While not an official holiday anywhere by any means, April Fools’ Day is nonetheless celebrated all over the world on the first day of April, and with the festivities come plenty of pranks. While we might not realize it, the pranks we pull, depending on their severity, can profoundly affect the people we love and may even wedge in those relationships. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen dive into April Fools’ Day pranks and where you should be drawing the line. The truth is, you do have to set some boundaries because while some April Fools’ pranks can be funny, may fall completely flat, and even have a tendency to be hurtful. Every time you’re formulating your next big prank, ask yourself how you’d feel if you were in the position of the prankee.
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The Pranks We Regret
April Fools’ For Better Or For Worse
Jason, have you ever been a fan or a participant in April Fool’s Day?
There’s been some work stuff in the past, like pranks at work years ago. I remember vaguely one time a boss of mine when I worked in the advertising industry, has sent out some email about us all getting raises or something, which is cruel. I blocked it out. It is nice when you work for someone who has that sense of humor, but it’s also a little bit cruel.
Have you ever played a good April Fool’s joke on someone?
Even as a kid?
No, not that I could recall.
Your example is a good one because it’s a very uncomfortable April Fool’s joke. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they fall completely flat and might be offensive. Sometimes they’re awkward because they’re not good.
It’s a crapshoot.
It’s interesting too because you’ve seen over the years companies try to capitalize on April Fool’s Day and come out with crazy things. I know Netflix has done a few. Maybe Apple, some brands have done good jobs and some have done lame jobs, let’s say best April Fools’ pranks. Can’t you think of any from being a kid?
No, I was never a prankster. That was never the way that I got my kicks. I wasn’t that type of kid.
Were you ever somebody that would put an insect on to make somebody think that there’s a giant spider, but it’s a rubber spider? When I pulled up the best April Fools’ pranks, that’s the first thing that came up and that sounds dumb. They are trying to think that there are some insects. A lot of them were lame. What bothers me about April Fools’ pranks is when they do stupid and lame stuff. I’m like, “Get creative.”
Can we talk about something that I’m curious about with all of this? What is it in the human psyche that feels the need to prank people? It’s psychologically torturing for our enjoyment. I use the word torture because I can’t think of a better word. I know that’s an extreme word, but it is what it is. “I’m going to intentionally manipulate, shock, surprise you with something or scare you because it’s going to give me pleasure.” That’s a strange thing to identify us as humans. When you think about it on a psychological level, why do we feel the need to do that?
It is interesting. I didn’t think about that. What is it? There’s something that we enjoy about watching people get scared or hurt themselves. America’s Funniest Home Videos, Jackass, and a lot of these successful television shows and memes, online accounts have been successful with torturing people. You and I also loved that one of that guy falling down the escalator.
You brought it up multiple times, but the reason that I think it was funny is because he wasn’t hurt.
That’s the point of all of these. As long as you don’t harm somebody, it can be funny. What about whoopee cushions?
I did that to my mom once.
Is that for April Fool’s Day?
No, in general.
How did she react?
I was young. I can’t remember it. She wasn’t laughing with me. She wasn’t angry. It was one of those things.
I pulled up this list and on BoredPanda.com. There are some pretty good ones. You might appreciate this one, Jason. One of them is called the Chewbacca Roar Contest, but I don’t understand how this is a prank. There’s a sign that says, “Chewbacca Roar Contest, Reward $50. Call this number and leave a voicemail with your best impersonation.” Maybe the prank is that the number you call is somebody who doesn’t know that this is happening and they’re getting a ton of phone calls. Can you imagine? That’s a good one.
I like clever pranks like that. The other one that I’ve appreciated and it’s getting old, but I’ve seen it go around at TikTok. It’s when somebody takes two phones and puts the speakers next to each other and then calls two separate numbers. Neither party understands what’s happening and they’re like, “Why did you call me?” The other person is like, “I didn’t call you. You called me.” The other is like, “No, I didn’t.” He just listened to their conversation, but the funniest examples of that are when they’ll call two pizza restaurants and it will be like, “Pizza Hut, may I take your order?” They’re like, “What would you order?” It goes on and on. They start to get annoyed with each other. Those can be funny.
That’s what I mean. It’s fascinating from an anthropological perspective. I would love to know the history of this. Certainly, we have been engaging in comedy, humor, drama and theater in human civilization for a long time, but this idea of pranking people or fooling people, I wonder what the etymology and the history of this is.
We are going to find out from one of the best sources because I found an article on History.com, which is a very reputable source of the mystery of April Fool’s Day. It’s also called All Fools’ Day. I feel like you would appreciate this word because you like to call people fool. You call me fool. You call your dog fool.
I’m trying to channel my inner Mr. T when I do that. My inspiration for that, FYI, anybody who knows me where I’m like, “Come on, fool.” I do it almost as a playful term of endearment.
I didn’t know, that’s why you said that so much.
That was one of Mr. T’s catchphrase, “I pity the fool.”
I know that, but I didn’t realize that that’s where that came from.
The etymology of my use of fool goes back to Mr. T.
Some historians speculate that the April Fool’s Day goes back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the New Year had moved to January 1st and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1st became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These pranks included having a paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as April Fish. It is said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.Some April Fools' pranks are funny, but others fall completely flat and are even offensive. Click To Tweet
It’s because someone didn’t get the memo that the calendar changed, they decided to publicly humiliate them. That is a fascinating origin like, “You didn’t get the memo that we changed to Gregorian, did you? John Luke, who’s the crap now?” He would say, “You didn’t get the memos that we changed to the Gregorian calendar. John Luke, who is the fool now?” That’s mean. I’m going to go out and say this. We are mean as a species. I remember growing up in school and being a kid, not all kids, but I remember having that thought as a kid, being teased and picked on by other kids like, “You are mean.”
It’s culturally acceptable to be mean too, which is interesting. We have this one day a year and then it also makes me think on a more extreme end, The Purge. Did we watch that movie together or separately?
I don’t know.
It seems like the movie you and I might have seen together.
Why did that come up to you in this context?
It’s similar because The Purge is based on this idea that one day a year, we get to murder people. It’s like we need one day a year to play all these pranks on people. We’re allowed to do that. We’re allowed to let our inner meanness. It’s very culturally acceptable. We also have these fictional extreme people. Is The Purge specifically about murder or is it you can do whatever you want and you’re not going to be punished for it? I thought that’s what the concept was. It wasn’t necessarily that you’ve got to kill people.
You can loot and break stuff, I don’t recall that part of the movie. I thought it was just killing people.
Who even came up with that idea?
It makes sense because the analogy you’re saying is we need an outlet. The idea in The Purge was if you let people unlock their deepest, most primal and violent urges, that it will quell those urges for the rest of the year.
I wonder if April Fool’s Day has gone on all this time. The historians have also linked it to festivals that were celebrated in ancient Rome or the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing unpredictable weather. It started to spread throughout Britain during the eighteenth century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event starting with something called hunting the gowk, in which people were sent on phony errands and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or kick me signs on them. This is fascinating. In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to celebrate April Fool’s Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and websites have participated in reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. What’s also interesting about April Fool’s is that some people look forward to being fooled. They’re hoping that somebody is going to fool them.
There are two things that I’ve noticed in the food industry. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but especially the past years is every year, there are outlets like VegNews and also other food companies that will say, “Beyond Meat is announcing what they would do whole roasted vegan pig.” Instead of packaged meat, you could buy a vegan. Something like that, that was outrageous but almost believable. That’s what I’m looking forward to in the food industry is they get creative with that stuff.
I pulled up an in-depth article from Vox.com. I thought it was going to be like a Buzzfeed list style, but it’s a traditionally formatted article on this website. You have to scan it a little bit. This must have been in 2019 when a company announced that they were going to be making cauliflower milk. That is pretty good. I like things like that because I remember seeing that and I believe in it. I was also not surprised whatsoever.
Not at all because cauliflower is a hot ingredient. I’m like, “You could milk cauliflower. Maybe they blended it with something. It’s plausible.” I was looking forward to it. I was like, “I would mess with cauliflower milk.”
You would like this one, Jason. The New York City Police Department engaged in prank day by announcing a new Feline Unit. Officer McFluff has, according to a tweet from the official Twitter account, already sniffed out an amazing drug bust. I wonder if there’s a picture that went along with that.
I bet it’s going to look a lot like my cat, Claudia, who’s very cloudy.
He looks a little bit more like Figaro. They dressed a cat up in a police uniform. It’s in this Vox article. It’s a whole list of all these great pranks.
You can tell that this episode, in particular, is probably our most serious one yet.
There’s even an interesting reference here to BMW, which started doing April Fool’s Day pranks in the 1980s, starting with the announcement of a rain-deflecting open-top car in a fake magazine ad in 1983. Fake new features and cars were announced every year that decade. Don’t you remember this, Jason? This seems like something that you would have been into.
No, so it was a convertible that you open the top.
It says, “The first open-top car to keep out the rain, even when it’s stationary.”
Through what, a force field?
I have no idea. That’s bizarre, but you can come on here and read about all of these interesting ways that brands tried to fool people or do funny things. I always like the clever ones. They gave examples of Google making fake products. I remember Netflix did that and they went through with it. It was a live stream with some actors and some comedians. This isn’t ringing a bell?
No, but I did remember a pretty awful prank I played on a friend of mine once.
It was in 2017, they added a new feature called Netflix Live and it featured 48 minutes of comedy actor Will Arnett providing commentary on tediously mundane footage, like a photocopier, a microwave, a toaster, two people thumb wrestling, a crossword puzzle and it was only him making random commentary. They went through with this. It wasn’t like, “This is what we’re going to do.” They did it. I like stuff like that. What was your story?
The BMW and the Netflix thing, that’s outside of the box. That’s creative. It takes effort to do that.
It doesn’t harm anyone. It’s not scary to anyone necessarily.
One can prank and one can do an April Fools without being cruel about it. However, speaking of kids being cruel, my best friend Sean and his two brothers, we did some crazy things to each other. I think Joe Rogan said it on his show once. He thinks that the most dangerous group of humans on the planet are teenage boys. I couldn’t agree more because if I had to select the most insensitive period of my life, it was when I was a young teenage boy. Testosterone’s flooding your bloodstream. You’re finally having sexual feelings. You’re wild and violent, but you’re not a kid, you’re not a teenager. Between the ages of probably twelve and fifteen was probably my wildest, most reckless teenage boy. I can identify with that. One of the things we would do is we would play pranks on each other, me, Sean and his brothers. One of the times, we were having breakfast at his house. He walked out of the room and I peed in his orange juice.
No, you didn’t. Did you pee in his drink?
Not enough for him to taste it. It is not enough for it to blend in so he could drink it. Afterward, we would tell him, “I peed in your orange juice.”
If your mom’s reading, she’s going to be like, “Jason.”
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about that publicly.
Do you remember what the mindset was? I remember going through those phases myself even, as a woman, we did these things too. Do you want to know one of my bad stories? It wasn’t an April Fool’s story, but it was one of those things where I’m like, “I can’t believe I did this.” I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this publicly either. It’s like, “What was I thinking?” There was this one boy that I think was annoying and also gullible. He had played a prank on me and my best friend at some point. I thought of another prank that was played on me too. It’s funny having a conversation and you start to remember all of these things. This first one is the really bad one. The second one is innocent, but I was like, “I can’t believe this person did this to me.” It’s part one and part two. Part one, this boy told me and my best friend, who lived across the street from me that he had bought us this cool device and we had pre-cell phones. I forget what it was called, but it allowed you to message each other. It was this Casio product. It could somehow, through Bluetooth or similar technology, message people if you were in the same room with them.
Was it texting them or voice memo?
Technically, it was texting them, but this is before we had cell phones. Maybe cell phones existed, but they weren’t nearly as available as they are. For us, it was this cool technology. It was called Casio Diary or something because it was a girly thing. My friend ended up getting one.
Is this some ‘80s or ‘90s stuff?
It was the ‘90s.
Is that what it’s called?
It wasn’t even coming up. Maybe it wasn’t Casio. It was this digital diary. It was pink and purple. If anybody else is curious, but maybe some people are reading it and they know what we’re talking about. It was like, “I’ve always loved technology.”
I already know what to get you for your birthday.
It might’ve been this one by Tiger called Dear Diary. It is a thing to have, but my parents wouldn’t buy those things for me. I don’t know how much it costs. It is probably $40 or $50, which felt like a lot when you’re young. This kid in school told me he was going to buy them for me and my friend and to go out to the mailbox. He’s like, “I put them in the mailbox.” He had this elaborate prank so I believed him. I went out there and there’s no diary.
He didn’t put anything in the mailbox? That’s what I would expect.
I remember we were probably chatting over AOL Instant Messenger back then. He was telling us or maybe we were doing a three-way phone call, me and my best friend and this kid, who’s trying to convince us he’s doing these things. He was pranking us and we pranked him after that, but that doesn’t justify what I did. One day, he came over to hang out with us after school and we had got it in our heads that we were going to cut the brakes on his bike. My friend ended up doing it. I can’t remember if this is our idea combined or one of our ideas. I hope it wasn’t my idea, but it could have been. She cut his brakes and he biked home without breaks and then realized that as he was biking home down a hill. His mom called us and was livid. I don’t remember what happened after that. He was okay. He didn’t get hurt, but it was one of those things wherein our heads we were like, “We’re going to get him back and it serves him right to prank us. We’ll prank him back.” He could have been seriously injured.
You cut his brake line.
It was one of those life lessons where you didn’t realize how bad something was. Sometimes, the consequences of your actions when you’re younger, you don’t realize. For you, it’s like peeing in somebody’s drink. That sounds horrible, but as a kid, you’re like, “This is acceptable.” Something in your head made you think it was acceptable. Something in our head thought like, “It’s not that big of a deal.” It’s a prank.
We’re talking about this that the brain doesn’t fully develop any human until age 25 or 27. The amygdala isn’t fully formed. This leads me to believe that perhaps because the brain isn’t fully developed yet, that kids at a certain age, lack empathy or they lack a sense of consequence. I think is true, which probably explains certainly my reckless behavior. Also, growing up without a father. My mom did a great job. No slam on my mom, but undeveloped brain plus testosterone plus hormones plus lack of consequence or empathy, that’s a dangerous formula if you think about it.
I don’t even know what my excuse was though. Both me and my friend came from loving families. We are well-educated. I don’t know where that idea came from to do something like that, but in some realm of consciousness in certain parts of our life, we think that some things are acceptable.
The idea of cutting someone’s brake lines on their car would be like, “What? Are you a psychopath?” At twelve, you’re like, “I cut the brake line. He didn’t get us the Dear Diary. Good luck down the hill, Billy. Enjoy the scabs.” That’s hardcore. When you think about it, Whitney, the person went down a hill all the way home.
Sometimes we laugh when we’re in disbelief and that’s how I’m feeling. I have to ask my friend about this. I could probably look him up too because I saw him at one of our school reunions. He’s alive and well, that’s for sure. A couple of other pranks came to my mind. One I got in big trouble for the same friend. We’re best friends and lived across the street from each other so we did a lot together. To this day, we’re heavily involved in each other’s lives. One time, her parents were out of town and they had a nanny staying at the house. I don’t remember how old we were, but we were probably in middle school. My friend’s older sister was in late teens. For some reason the nanny let this sister have a boy spend the night. She was super liberal and cool with a guy staying overnight. As preteens or young teenagers, my friend and I wanted to prank her sister and this guy that was staying the night by taking Crisco.
It is a solidified hydrogenated vegetable oil.
I don’t know what our reasoning was. I know for sure we lathered up the railing to the stairs so that when you’re walking down the stairs and you put your hand on the railing, you would be covered in Crisco.
Thankfully, you didn’t do the floor because then it would have been like a Scooby-Doo moment.
I have no idea why we did that and what our logic was, but we got in huge trouble with it.
That’s the thing, there’s no sense of consequence. Sometimes, the delayed consequence has a different psychological effect than an immediate consequence. In delayed consequence, there’s still the possibility that you might not get caught. As opposed to immediate consequence, as you’re doing this and we’re ping-ponging this. In this show, we never know the direction of an episode. We improvise every single episode in the sense that Whitney and I don’t have scripts. We don’t have prompts.
You don’t even know that this was the topic.
If you’re ever curious, we don’t know what we’re going to topically discuss with one another, Whitney and I, nor with the guests we have. An added layer of this, if you’re appreciating this show and sharing it, is that we are improvising each episode. Back to what I wanted to say as we’re ping-ponging, Whitney. I had a thought that when I was in high school, I got my license in junior year. I was one of the first people in school to drive for whatever my age was. I ended up driving people a lot, then my other friends started driving. One thing we used to do is we had, was it Saved By The Bell or 91210 that was the Peach Pit. Which one was the Peach Pit?
I think it was 91210 or Melrose Place. It wasn’t Saved By The Bell.
We had a place that was called The Mad Hatter Cafe in Detroit. It was technically Dearborn, but right on the border of Detroit that we would hang out. That was our Peach Pit.
Is it still there?
It closed years ago, but what we would do is go inside and eat and get coffee, get tea, or whatever. The parking lot was the real hang. People came in their cars, they’d hang out in the parking lot. We’d hang out there for hours and hours.
At what age?Some people do pranks to feel powerful, while others do them to get attention. Click To Tweet
This was 16 or 17. This was the junior/senior year of high school. After we got our license, we would go by not like a rivalry, but men that we were messing with. We would go 4 or 5 deep in a car with 3 to 4 packs of eggs. We would do drive-by eggings, where one person will be the getaway driver and three of us would be hanging out of the windows, pummeling the people in the parking lot with raw eggs. The immediate consequence being the topic, inevitably they would get in their car and chase us. I have stories of being chased through the streets of Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan driving 75 in a 35 trying to get away from these people that wanted to beat us. We never did get beaten because we had good drivers, but it was the adrenaline because you’re sixteen. You’re an adrenaline junkie. We did dumb, reckless things, but it was exciting.
I wonder if it’s part of how we develop mentally. We do these things to see what the consequences are, what we can get away with.
How far can you push things?
We want to get a reaction out of people. That’s part of April Fools. It’s like, there’s something very stimulating to upsetting somebody.
Upsetting them to the point where your safety is threatened. That is extreme.
You think you’re testing yourself to see how you can get away from it and you’re curious what the boundaries are. Maybe it’s part of how we explore these things. We also play around with punishment. In my case, with cutting those brake wire, for whatever reason, we logically felt that the kid deserved it. That’s how we justified it. I think as children, we don’t feel like we have a lot of control. Maybe adults feel the same way when they feel out of control and they want to have a good time. They want to laugh about somebody at somebody else’s expense that makes them feel better. I think that’s why we have so much criticism and bullying. It’s like an outlet of, “I want to make this person feel bad so that we both feel bad,” or “I want a distraction. What’s a good way to get a distraction? Maybe if I can bother or hurt somebody else, I’ll be distracted from the fact that I’m hurting or I’m bored.”
Interestingly, sometimes these extremes feel so extreme. You hear them from the outside and you’re like, “You can’t believe anyone can do that.” When I look back on some of the things that I did as a kid, it’s also one of those examples that we have to remind ourselves that we’ve made decisions that weren’t the best either. That helps us have compassion for the things that people do that we don’t understand. We want to get on our high horse and say, “How dare they? How could they?” Many of us have gone through these experiences that make no logical sense. At the time, they made enough sense to us to do them.
I think there’s this sense from parental figures, family and elders in our lives. You’ve probably experienced this, Whitney. I’m sure most people have, not all, this sense of, “I want to teach you this so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.” That whole mentality. I remember in terms of reckless things and I know we’re diverging a bit, but I’m thinking about that semi-violent instigating behavior that I did as a teenager with being chased and egging people. When I started riding a motorcycle at the age of 21, my mom was not happy about it. My mom rode Harley-Davidsons and Hondas. My mom was a motorcycle rider badass. Back in her day, she had motorcycles for many years. My whole thing was like, “You did it, so I’m going to do it.” She was like, “It’s unsafe.” Her whole thing, in this example, is trying and staying safe, be responsible. My second or third bike at a time was the fastest bike you could buy in the world. It was a 1986 Suzuki GSX-R1100.
I took that bike one time to nearly 140 miles an hour on the road. That’s fast in a car, but on a motorcycle, I’m 21 and I don’t realize the gravity of it. We talked about the development of the brain, the amygdala and the frontal lobe. My 21-year-old brain was like, “That seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do on I-94 in Detroit to go 140. Will I do that now? No, but I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I survived it, but at that speed on a motorcycle, if I would’ve wiped out, that’s not a high chance of survival. I think back on that, what was motivating me? Curiosity and adrenaline. The feeling of doing that is like, “You feel so alive.” I think adrenaline junkies are people that risk their lives doing free solo and things like that. Some people look at that and go, “How could you possibly do that?” In my own way, having done really risky things, I can understand the appeal of the adrenaline rush, but now that I’ve been riding for many years, do I need to or want to go 140 miles on a motorcycle? No, I’m good. I did it. I ride for pleasure. I love it because of the open air, the sunshine, the wind and I’m safe. At 21, I wanted to feel what it was like to go 140 miles on a motorcycle but it was also reckless.
There’s also some power involved or attention. Some people do it to get attention. You’ve talked about this before, Jason. I imagine you have that you felt like you needed to be the funny person to get attention and validation.
We talked about that in the I episode.
The other example I wanted to give about a prank that someone played on me that I’ve reflected off and on throughout my life as after it happened. It wasn’t cruel, but it was manipulative. Looking back, trying to think, “Why did this person decide to do this?” It’s a cute/funny story. I’ve gone through several obsessions with certain bands or musicians. At some point, middle school, high school, I got into the Backstreet Boys as many girls did. I was a Backstreet Boys fan, not an NSYNC fan. I like NSYNC, but I was more Backstreet Boys, especially at the beginning. I was into pop music. They were emerging and I was listening to them before they became popular because I heard them for the first time when I was on a trip to Toronto or Montreal and saw them on television. They were bigger in European or non-US countries at that time. I bought their album and a few months later, they blew up in the US.
I was feeling cool because I was such a big tried and true Backstreet Boys fan. One girl in my high school went to this huge concert where they played. It was a one day concert where a bunch of artists plays. She said that she went. In hindsight, I don’t know if she went to this concert, but she came with this elaborate story about how she met the Backstreet Boys and ended up becoming friends with them. Here I am, this huge fan and at an age where I was very gullible, and I believed her. She was like, “Don’t tell anybody, but I have their contact information.” We talk all the time through email and instant messenger. AOL Instant Messenger was big back then. She was like, “If you don’t tell anyone, I can put you in touch with them.”
Her story was so detailed and elaborate. This crazy story that she’s telling me and I trusted her. I figured like, “This all must be true. Why would she lie to me about this?” She wanted to keep it hush-hush. One day, I go on AOL Instant Messenger and I get this message from this account that I wasn’t connected to. The message said something along the lines of, “You’re so-and-so’s friend. This is Brian from the Backstreet Boys.” I was like, “The Backstreet Boys are talking to me.” They were messaging me all these stories about what they were up to and how they were traveling. I was writing them back fully believing that I was talking to the Backstreet Boys.
How long did this go on?
It’s the equivalent of connecting with a celebrity in Instagram DM. You could do that.
Celebrities do that, where they will have in-depth exchanges with fans.
You can reach celebrities through social media. This is the equivalent of that, whatever year this was when AOL Instant Messenger was big, and the Backstreet Boys were big. To me, it felt very plausible. AOL Instant Messenger was cool. It was the Instagram of that time. The other thing, because of the chat rooms, I was able to find Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s phone number, supposedly through some chat room on AOL. One of my friends called the number and still swears that she talked to Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s mother. I don’t think she ever reached Jonathan, but at the time, he was a big heartthrob. I hope our readers know who Jonathan Taylor Thomas was. He was a big deal. If you saw the movie, The Lion King, he was the voice of Simba. He had a pretty good claim to fame. He was in a movie with Chevy Chase, who was a good man of the house. His biggest fame came from Home Improvement.
Shout-out to the woman who claimed to have talked to his mom, who was probably retelling that story in the bars somewhere in Boston. She’s like, “In the ‘90s, I talked to JTT’s mom.”
She swears it’s true. Long story short, I finally gave up on those Backstreet Boys thing and I was telling my family like, “Dad, I’m talking with the Backstreet Boys.” I was printing out our chats. Somewhere in my parent’s house is a printout of my supposedly direct messages or AOL Instant Messages with the Backstreet Boys. The reason I bring up this story is that a part of me feels a little sad for my teenage self that thought that I was talking to the Backstreet Boys and wonders why this girl I trusted made this elaborate story. She wasn’t some girl that I wasn’t friends with who is trying to be mean. Girls can be mean to each other in high school. I don’t think she had that motive. I think that her drive was that maybe she wanted me to think that she was important. It made her feel good for me to believe that she was friends with the Backstreet Boys. It gave her power, prestige, validation and significance, all these different things. I ended up talking to her a lot more. Maybe it strengthened our friendship even though it was built on a lie. Maybe that was in her head a way for us to get closer. Ultimately, for her to feel important.
Whitney, there’s something I needed to tell you. I’m not friends with Scott Baio, I’m sorry.
When did you say you were?
It’s a joke.
I don’t get it.
One of those things I earned your friendship through me, like “I met this guy, Jason. He’s cool and he knows Scott Baio. That guy in Charles in Charge dated Pam Anderson in 1990.”
I was thinking about this and it’s all feeling as tying in how much we get excited when somebody we know, know somebody else.
I also want the name-dropping thing because that’s another thing.
Not just the name-dropping but so-and-so knows so-and-so.
It’s hard to discern sometimes. My point is, whether someone is greasing or lubing you up by, “I did curls next to Dr. Dre.” In Los Angeles, where we live to have our businesses and our lives, it’s a nuanced, precarious thing because many people in this town love to name-drop. Unless you get to know that human beings on a more intimate level, you don’t know if someone’s tricking you or not.
I don’t know if it’s about name-dropping. That’s not fully my point. My point is when you feel excited because somebody you know, knows somebody important.
You know for sure they know that.
Both of us combined, we have connections to virtually anybody, including one person that I massively look up to that we were talking about, Jason, whose name I will not say. Someone who I deeply admire as an artist.
You have great admiration for these artists.
Who’s technically a celebrity. I have connections to this person and it’s exciting for me because it feels good that there’s a possibility that one day, you get to hang out with somebody.
It’s because of the admiration though. The point here is not because there’s a line here. The line is that I feel some people feel excited to be around someone because they’re famous. Sometimes you go into restaurants. Sometimes, there are people in our wellness industry that will post a lot of photos of them with celebrities. I’m like, “Are you posting this because you want social proof? You’re around this human or do you admire what they’re doing creatively? I think your point, Whitney, and I operate on this level too. If someone’s art, if their work, if their creativity has touched my life in some profound way, I do feel excited to meet them. Because someone has fame or influence, that doesn’t mean I’m excited to meet them, unless they’ve touched me in some way.
For me, there’s an echelon of people that their work is profound and has shaped my life as a person and an artist, that is massive that it would be challenging for me to meet them. It would be like, “You don’t understand.” There are not a lot of those people, but to your point, this person you’re talking about, their art and their work have touched you in a very deep and profound way. That makes sense why you would be excited. Fame aside, even if they weren’t a famous person, their art and their work in the world means something to you. It’s meaningful.
The reason why it’s a little bit different mentally is because we’re often feeling like somebody’s out of reach. When they suddenly feel within reach, it feels like you’ve accomplished something. You get access to something that other people don’t get access to.
Does that make you feel special or more significant? What does that engender in you?
I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’m not fully sure. I’m pulling up some notes from a book that I’m reading that’s phenomenal and somebody that we do have a connection to. Jason, you told me you know this person, which is funny because of what we’re talking about.
Do I personally know this person?
I believe you told me this once. She’s a writer and her books are published in Hay House as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, Lissa Rankin. How do you know her?
I know her because we lectured in 2013 or 2014 at the Take Back Your Health Conference in Virginia. Lissa came up to me after my lecture and was like, “I loved what you did.” We found out that we both had a mutual connection with Chris Carr. Lissa is good friends with Chris. At that time, I was talking about some stuff with Chris. She’s like, “I’m good friends with Chris.” She’s a sweetheart and I love her book, The Fear Cure.
You have to read her book, The Anatomy of a Calling, which I’m reading. It’s fantastic.
The Fear Cure is incredible.
She is an incredible writer.
Is this her newest one?
I don’t know what order these came. I think this came out after The Fear Cure. They’re a must-read, in my opinion, and The Anatomy of a Calling is similar to The Fear Cure. It’s figuring out what your purpose is and tapping in. It’s all very much about The Hero’s Journey, which she references a lot. He’s got a lot of the Joseph Campbell stuff that Jason loves. The section that I was reading pertains to this and I highlighted almost the entire page. I’m trying to scan it to find this one. It was one of the best sections of the book that I read so much. It’s also one of those books. I can’t believe I’m only halfway through it because I’ve received so much value from it. She was talking about how she had her ego, which versus her inner pilot light. She named her ego, Victoria. Victoria list as ego says that she has an underlying sense of unworthiness and she continues to pursue external validation as a way to feel more valuable in the world. Nothing lights her up more than emails from people who swear that she’s saved their lives.
The impulse to be of service motivated by the impulse to spread love in the world, but also feeling like she’s not giving enough unless she’s giving until she’s depleted. There’s so much here about how this side of her wants to prove for herself. She has to feel satisfied. She’ll do whatever it takes to save the world. She is looking for ways to get all of this validation. She likes to get dressed up and attract attention. She’s into glamour shots, fashion, and seeing her number of Facebook likes to grow. She loves hanging around famous people because it feeds that underlying sense of unworthiness and makes her feel important like she matters and she belongs.
I thought that was interesting. If nobody is paying attention to her, she’ll start name-dropping like nobody’s business. She needs to be recognized and feel worthy and part of the way that she feels that way is if she’s around famous people that she can name-drop on. That’s such a classic description of a lot of people that we meet. The cliche person in Los Angeles tends to be this type of person that’s ruled by that ego and this desire to know somebody who you’re rubbing elbows with and all that stuff. I don’t know how we got to this.
How do we ever know?
We started talking about April Fool’s jokes and here we are. We’re talking about the ego and celebrity.
It’s beautiful because there’s this sense of, “I need something outside of myself to be validated, whether that’s a celebrity association, the right car, the right zip code, or the right Fendi bag.” We could extrapolate this into many things and we’ve talked about this on multiple episodes. The ego validation of, “If I have all of these external things that will prove my worthiness, then I’ll feel good enough.” It’s comforting to know that the games that our ego plays are sometimes very similar to the games that other people’s ego plays.
The reason this book is good is because it’s mostly sharing her personal experiences and how she’s worked through them. Also, how she figured out more about herself so that she could lead from less of an ego and be more tapped into herself. It also tries to come back around to the original point, thinking about our motivations for playing pranks or lying to people that are probably very ego-driven. If hanging around famous people feeds the underlying sense of unworthiness and makes us feel important, like we matter and we belong, that might explain why when I was a teenager, my teenage friend lied about something for so long. She made up this huge story and it probably wasn’t a prank in the traditional way. She wasn’t trying to make a fool out of me, but she was trying to feel worthy, important, that she mattered, and that she belonged, and you need to build up all this friendship.
Name-dropping was her way of doing that. She did it in a way that the labyrinth element of this. She went and created a fake account on AOL to trick me. She went up to whatever extremes, but then we think about catfishing and the people that go on social media and create all of these beautiful posts about themselves and might not be them. We do a lot of these things. Catfishing is technically pranking somebody too. Drawing someone to date you because you don’t think you’re worthy enough, so you’re going to present yourself as somebody that you’re not to get the attention of someone. Even if it’s temporary, even if they find out who you are, it’s worth it because at least, you got their attention. At least, you felt important to them for some time.
To me, the reality is that attention equals energy. If someone is getting your attention, they’re getting energy from you. On a very basic, spiritual, fundamental, mechanical, energetic level that if someone has your attention, they’re getting energy. I think why this is powerful and so poignant is that, in our social media culture, attention is the highest form of currency. Whether or not people have talent or they’re bringing necessarily value to an industry. If they have attention, they command a lot of energy in this world. They wield a lot of energy through that attention. Pranking people, fooling them or having control or dominance over them, that’s getting energy from someone.
It is also as this book goes into, it’s about feeling you’re being helpful because you feel not good enough. If somebody says that you changed their life, you feel valuable. If you feel like you’re being of service, that you’re spreading love. A lot of people like to make fun of influencers. Remember that TikTok I sent you, Jason, about how after the coronavirus. This guy is predicting that everybody is going to be coming out with social media posts about what they learned and the spiritual journeys they took in quarantine. It’s funny you think about it because you’re like, “Here comes the cliche spiritual posts.” It is already happening. A lot of people are posting about their deep thoughts that are happening because they’re not at work or because they’re spending more time with their family.
Life has changed for us temporarily, although it’s always changing. We see a lot of these posts where people are spreading love. Sometimes, you can see through them. There’s a difference between spreading the love because you feel very compelled to share that message. You’re calling as this book talks about versus you’re saying that you’re spreading love but it feels very evident that you’re doing that to get attention and feel important. You want somebody to validate you as saying something wise. It’s a very fine line. It’s a gray area there because why do we post on social media? It’s tough to be a content creator. The more it becomes popular and the more that it’s saturated with people that seem to be wanting to feed their egos, I step back a lot. Sometimes, I don’t post at all on social media because I can’t tell the difference between, “Am I doing this to help other people or am I doing this to help my ego?” It is tricky.
Russell Brand talked about that when we saw him at Wanderlust. He was admitting like, “I can’t tell sometimes whether it’s my ego wanting to do this or it’s my higher self, my spirit, my oversoul that resonates.” I feel like you reflected that back, Whitney. As people who have a spirit of generosity and service and genuinely wanting to make a positive difference in the world, I don’t know that one can remove one’s ego all the way. I don’t know that that’s possible.
This is reminding me of one other thing before we can discuss it. This might get uncomfortable to discuss, Jason.
Here we are. We on the right show for it.You don't know how the things you do affect people unless they're communicated properly. Click To Tweet
Maybe you and I didn’t think about it, but for some reason, it popped into my head that you and I played a prank on your mom that got very misinterpreted and we didn’t realize it. It occurred to me because I was sitting here as you were speaking and reflecting on, there are times we’ll redo things and we have an intention for it and then it gets interpreted differently than we intended and we never realized that it could be misinterpreted that way. Do you want to share this or we can both dive into it?
This was when I had moved into a condo outside of Los Angeles in a neighborhood called Glendale. This was years ago. My mom was coming to visit from Detroit and there was a model condo across the way from mine. We had this idea of like, “Why don’t we bring my mom into the model apartment? It’s open and try and pass it off as mine.” It was a very sterile, the energy didn’t even feel anything like mine.
It was a mirror image of your place. Your mom had seen your place only through photos and FaceTime. The kitchen was the same and we felt the furniture could look like yours. First of all, why did we even want to do that?
I don’t even remember.
It was a childlike thing. It was like an innocent moment of, “Let’s see if we can fool somebody.”
I wasn’t certainly not trying to be cruel or diminishing to her.
In a way, it was sweet in my opinion. It’s something that you don’t normally do as adults, try to fool people in that way. That sounds like something I would have done as a kid. How about you?
I reflect on it. I don’t remember what the original intention was, but it was one of those things where I remember going in and she had this moment of like, “Where are all the cats.” After that, that was the moment of like, “It’s not the right thing.”
We let her around the condo, giving her the tour. She seemed confused, but she also would never have guessed that we would be trying to prank her. She was in this weird moment of, “What’s happening here?” Maybe for her, what she felt like was insecurity.
Disrespectful or disorienting.
That’s a good word. She knew something was off, but her brain couldn’t imagine why she would be in that place.
I didn’t know how upset it had made her because the thing was, at the moment, she didn’t communicate it until years later that she felt disrespected and felt like it was not funny. It’s funny in the moment, sometimes, you don’t know how things are affecting people unless they communicated. I’m glad that she told me years later, but at the time I was like, “I wish you would have told me at the time about it.” It’s one of those things where even something where you don’t feel is necessary and I think this goes if I may broaden it to human communication and human relationships, where we can do something we feel like we’re not being mean, cruel or intentionally harmful. Sometimes we can do things and it’s received by a person. We don’t realize the extent of that made them feel uncomfortable, hurt or deceived. This is a prime example of us doing something that I felt was innocent and playful. She’s like, “I felt misled and disrespected and you were trying to make a fool out of me.” I was like, “I had no idea you felt that way.”
Maybe it ties into what we’ve been talking about this whole episode where some people in those moments truly do go back to the original purpose of April Fool’s Day, which was to make a fool out of somebody. It’s all a matter of interpretation and who knows, what experience your mother had had before. We have to be very mindful of this because some people could brush it off and say like, “It’s a prank. It’s harmless.” “It’s April Fool’s Day, get over yourself.”
It was gaslighting. This goes back to one of the most basic and important things in human relationships. This deceptive thing. Sometimes, I’ll hear people say like, “I’m sorry. You feel hurt,” which is not an apology. “I’m sorry I hurt you.” “I’m sorry, I made you feel disrespected. It was not my intention.” That’s a real apology, but sometimes, they hear some spiritual bypassing where it’s like, “I’m sorry that you feel hurt by this.”
I don’t know if I agree that it’s spiritual bypassing because I try to be very mindful of my words and I don’t know if saying, “I’m sorry I hurt you as always,” in that case with your mom, neither one of us meant to hurt her, but how do you balance it out? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, “I’m sorry that you felt hurt by that? Why not if your intention wasn’t to hurt somebody?”
In my opinion, if someone feels hurt, it doesn’t matter whether my intention is there or not. I’ve noticed over the course of my life, people receive an apology differently when you take full ownership, whether it was your intention or not. That’s my school of how I deal with relationships.
Where did you learn that? I agree with you on one side, Jason, but I also had learned that it’s not fair to you either and it brings up a lot of ego for people when they’re apologizing. I feel like it’s insincere for me to say things like that because then I’m not being fully honest with you. I’m saying it to make you feel better. It pings back to me where I’m feeling resentful for having to apologize for something that I didn’t mean to do. How is that a true apology if it’s clearing the energy? Where did that come from for you? Why do you have that reasoning?
I have that reasoning because I noticed within myself that when I said things like, “I’m sorry, you feel hurt,” that it was my ego trying to be right. There was still a part of my ego that was attached, but I didn’t mean it and I’m not going to. I knew in my heart that I don’t want this person to hurt because of my actions, even though I didn’t intend them to hurt. To alleviate their hurt, to be honest about it and say, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” I can say it wasn’t my intention to have hurt you, but I’m sorry that this hurts you.
I like that, “I’m sorry that this hurts you.” That’s my point.
Whether I hurt you or that this hurts you or my actions hurt you. It’s important to check in if I may in closing like that in an apology. If there’s a part of me that is still trying to defend myself or defend my position or cling to being right, it’s not a real apology. If I’m still trying to be right, if I’m still defending a position or not fully letting go of, “I didn’t mean it.” That’s not a real apology to me. A real apology for me is when I dropped my defenses. I dropped my need to be right and I’m more concerned with making peace with that other person still maintaining my integrity. It’s a fine line that we’re talking about ego. The ego is very deceptive in trying to defend, trying to maintain a position of righteousness. In my experience of life, if I’m still clinging to that, the apology is not authentic.
It’s a hard thing to figure out and I don’t know if there’s necessarily a right or wrong way to apologize on that point. You started by saying that you feel like it’s not the right way to apologize if you’re not taking ownership of it. It depends on the circumstance and the person and there are many variables when it comes to an apology. It also doesn’t feel fair to judge somebody for their apology styles because each of us is learning how to communicate in every form. Every time we communicate with somebody, we’re learning something true. If somebody is apologizing or they’re trying their best to apologize, it also takes away our ego. There’s a responsibility on both parties to take the ego out of it because the receiver has to take out this need for an apology. I think both people are struggling with an apology. It’s a tricky thing and I don’t know if there’s necessarily the best way to go about it. If there is the best way, it is to be as authentic as possible and that’s what I was trying to say. If I am trying to apologize for somebody to make them feel better, but if I in the process end up feeling worse, then we’re back at square one. The best kind of apology is when both people can feel better at the end of it.
I have had many examples of apologizing to somebody else and then having so much resentment because I felt that person got the better end of the deal and it was like their ego needed to feel better. It’s still your ego talking when you’re feeling resentful. It’s tricky and I’m also gone about it where I’ve apologized in a way that didn’t feel authentic to me and then it didn’t end up any better. The situation didn’t patch up a friendship. It doesn’t guarantee you anything when you apologize in a certain style. I think if two people can truly communicate from the heart, even if your words aren’t perfect, even if your ego is still involved and you can admit it and say, “It’s hard for me to apologize to you because I don’t feel like I did anything wrong.” That’s a very honest thing to say. When somebody says. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” it is partially ego, but there’s also partially the reality of the situation. When some people demand an apology, it’s like, “Why do you need an apology so badly?”
I think you nailed it in what I resonated most with what you said. Love was the feeling with both parties. To me, the word that comes is peace. No matter the communication style or the words that are being said or how they’re delivered, if ultimately there can be equity and peace between both people or multiple people, whatever the situation is. The feeling and the releasing of resentment, tension, and animosity, to me, if one can achieve that no matter the methods, that’s the aim.
For both people, nobody has resentment. Nobody’s carrying around a grudge. Nobody’s being passive-aggressive or faking it. One of the most hurtful experiences I went through with a friendship is when I got into an argument and I thought that it was resolved. It turned out later, based on how things went downhill after that, that person was faking a resolution to close it off. I’ve experienced versions of that over time, but that one haunts me when something happens. I tried my best to resolve it and I thought it was resolved. It was clear that it was never resolved. That person wanted to pretend that it was resolved simply so that they could finish the conversation or the argument, whatever you want to call it. That to me is why I’m saying it’s important for people not to fake an apology. It’s important for people to explain how they’re feeling and to hope that the other person is willing to talk through it, even if it is uncomfortable. That’s the whole point of our message. It’s not always easy, but the best parts in life often come out of honesty and raw communication.
Also, in saying the thing you’re scared to say. We know what that feeling is when that fist, it feels like there’s a ball in our stomach. We know the words that we want to say, but we’re terrified to say them. That is one of the bravest things anybody can do, is to simply let the words that need to be spoken come out, even though you’re terrified to say them.
It takes a lot of practice. That’s what I’m saying is if we have a right and a wrong way to apologize, a lot of people, myself included, if I know there’s a right or wrong, I get so uncomfortable with that. I’ll just be silent. Silence is often my response to not knowing what to do because I’m afraid of getting it wrong. That’s why I feel it’s important to be accepting. If somebody gives you an apology, no matter what their words are or whether or not your ego thinks that it was at the right kind of apology, the best thing that you can do is either accept it and then express how you feel or let it go sometimes. If it didn’t feel like the right apology, then let them know that you want a different type of apology that would be unattached to them changing. Sometimes people get so defensive and that makes them even more resistant.
Inauthentic apologies come a lot of the time I feel because that person who is delivering the apology doesn’t want to talk about the uncomfortable things. They are like, “I’m sorry.” You can feel that you’re wanting to not dig into uncomfortable feelings or emotions. You’re saying you’re sorry so you can circumvent that part of it.
They’re forced to. Look at politicians, a lot of the times that apologies have happened or public figures or you see somebody in the courtroom or something. All these different examples, where people who have done written apologies and then the public will tear it apart and be like, “That’s not a real apology.” It’s like, “Where did the apology please come from?” Also, have compassion for this person that’s probably been put up against the wall to apologize. Imagine the amount of pressure that somebody feels to apologize publicly, but also maybe to apologize in a way that doesn’t feel right to them. It’s going to feel forced and inauthentic in certain situations.
Can I talk about one example of this because I need to bring levity to this? We’ve seen a lot in the past few decades, as the media has expanded and grown of these public figures issuing some public apology. One of the most absurd entertaining, head-scratching was from Mario Batali. He was accused of improper physical conduct in his food empire and sent out an email apology. A mutual friend of ours showed me this because I’d never seen it before. I didn’t even know he had done that. At the end of the email apology, he was like, “By the way, here are some incredible holiday recipes you guys need.” It was great up until like, “By the way, if you are looking for holiday recipes, here they are.” I was like, “Mario, I have respect for you.” I’ve always liked Mario Batali in his cooking and his shows. I was like, “You probably ought not to have included the suggestions for links to holiday recipes on your website when you’re issuing a public apology for sexual misconduct.”
How do we know that it wasn’t an assistant or some copywriter or his team member?
Either way, whoever on his team is in a bad form.
It’s funny, but you can also have compassion for it and see it could have been an honest mistake. Somebody said, “Mario wrote this apology. Please copy it into the newsletter,” and some interns or whoever is writing this, sending out the newsletters may simply have been unaware that they didn’t delete the bottom section. It could have been some simple ignorant error. It’s sad that those things are up out in the public eye for speculation.
There’s an element of like, it doesn’t make me again hate Mario Batali. It was almost like that faux pas. I’m not throwing Mario under the bus, but to your point, Whitney, whether it was intentional and/or non-intentional or mistake, there’s still a point where you’re like, “Holiday strudel recipes under a public apology like a party,” My gut. I was like, “Not good.”
Those types of moments are from minus all that we’re human and everybody makes mistakes. Even a polished person with people on their team or viewing things that has money, experience, expertise, and professionalism. Even those people make mistakes and we can either laugh at them or we can say, “Thank you for showing me that you’re human too.” You also don’t know how to navigate an apology perfectly because I don’t know if there is such a thing. This certainly has been an interesting exploration of pranks, April Fool’s Day, ego, apologies and our motivations. The reasons that we do things and forgiving ourselves and forgiving other people for the times that we fall short. Also, being able to laugh at the fun parts of this all. We should be grateful for when a prank feels very innocent. It’s interpreted that way. I also have learned over the years, thanks to social media that there’s always going to be somebody upset about a prank, who feels hurt by it or offended by it or something.
I don’t know if there’s ever an example of something going over perfectly, all these brands trying their best and as this episode comes out, there could be all sorts of faux pas happening and there could be some good pranks and jokes. To end on a lighter note as well, we’d love to hear from you. What are some of your proudest moments of April Fool’s Day, pranks, infamous or things that you regret? Also, times where you had to apologize for something and that you unintentionally did, you thought was innocent and it didn’t go the way that you plan? If you want to share any of those stories, we’d love to hear it. You can share those on social media publicly or privately. We’re @Wellevatr. You can email us or direct message us. Our email is [email protected]. We read every message and every comment. We try to get back to emails as quickly as possible because we love being in touch with you, hearing your stories and your feedback. We are so grateful for you as a reader and we hope that you will subscribe and leave a review if you enjoy the show.
Also on a final note, April 1st, April Fool’s Day marks my thirteenth year of moving back to Los Angeles. That always has extra texture to it for me. Happy thirteenth year in LA to me. It’s a long time to make it here in this town.
You don’t recall any pranks happening that day when you moved out here.
I don’t, but maybe I’ll do something in 2020.
Celebrate and prank yourself by moving out of Los Angeles.
I’m like, “Bye, everyone. I’m leaving.”
It would be a good prank because you keep talking about moving out of LA. Maybe be like, “Whit, I bought a house in Vegas.”
“I’m out. I bought a cabin in Colorado.”
We discussed it, so I’m sorry. It’s still the opportunity.
I’m going to come up with something more creative. Stay tuned for any potential April Fool’s pranks we might be concocting for you.
- The Purge Movie Trailer
- Vox article – Can a Brand Pull a Prank?
- Lissa Rankin
- Take Back Your Health Conference
- The Fear Cure
- The Anatomy of a Calling
- The Hero’s Journey
- Mario Batali’s apology recipe email
- @Wellevatr – Facebook
- [email protected]
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