Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pranks

A good prank can be appreciated by those involved and
those who hear of the exploit. Doesn't always cost a dollar,
either.
As I learn more about stories, by writing and actively listening, I'm discovering things I should have been paying attention to all along. Like most of the populace, I read what I enjoyed and talked about those tales with friends. Comics, science fiction, mythology... all kinds of stories. I grew up in a family where my grandfather regaled us with a hundred stories of his childhood and his youth. I never paid attention to how he structured his stories or why they worked. Fortunately he wrote dozens of them down and I have them to study in that way.

But Gran'pa wasn't the only storyteller in my everyday life. I was surrounded by them, as are you. Everyone who has some sort of experience shares it with others. As the internet has grown more and more of us are exposed to storytellers from across the world but we've all heard stories. Some of the best comedians EVER were the best storytellers, right? Bill Cosby's early work (pre-1980 or so) is what I use as my touchstone there. (Go Carts is one of the best of the best of the best, sir!)

Gran'pa didn't always try to make us laugh but more often than not he did. My friends, (the guys I hung out with, played in bands with, made comics to share with, etc...) (I need to stop using the ellipses...) could all tell stories, too. They just didn't have as many as Gran'pa or the comedians we all loved.

And neither did I.

I would entertain friends by parroting Bill Cosby or a Monty Python sketch. I could do some voices and I had a talent for emulating a performer's timing. (Robin Williams' first record was played over and over and over when I was a teenager.) However, I didn't have the gift of timing for things I made up myself. That's taken a long time to develop.

But it started when we related tales of exploits, particularly pranks.

Now I don't condone anything that hurts anyone in any way, physically or emotionally, but a good prank is a good prank and everyone should be able to chortle about it afterwards. Like when a Snickers bar is opened and thrown into a pool. Yes, it looks like a turd and people will panic a little. Even in the days when swimming pools are closed because certain swimmers don't know how to keep themselves clean, this could still be fun. The only time I experienced it was when I was a teenager and it was funny then. (No, it wasn't me who did it.)

Another prank I'm aware of is a group of guys being bored one night (and apparently sober) and visiting one of the old neighborhoods. It was late and the block was quiet and everyone had some kind of plant on their porch. These guys thought it would be funny if they would take the planters and swap them one for the other from house to house. When they were done, they were very proud of themselves and visited the block - by driving through - every day for a week. It took that long for all the planters to find their ways home. It was the work of a couple of hours that lasted that long that caused them to tell the story over and over. (No, I won't tell you who it was or if I was involved.)

The best prank I ever played was on my brother. (He won't mind if I tell you. He's over it now, nearly 25 years later.) I had been out in the yard all day doing whatever and I was terribly sweaty. I got my shower first that night and while my brother was cleaning up I took my dirty, smelly, WET socks and stuffed them flat into the top of his pillow case. About an hour later we went to bed and because I knew him that well, he hit the pillow face first.

I had locked the door to my room and he came out screaming and pounded on the door until my parents came up to see what was wrong. I heard them laugh when he told them what I'd done. He was mad for years about that and I checked my pillowcase every night until I moved out of the house.

These stories are the ones that capture a moment in time and deserve a great deal of attention. They can almost always be turned into something later on. Once a friend and I told an elaborate story (that took nearly ten minutes to tell) that begged the listener to ask the question "what was in the bag?".

The answer was "Bullshit. The same as the rest of the story." I'm sure that a couple of folks who heard that story found someone else to pull it on. That's the mark of success isn't it?

So, what are the best pranks you've ever pulled? I don't want to know about anything that humiliated someone or hurt anyone physically. Just something funny. If it backfired, let me know that, too.