Friday, April 1, 2022

STORY TIME: How My Brilliant April Fool's Joke Went Horribly, Hilarious Wrong

I post here on Tuesdays and Fridays, so when I mentioned to John that this Friday was April Fool's day, his eyes lit up.

"You should tell the Cake Wrecks story," he said.

"What?" I asked, horrified. "Why?"

"It's funny!"

"It absolutely is not."

"Sure it is! Tell them how it was so good, we fooled everyone."

"Yeah, and they hated us for it."

"Well, yes, but you can say it's how an April Fool's joke goes hilariously, horribly wrong."

"It's 'horribly, hilariously wrong' and you've been running this website for almost 15 years. I feel like you should know the tagline."

"TELL THE STORY."

"MEH."

:: 2 hours later::


Me, in front of the computer:



We've spent six years pretending this didn't happen, but sure.


We'd never attempted a real April Fool's joke before on Cake Wrecks, because people had a hard enough time believing most of the wrecks weren't pranks. Instead I usually featured illusion food for April 1st, like grilled cheese sandwiches that were really toasted pound cake:



Or "cakes" made of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.


Those were fine, but a bit boring after a few years. I wanted to try something new.

If you're a looooong time reader of Cake Wrecks, then you know I have an occasionally wicked sense of humor. So for some reason back in 2016 - probably spurred on by ThinkGeek's always amazing fake product debuts, RIP -  I decided to rock the metaphorical boat. I wanted to legitimately fool people, in a funny, "gotcha!" sort of way.

Then I got an idea. An awful idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea.




Chuckling to myself, I wrote a blog post that looked like a sponsored guest post from a Wilton sales rep. (Wilton is a famous brand of cake decorating tools.) It was full-on parody: badly written segues, suggested products crammed in at every turn, the whole kit n' caboodle. I even ended the post by asking readers to welcome our "new site sponsor." (Ooooooh yeeeeah SO EVIL)

Back then "guest posts" - aka not-so-glorified ads - were wildly popular on blogs, but I took pride in never allowing any sponsored content whatsoever. My readers knew this, so I figured when they saw me do a sudden 180 and post the equivalent of a late night infomercial, they'd know it was a joke.

::cue the ominous foreshadowing music::

But we can't have them guessing it's a prank so easily, right?

Right?

::Nervous laughter from the future knowing this is a disaster in the making::

So in order to really fool the readers, I took it a step further. I sprinkled real Wilton product links all through the post. Yep, I wrote a legit Wilton sponsored post, minus the sponsored part. I gave Wilton a free full-page ad, because I knew the wreckies would find this hee-larious. HEE-LARIOUS, I say.



I hear ya, Nathan Fillion. If only 2016 Jen had.


My giddy excitement for our big April Fool's prank lasted all of 5 minutes, because the response was immediate and visceral. Apparently I'd done my job too well; irate comments, e-mails, unfollows... we had 'em all in spades. I think I'm still the only blogger to ever advertise for a big company and lose money. Some sweet souls did congratulate me on landing a big sponsor (heh), but many MANY more did a whole lot of yelling, and flounced.

Isn't it surreal to look back on your life and remember what used to be so important? At the time I was devastated that readers could think so poorly of me, so quickly. Now I'm impressed any of them stayed. You just can't assume folks will give you the benefit of the doubt online - and no one likes to be fooled. Or, apparently, sold amateur cake decorating tools.

 As mistakes go that was a fairly minor one in the long run, but it did go a long way in teaching me you can never be careless with your character online. Not even as a joke.

It also taught me you don't mess with people on April Fool's. Or ever. Just... stop that.

In fact I think it's safe to say the only acceptable April Fool's joke is a grilled cheese sandwich that's really cake... for someone who wants cake.

(For the record, I always want cake.)

So happy April 1st, my crunchy, cheesey sandwich melts! I hope you have a fantabulous weekend, and John, lookie, I TOLD THE STORY.
 
So... grilled cheese?



P.S. Since I know you're curious, here's the infamous 2016 post. You'll notice all the product links have been changed (you're welcome for the ear worm) as part of that day's early-morning damage control. The comment section has also been thoroughly sanitized -  I assume John's doing, after the fact - so you'll only see references to the backlash, but none of the angry remarks themselves. 

YOUR TURN: Tell me your own April Fool's stories! The good, the bad, the cautionary tales - I want to hear it all. I'm also up for reminiscing about ThinkGeek, because dang I miss them, especially today. Alas, poor unicorn in a can, gone too soon.


*****


P.P.S. Oh yay, let's end on a high note with last month's Squeegineer winners! Woot woot! Congratulations to Sarah B., Jenny B., & Maggie B., who I'm assuming are no relation. Please check your inboxes for a message from John, you three, so you can choose your prizes.

I haven't added them to the prize board yet, but you winners can also choose my trio of giant velvet mushrooms for your prize. I'm keeping the duplicate teal one for the Wonderland room, but these three are up for grabs as a set:


If you missed entering the give-away this month, don't worry; you can enter for April now! It's free and easy to do by e-mail, details here.

34 comments:

  1. Oh, man, I miss ThinkGeek so much. April Fools just isn't the same without them around. My favorite prank was their Tauntaun sleeping bag, that became an actual thing.

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  2. Oh man, maybe everyone needs a phone alert on April 1 reminding them to be prepared for joke articles and such. I remember that post and I still think it's hilarious. Well done (just sorry about the backlash).

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  3. I mean I thought that was pretty funny and I was surprised so many people didn't realise it was a joke. Y'know since you never did any sponsored posts, maybe many people had just woken up and forgotten what day it was.

    I'm not very good at pranks, I actually have one of ThinkGeek's little sound box things that calls for help and makes creepy laughing sounds. I've never remembered to use it xD

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  4. Reminds me of the time back in 1989 the Seattle sketch comedy tv show 'Almost Live' had a prank special news report on April Fools' during the broadcast saying the Space Needle had collapsed. People thought the Space Needle actually collapsed because the "footage" of the aftermath looked real. People didn't get that it was a prank even with the caption April Fools' Day on the special report video. Police and city officials were not happy with the prank and it made national headlines.

    https://www.king5.com/article/features/the-april-fools-day-prank-that-sent-seattle-into-a-panic/281-114304789

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  5. This wasn't mine, but I was living in San Diego the year that a local rock station convinced listeners that the space shuttle was landing at the local small plane airport due to some issues with the weather in Florida. Encouraged people to go get a look. And boy oh boy did people go to look. Now the best part is that San Diego is the home to Miramar Naval Air Station. And yet people still flocked on April 1st to the local small plane airport to see the shuttle. I did not fall for it, but immensely enjoyed the scale of this prank. https://youtu.be/OaMVn_w9Gkc

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  6. I remember that post and didn’t understand the backlash! I thought it was a really clever joke and Wilton probably still owes you money!

    My sister’s daycare staff in the combo therapy office/daycare she runs pranked her today, but it didn’t go well. They all called out sick from inside the office - like drove to work, clocked in, started preparing for the day, and then one by one called my sister to tell her they weren’t going to be there, which was pretty hilarious of them, except my sister was actually taking a sick day so she wasn’t there to see that they were in. By the time they let her in on the joke, she’d started driving in and had pulled in her therapists to act as backup, which meant that at least a couple of actual customer appointments got canceled. There’s going to be a conversation…

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  7. I'm terrified that I'm going to find out tomorrow that scientists locating the most distant star and naming it after a Tolkien character is an April Fool's joke, because, dammit, I want it to be TRUE!

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    1. Considering I've been seeing stuff on that for over a week, I'm pretty sure that is legit.

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  8. I have a "Wizard of Oz" blog. One year, on April 1, I told the world…well, maybe I should just let this anniversary posting tell the tale. It's at https://blogofoz.blogspot.com/2017/04/why-i-dont-do-april-fools-on-this-blog.html.

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  9. My oldest offspring thought it would be hilarious to put a rubber band on the sink sprayer so anyone turning the water on would get wet. Unfortunately, that was me. When I got a face full of water, I screamed and flailed, and my glasses flew across the room and broke. The frames were not repairable, and *of course* the lenses didn’t fit any of the available frames, and *of course* it’s a complicated and expensive prescription. Kiddo’s joke cost us hundreds of dollars.

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  10. One of my friends broke her leg on April Fools's Day when we were in 5th grade. When her mom told her dad (he wasn't there at the time), he refused to believe it at first because of April Fool's.

    Also my mom once did a mean "I found your pet that went missing months ago!" when I was a kid as an April Fool's joke.

    After those experiences, I am not much of a fan.

    I do, however, enjoy a good pun. I thought about doing something involving a leek, as in, the vegetable, and making my boss think there was a leak. It's a good thing I decided not to, because we've had a lot of rain the last few days and the joke is on me, the ceiling in my office was really leaking this morning!!

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  11. Now I want to know if you've seen the show "Is It Cake?" on Netflix.

    (this is a legitimate show - and pretty cute too and up your alley)

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  12. When my kids were 3 or 4, I spent all day telling them we were having dessert first for dinner. They were not pleased because preschoolers want things the way they want them. Then I made them meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting. And then I made fish sticks from wafer cookies rolled in peanut butter and crushed cornflakes and starburst rolled into peas. They hated ‘dessert’ and were even angrier when dessert wasn’t dessert. There were screams and tears. It was ugly.

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  13. I was so baffled by the reactions. Personally, I don't mind an occasional ad that pays people for creating content I enjoy. (Especially content I don't have to pay for.)

    ThinkGeek's April fools ad were delightful. It was so fun guessing which would actually be made. Funny story, one time I won a giveaway from them. But the email alerting me of my win was super casual and just didn't look official at all, so I reported it to them, thinking it was a phishing scam since it told me to log in to my account from their link and confirm my personal info.

    They let me know it was real, but that the three other winners all reported it as fake, too.

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  14. I have two fantastic "April Fool's" ...
    one was when my now husband and I were dating, and I told him I cut my hair. it gutted him. (it's your hair / your body, but I love your hair, why??) it really sold the joke that by happenstance, I had an actual hair appointment that day. he was super relieved to see I had only gotten a trim, but spent several hours lamenting my lost hair. (this was also pre-cell phone, so no selfies to show the "damage" 😂)

    my second joke is one the husband played on his mom. a few years into our marriage, he called and told her we were divorcing (just celebrated 22 years!)
    she *railed* at him, telling him he'd better do whatever it took to get me back, because I was the best thing to happen to him in his life.

    no hair or marriages were harmed in the making of these jokes. ☺️

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  15. Most of my April fools memories are around doughnuts. Like dipping some in baking soda to look like powdered sugar. Or the box of normal doughnuts conspicuously marked “not poisoned.”

    I can imagine how stressful the backfiring was six years ago on cake wrecks. But on the flip side, that same sense of humor had built an amazing community and safe place online for us ‘bots. So thanks and hugs for sticking out the rough stuff to get to the great stuff!

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  16. I was a teenager, working the night shift with my then boyfriend, now husband, we got off work around the same time his dad (future father in law) got up to leave for work. He always drank a soda before work, and we decided to dye his mouth green with some food coloring added to the soda. Being dumb teenagers, we had no clue how much food coloring to use, so we squeezed the whole little tear drop food coloring container, you know the ones... Into his drink. He came home sick from pooping green all of the sudden, and almost went to the emergency room thinking there was something wrong. He didn't taste the dye, and had no clue why he was suddenly so sick. And, it didn't even dye his mouth. I never pranked him again.

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  17. I'm an admin on a textile art site where we spend a lot of time debating if an item is art, or just craft (both can be incredibly well (or poorly) executed, but only art makes it onto the site. The site owner often says that if it has an art statement then it's art. So a few years ago I gathered a collection of teacosies, embroidered placemats (iron on pattern of course), handtowel with a crocheted hanger, etc. I then produced an "art wank" statement for each and enlited friends and fake profiles to post them on the site. Some members saw through the Sloof Lirpa persona, and laughed away at the others getting all het up that their 'craft' hadn't been allowed and yet this stuff had got through. And the owner almost had a meltdown that her admin had let all this stuff through and she alone was trying to delete them and deal with the reported posts, even though the admin were sitting there commenting on the DATE for an hour before it finally dawned on her ;) I don't have a good poker face, so online is the ony sort of prank I could pull off.

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  18. I've used the positive-pregnancy-test-prank multiple times. It was especially funny the year I was ACTUALLY pregnant and everyone was "Yeah, but no, you've tried to pull this prank before". It was the perfect pregnancy announcement

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  19. One year in elementary school, pre-4th grade, my mom decided to play a little April fool's prank on me. I *always* had a packed lunch, and that day took my lunchbox as usual. I didn't realize it was empty until I was sitting at the lunch table. Panic. Tears. In desperation, I finally opened my little thermos and found the note and money my mom had hid a little too well for my anxious little mind, put there in order to buy "hot lunch," meant as a treat. I appreciate the humor of the prank, and view my panicky little self with sympathy and also humor as I'm now a parent myself. It reminds me that, as parents, we *will* traumatize our kids, the goal is just not to do it intentionally. 😆

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  20. My husband, back when he was my fiancé, got cold feet before we got married, but after invites were sent. Twice. The third time, I told him I wasn't playing anymore, he could tell me when he was ready, and he could pick the date and plan the wedding. We had a pirate wedding...on April 1st. Yes, I had to reassure everyone the date was real. No, I wasn't thrilled to tell my folks when we were getting married. Fifteen years later, the joke's on him. Our anniversary coincides with my company's fiscal year, so I can never get the 1st of April off. Neither can he...he works for the same company.

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  21. I have two that I'm particularly proud of.

    Once, my family (2 sibs and 2 parents) were on a spring vacation when April Fool's rolled around. The kids had one hotel room and the parents had the other. The morning of April Fool's, us kids got up early, reset our room back to housekeeping clean, and then hid within the room. Our parents came in to get us and nearly had a heart attack. We let dangle for the longest fifteen seconds of their lives, then burst out of our hiding places. Luckily, they thought it was all hilarious.

    The second requires slight backstory. My mother had me, the eldest sibling, quite young and her parents never really approved of my equally-young dad. I was very familiar with the story of how they'd told her parents she was pregnant, and how upset my grandparents had gotten. So when I was sixteen, my boyfriend and I decided to replicate this scene. My parents were sitting at the kitchen table when I sat down and my boyfriend stood behind me, one hand on my shoulder. I looked them dead in the eyes and said, "We're pregnant." The dead horror that glazed both of their faces is a look I will always treasure. Then we busted up laughing and they visibly slumped in relief. I don't think they've ever quite forgiven me for that one!

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  22. You asked for the bad, and my family has a horrendous one. My cousin committed suicide on April 1st. He was a big fan of jokes and comedy and I have to think that was not a coincidence. Now everyone else's corny jokes on that day are extra irritating to me.

    I've never talked about this online, feels kind of good to get it out.Feel free to delete if it's too dark.

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    1. Oh my goodness, adding my hugs as well. I'm glad you shared, both because it made you feel a tiny bit better and to remind the rest of us to be extra kind.

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  23. My family didn't do April Fool's Day because Mom thought too many people did mean pranks, she she doesn't want her kids being mean. However... That has led us to this year: Dad, little sister Purple, and I were going to the grocery store, listening to music on youtube in the car. We rickrolled Purple. :D

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  24. My 4th grade teacher prided herself on never being fooled by April Fool's Day pranks. She was was retiring at the end of the school year and moving to Phoenix so I told her my dad was being transferred to Phoenix so we were moving too. Totally got her. Each day after lunch, she read a book out loud to the class and as "punishment" I was the one that had to read that day. She didn't know that reading out loud without being able to practice first is a HUGE stressor for me so it actually was a punishment. Have never pulled another prank since.

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  25. My husband drinks iced tea with dinner every night, so my daughter and I spent YEARS messing with it for april fools. Added gelatin to make it solid. made it unsweetened. added salt. replaced it with beef broth. etc. we ran out of new ideas about the same time he started getting wise, so now i just fill the yard with flamingos

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  26. I'm a government attorney. I usually call a few clients and tell them we've been served with some horrible lawsuit. I only torture them for about ten seconds though. One April Fool's day fell on our county commissioners' meeting day. I attend all their meetings. On that day though, I whipped out a Magic 8 Ball the second I got my first question. They thought that was pretty funny.

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  27. I once made the mistake of pranking my Dad on April Fool's when I was in college by telling him I was pregnant. I thought I was going to get in trouble, because my parents have made it so clear to me how important getting a good education and a degree were, which should be followed by marriage, THEN children (my family are immigrants and rather traditional). I told him while I was still in college & with a long-term boyfriend (not married yet). Well, instead of it being the prank that I thought it would be, my Dad started crying in joy that he was going to be a Grandpa. I felt soooo bad!! I learned my lesson not to play that kind of prank again.

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  28. I just remembered my only good April Fool's joke. I was in sixth grade and our entire class agreed to hide when recess was over (this was still elementary school where I lived).

    Our school had two big hills, so we all went to the top of the second hill and lay on our bellies to be out of sight. After a good amount of time (probably 10 or so minutes) our principal came marching up the hill. We jumped out and shouted "April Fool's" but he was mad. He started lecturing and spouting off about truancy and making all of us call our parents. After a couple minutes of that he said, "And you know what else? April Fool's!"

    He had a great poker face, because we were all legitimately thinking we were in serious trouble! Our teacher told us back in the classroom that as she was outside looking for us she had spotted one girl's big pink bow up on the hill. We all gave that girl a hard time, but as an adult I'm glad we were easily spotted, because how sickening those moments must have felt to our teacher when she had no idea where we were.

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  29. The day I got into my car to go to work and my favorite pop station (long before there was SiriusXM or even thumb drives of music could be played in your car) had switched to country! Same DJ's and call letters (which should have been my first hint) but country! OMG! I was so pissed! When I finished work and was going home and it was back to their regular style of music I finally realized it was a AF joke.

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  30. I work in morning radio, and had been on a show for a couple of years after taking over for a host named Monica. She'd been on the air a long time and was beloved. I got asked ALL THE TIME for about 2.5 years at public events if I was filling in for her, when would she be back from break, etc. Almost all good naturedly! I though it was a funny situation. So I planned this huge April Fool's Day trick with her. She came back on the show, but used my name. We figured out all the bits for the day and had her respond like me. She talked about my hometown that I mention a lot, my family members, opinions about things we talked about a lot, etc. I thought it went really well and was funny and subtle and worked really well. . . Until the emails and FB comments came rolling in. We got a bunch of responses that were like, "I could tell it wasn't Emily because she wasn't interrupting anyone," "Who took over for Emily? They weren't nearly as annoying as she is. Maybe you should hire them as the new cohost," and "Oh, I cried tears of happiness to hear Monica back on the air! Thank goodness we don't have to listen to Emily before work any more." OOF. I cried, but my boss/cohost reminded me we had really strong ratings, that people mostly FB comment to say shitty things, and that we also got lots of compliments on the AFD trick. Still, though, I haven't done an April Fool's prank since then.

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