Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How to write a good April Fools’ Day joke

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Firebox's Katie Hopkins Talking Head April Fools Day joke

So today is April Fools’ Day, or ‘Internet Jackass Day’ as some like to call it. Various news web sites will try hard to write something faintly believable in order to fool some of their more gullible readers.

Firebox has, as usual, launched some intriguing new products, as has ThinkGeek. There’s the Pokemon mini-game in Google Maps on iOS and Android. There’s the usual silly article from The Guardian, and CERN has decided to use Comic Sans on its web site.

I’m not doing an April Fool this year, mainly because I don’t think I can top my 2010 effort, where I announced I was standing in the upcoming general election. Impressively, some more distance friends actually fell for it – mainly because they didn’t get on to the really silly campaign promises towards the end. Because it had an air of believability about it – I’ve run for student union positions before, and the timing was right – it made for a good April Fool, if I may say so myself.

Whilst it’s a bit late now, my advice for writing a good April Fools’ Day joke is to spend some time reading The Onion. They are the professionals when it comes to satire, to the extent that sites like Literally Unbelievable exist to poke fun at those who fall for their stories.

The jokes work best when they’re timely – relating to a current event or issue – and could actually fool some people. Avoid the usual clich├ęs of announcing a closure or an unlikely merger as they have been done to death in the past.

Finally, don’t do what Google did and announce an actual product on April Fools’ Day. Ten years ago today, Google announced Gmail, with one gigabyte of storage – 500 times more than what Hotmail offered at the time. As such, some people – including myself – initially thought that Gmail was another April Fools’ Day gag (a whole gigabyte of storage? Nah!). It wasn’t, and now Gmail has had its tenth birthday today.

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