’ incident in Ipoh when a helicopter was dispatched to collect 36 packets of nasi ganja from a restaurant. Life imitates art, eh?
For every successful joke though, there is one that didn’t go over so well or downright tanked.
In one of the earliest cases, English author Jonathan Swift, under a false name, claimed in 1708 that celebrity astrologist John Partridge had died of fever.
On April 1, the very much alive Partridge opened his door to find an undertaker waiting to prepare his corpse for the funeral!
While being told that you are actually dead is, at most, an inconvenience, there are other pranks that can prove more harmful.
In 1980, a TV news producer in Boston announced a volcanic eruption in progress just outside of town. He used footage of actual eruptions to fool the audience.
Although there was a card which read “April Fool” at the end of the news segment, many people had already fled their homes and were calling the emergency services.
The fiasco resulted in the producer being fired for violating broadcasting rules and being a public nuisance.
A similar incident took place in Jordan in 2010, when a newspaper reported that an alien spacecraft had landed outside the town of Jafr.
People took the news at face value and the newspaper was forced to apologise after schools were closed and the mayor almost ordered a full-scale evacuation.
Even big global corporations are not immune to making missteps on April Fools’ Day, with Google discovering this in 2016.
In that year, they included an April Fools’ feature called the “Mic Drop” which allowed users to insert a GIF of a Minion from “Despicable Me” at the end of an e-mail.
If you used that feature, you would not be able to receive any further replies, to symbolise how you have dropped the microphone and ended the conversation.
While (possibly) hilarious on paper, it was not all that funny in practice as the Mic Drop feature was next to the send button. No prizes for what happened next.
Online users complained that they accidentally sent the GIF in the worst possible situations, including job interviews and personal tragedies.
To their credit, Google did away with the feature quickly and admitted that “we pranked ourselves this year.”
One incident in 2001 did show that while April Fools’ jokes can go wrong, one can still get the best out of these mishaps.
That year, Hooters waitress Jodee Berry participated in and won a company competition which offered a Toyota as the grand prize.
As her reward, she received a Yoda doll from “Star Wars” (Get it? A “toy Yoda”. Ugh.) She was not amused and sued the company, eventually receiving an undisclosed sum as a settlement.
That’s an expensive joke right there, so make sure not to repeat the same mistake this year. Happy pranking.