The actually funny April Fool’s Day jokes are the ones where no one is harmed and everyone recognizes it’s a joke from the start. Google’s pranks are a great example of this, though this year’s is admittedly not up to their usual standards. But as publications like The Onion demonstrate, you don’t actually need a special day for those sorts of pranks.
Whereas the other kind of prank consists of setting traps so you can laugh at people for being inconvenienced, mildly injured, or less knowledgeable and powerful than you. Like teasing, this kind of behavior can be fine between friends who are on an equal footing and know everyone involved can handle it… but like teasing, there’s also immense pressure on everyone in such a group to pretend they can handle it. Outside such a circle, it’s pure bullying, and the fact that we have a holiday to celebrate that behavior tells you everything you need to know about what’s wrong with our culture.
And of course I’m going to be accused of being humorless or taking myself too seriously, because part of the “holiday” is that you’re not allowed to opt out. Just like the friend who is genuinely hurt by “friendly teasing” but can’t say so for fear of increased teasing or rejection, there is nothing you can do to say “Please don’t prank me today, I’m not up for it” because any such signal will be taken as an invitation for the most aggressive and vicious sort of pranks.
Of course it would be a different matter if people punched up instead of kicking down. Employees pranking their boss? Random citizens pranking their over-militarized local cops? Pretty much anyone pranking a CEO or a Congresscritter? Children pranking their parents? Hilarious.
But that’s not what happens today. Mostly it’s tricking people so you can feel big laughing at them for trusting you, confusing people so you can feel big laughing at them for being confused, interfering with people’s routines so you can feel big laughing at them for having routines. And people pull pranks on you, and maybe you laugh at them, and maybe you find them going to far–but you don’t dare admit to the latter, meaning you have no idea which of the people you pranked think you went too far.
It’s barbaric, cruel, and not funny. Let’s have a day devoted to satire instead.