Pun Alley 3-30-2012

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April 1 is time for fools to step forward

By Dick Frank

Sunday, April 1, is celebrated in many countries as April Fool’s Day. The day is marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication.
The origin of April Fool’s Day may be obscure, but the humor generated by it certanly is not, as it goes on and on forever. Today’s Pun Alley turns from its usual humor to hard-to-believe true stories of April Fool events.

A Real Whopper
In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, announcing a new item on their menu, a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the Whopper’s condiments were designed to drip out of the right side. Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the old right-handed burger.

Fools’ Discovery
In 1993, a deejay at KGB-FM in San Diego announced that the space shuttle Discovery had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and would instead soon be landing at Montgomery Field, a small airport located in the middle of a residential area just outside of San Diego. Thousands of commuters immediately headed toward the landing site, causing enormous traffic jams that lasted for almost an hour.
Police eventually had to be called in to clear the traffic. People arrived at the airport armed with cameras, camcorders, and even folding chairs. Of course, the shuttle never landed. Moreover, there wasn’t even a shuttle in orbit at the time. The police were not amused by the prank. They announced that they would be billing the radio station for the cost of forcing officers to direct the traffic.

No Bell Prize
In 1996 Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to “reduce the country’s debt” and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Mercury Lincoln Memorial.

Smoke ‘Em Out
In 1974 residents of Sitka, Alaska, were alarmed when Mount Edgecumbe, a nearby long-dormant volcano, began to belch out billows of black smoke. People spilled out of their homes onto the streets to gaze up at the volcano, terrified that it was active again and might soon erupt. Actually, a local practical joker, Porky Bickar, was responsible for the smoke. Earlier he had flown hundreds of old tires into the volcano’s crater and then lit them on fire, all in a successful attempt to fool the town’s dwellers into believing that the volcano was stirring to life. According to local legend, when Mount St. Helens erupted six years later, a Sitka resident wrote to Bickar to tell him, “This time you’ve gone too far!”

Light Humor
In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC radio that the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect, a unique alignment of two planets, would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 a.m. that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience “a strange floating sensation.” Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.

Presidential Fool
In 1992 National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation program 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 fake audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners flooded the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the show’s host reveal that the announcement was a practical joke.

Bankers’ Day
On April 2, 1999, the Paradise Massachusetts Town Crier newspaper reported that a man dressed as a banana had robbed the East Bank on April 1. Police Chief Jesse Stone reported that when he got the “armed robbery” call, he believed it was an April Fool’s joke. When a second urgent call came in, Stone dispatched two of his officers to the Bank to investigate, only to arrive after the banana split, giving the police the slip. I just couldn’t resist including at least one pun.
If any of today’s stories seem familiar, you have a good memory. This column was originally run on March 27, 2009. April Fool!
Dick and his wife Jane live in Oak Run.