Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Move Over, David Letterman

According to the Museum of Hoaxes, by way of MSN, here are the Top 10 April Fool’s jokes of all time

10. Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In April 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 a.m. a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event would occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and reduce the Earth's gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 a.m. arrived, BBC2 received hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her 11 friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

9. Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
The April 1995 issue of Discover magazine announced that wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. They had heads with bony plates that became burning hot due to overactive blood vessels. These creatures could bore through ice at high speeds and hunt penguins by melting ice and causing them to sink into the slush and the hotheads' mouths. Dr. Pazzo also credited the hotheads with the 1837 disappearance of Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," she was quoted as saying. Discover received more mail about this article than any other in their history. It was, of course, a joke. And "Pazzo" is Italian for "crazy.”

8. The Left-Handed Whopper
In April 1998, Burger King published a full-page advertisement in USA Today that introduced a new menu item: a left-handed Whopper, designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the ad, the new Whopper had the same ingredients as the original (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a press release that said the left-handed Whopper was a hoax, and that thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. At the same time, the release stated, "many others requested their own 'right-handed' version."

7. Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
An article in the April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason said that the Alabama state legislature voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the "biblical value" of 3.0. Before long, the article was being e-mailed around the world. The extent of the news leakage became apparent when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, and written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.

6. Nixon for President
In April 1992, National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for president again. His new campaign slogan was: "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded to the announcement by flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. In the second half of the show host John Hockenberry finally admitted the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

5. The San Serriffe Islands
In April 1977 the British newspaper the Guardian published a special supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean. The articles described it as several semi-colon-shaped islands, with two main islands named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse and a capital, Bodoni. The country's leader was Gen. Pica. The Guardian was soon fielding calls from readers seeking more information about this holiday spot. Few people noticed that the entire San Serriffe republic was named after printing terminology. The success of this hoax is credited with launching Britain's enthusiasm for April Foolery, which has filled the nation's tabloids ever since.

4. The Taco Liberty Bell
In April 1996 the Taco Bell Corp. announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and had renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called Philadelphia's National Historic Park to express their anger. Their nerves were calmed when Taco Bell revealed it was all a practical joke. However, the best line of the day came from White House press secretary Mike McCurry, who, when asked about the sale, announced that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. McCurry said it would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

3. Instant Color TV
In April 1962 Sweden had only one TV channel, and it broadcast in black and white. The station's technical expert, Kjell Stensson, appeared on the news to announce that, thanks to a new technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception. All they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over their TV screen. Stensson proceeded to demonstrate the process and thousands of people were fooled. Eventually, Sweden did get regular color broadcasts, but not until April 1, 1970.

2. Sidd Finch
The April 1985 edition of Sports Illustrated published a story about the Mets' new rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch. He could reportedly throw a baseball with pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone else). Surprisingly, Finch had never played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans everywhere celebrated their team's amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. But in reality: This legendary player existed only in the imagination of the article's writer, George Plimpton.

And the #1 April Fool’s Hoax of all time is:

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In April 1957 the BBC TV news show "Panorama" announced that, thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. The report showed footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti from trees. Huge numbers of viewers called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. The BBC diplomatically replied: "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

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