April Fool’s Day Telephone Pranks

A classic April Fools’ Day prank uses names, matched with the right phone numbers, to fool its unsuspecting victims.

To execute this prank, you’ll need a pad of post-its, ideally one with WHILE YOU WERE OUT printed at the top. If your handwriting is already known as that of the office prankster, you’ll need a real-live buddy to help out come April Fools’ Day.

Your victim will find a note on the computer monitor, or message spike, reading something like: CALL MR. BYRD (phone number) RE PROJECT. Throw in the name of an actual project, or add something to make it look legit.

They’ll think: it might be a joke, but what if it isn’t? Better call back.

After calling the number, they’ll hear: Good afternoon, Acme Pet Center, how may I help you?

Mr. Byrd . . .

They’ll know they’ve been pranked.

If they’re absent-minded enough to ask for Mr. Byrd, the responder will come back with “uhh, no one here by that name, sorry” (allowing you to prank two people at once) or gently remind your victim what day it is.

Other names that have worked are Kitty Gray (the pet shop), Mr. Lyon (the zoo), Mr. Wolfe (the nature preserve), or Mrs. Rose (the flower shop). Like in the Twilight Zone, the only boundary is your imagination.

An occupational hazard of practical joking is sometimes never getting to see your pranks pay off in person. The reward, delivered after the fact, is none the less sweet. For days after the Mr. Byrd incident, each time the phone rang, someone in the office would suggest that maybe Mr. Byrd was calling, someone would giggle, and someone would give me that look and conspiratorial smile that said: I know what you did . . .

But why shouldn’t you write yourself into the script?

You’ve seen the Jerky Boys movies, and have all the prank phone call sites bookmarked. You know about asking for John Wall, Mary Wall, are there any Walls there, then what holds up the ceiling? It’s been years since you asked anyone if their clocks were running, and why they weren’t running after them. You’re past all that. Use your imagination. (Think!)

Then, on April 1, spring into action. You, the phone book, and the number of a certain local auto dealership:

Hello? Has Mr. Ford arrived? (Being non-existent, he hasn’t.) Well, this is Mr. Bimbleman from the Chevy Zone Office in (name of town in which your regional office is located, that you’ve unearthed during pre-prank preparation). Mr. Ford has an appointment with (name of actual salesman at the Chevrolet dealership you’re calling; of course you’ve done your homework) and is running a little late. He left word that, if he didn’t arrive by closing time, he can be reached at . . . Then give the 1-800 phone number you found during PPP. Let someone else call Toyota customer service and ask for Mr. Ford. If you sell the story, phone answerers, being an obedient sort, will follow through.

Who else can you think of?

Consider the librarians who give you that clenched-teeth smile while they explain that the computers are down (again!); that no, the copy machines only take dollar bills, no coins; that no, we don’t have guest passcards, if you left your library card at home, you’ll have to register for a new one. (Two dollars, please!) Phone these guardians of everything petty, at a time of the day when you know they’ll be busy, and ask:

Hello? Is Ms. Turner there? That’s correct. Ms. Turner . . . yes, I’ll hold. (You wait.) Yes, hello? No one there by that name? Well, I’m positive this is the number she gave me to call. Turner. Yes. The public library. Paige Turner . . .

Gives you a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it? And it’s not even April.

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