April Fool's jokes range from hilarious to disastrous

Posted at 04/02/2011 11:21 AM

CHICAGO - Internet business networking service LinkedIn allowed users to connect with Ernest Hemingway. Coupon hawker Living Social offered salami-based spa treatment. Photography giant Eastman Kodak offered pain-free permanent photo tattoos.

Has the world gone mad?

No. It was just another April Fool's Day, the international day of tomfoolery when pranks, hoaxes, and practical jokes remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.

And April 1, 2011 fit the bill with a wide range of good humor--and a few mishaps.

First the humor.

Search engine giant Google, whose April 1 antics have been widely noted for a decade, opened things up with an absurd and hilarious "motion-controlled" e-mail system that allows users to write emails using elaborate gestures rather than antiquated keyboards and mice.

Google-owned YouTube offered its round-up of viral videos from 1911 and The Huffington Post put up a mock pay wall--solely for New York Times employees (who did the same in real life on Monday).

Animal Planet sent out a joke press release announcing a deal for the famous escaped Bronx Zoo cobra, which one news outlet reported as fact. If it manages to escape again, the New York Hilton offered the highly venomous Egyptian cobra its "Penthouse ssssuite," via Twitter.

Even earnest Whole Foods was in on the April Fool's action, featuring "Insects Raised With Compassion," "Save Money with Refurbished Spices," and a new option to "have your whole paycheck automatically converted to a Whole Foods Market gift card." (Clearly, Whole Foods has heard that some of its customers refer to it as "Whole Paycheck.")

But April Fool's Day isn't all fun and games: sometimes people get fired, or hurt, for their pranks.

A filming of an improvisational joke by the comedy group Improv Everywhere made headlines when a troupe member dressed as "Stars Wars" character Jar Jar Binks boarded a New York City subway car and was accosted by burly train riders for invading their space.

The Troupe's founder, Charlie Todd, appeared at the end of the video telling viewers the skit did not go as planned. Claims have been made that at least one of the assailants was an actor in an affiliated comedy troupe. Hmmmm, a prank within a prank.

In another gag gone awry, a columnist from a suburban newspaper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an online blog jokingly asserting he'd been fired for juxtaposing Christian extremist militias with radical Islamic terrorist groups. In the column he asked readers to e-mail him -- after which they would promptly receive the auto-reply: APRIL FOOLS.

Mayhem ensued.

He received a bevy of emails, phone calls, text messages, and online posts, including one from his worried mother begging: "is it true?"