To Fool or Not to (April) Fool?

Photo by Nito/Fotolia

April is a fine month in which to be fooled, but not necessarily the best.

In Minnesota, the most desperate need for laughter comes in the wintertime. Comedy venues all across our frosty landscape begin to fill when the mercury drops. Any jackass can make you smile while you’re sitting lakeside at the cabin, drinking in Summer Shandy and sunshine. In the dark days of winter, you need professional help.

As a standup comedian, yutzing around is my year-round occupation. My observance of April Fools’ Day is more than secular. It absolutely should be elevated above its third-tier holiday status among the calendar’s shabby also-rans like Columbus and Arbor Day.

Maybe the reason April Fools’ Day isn’t more popular is the old real-estate cliché: location, location, location. I thought about moving it to another month, but then I realized it wasn’t that simple. 

January Fools’ doesn’t cut it. We just resolved to be better people, people who bench-press kale bales at the gym and who only take the drugs prescribed to them, for their prescribed reasons. Who wants to joke around then?

February Fools’ is out, for obvious reasons—too many possibilities for heartbreaking crossover with Valentine’s Day.

March Fools’ makes better sense. It’s a grim month, and already boasts a holiday associated with one of the world’s most famous practical jokes—Brutus’s pranking of Caesar on the Ides of March, which goes down as one of history’s all-time great goofs. The sheer planning alone is inspiring: involving such a large group of his friends, all of whom had to remember to keep the secret, to show up on time, to remember to bring their own knives. Anyone who’s coordinated a surprise party knows how difficult this must have been to pull off. 

Which reminds me: A good prank is essentially the surprise party’s sinister twin. It’s an act of love, expressed in the vernacular of spite. Contained within the infuriating punch line is the implicit assurance we all long to hear: I’ve been thinking about you.

Among my closest friends, petty sabotage is the lingua franca of fraternal affection. A years-long prank war between two high school chums nearly reached a new zenith when one of the parties (now a multi-degreed virologist) asked for my advice: Is giving Jon malaria funny enough to justify actually giving Jon malaria? This same poor Jon (now an award-winning poet) is a heavy sleeper we once took camping, only to silently pack up everything in the night and drive away so that he awoke the next morning alone in a sleeping bag in the middle of the woods. 

We really love Jon. 

Speaking of celebrations, we were given the invented holiday of Festivus (including the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength) on a classic episode of Seinfeld. But in real life, Festivus (concocted by one of the show’s writers based on his own family tradition) didn’t take place in December—it was a floating holiday that could happen at any time.     

Perhaps we should take a cue when scheduling the next April Fools’ Day. Embrace the element of surprise. Nobody has their guard up for an April Fools’ prank in early September. The timing of it shows patience and planning. Don’t skimp on the details. Let someone you love know they were always on your mind.

Online Extra: Watch Miller perform his standup routines.