A man named Dan Richards claiming to represent FameDaddy, the "first celebrity sperm donor service," appeared on the show. He said his service allowed women to "select a donor from our exclusive catalogue of proven winners," including an unnamed former soccer star and a rock musican allegedly worth millions.
Now ITV executives believe they've been fooled and are trying to figure out how.
But instead of doing an investigation that might take weeks, they should just ask Joey Skaggs, a conceptual artist who specializes in pranking the media.
He said the reason why the network got fooled was simple: The story was too good for the producers of the ITV network show "This Morning" to let things like facts get in the way.
"As I’ve said for decades, give the media a sensational story and they’re all over it," he said. "Had any of them heeded any of the principles of journalism, they’d likely have figured out that not only was this Celebrity Sperm Bank a hoax, it wasn't even an original idea."
Back in 1976, Skaggs, under the name "Giuseppe Scaggoli" announced he was the proprietor of the Celebrity Sperm Bank, and planned to hold an auction of rock star sperm, including that of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Jimi Hendrix.
"The prank was a comment on how technology challenges morality," he told The Huffington Post.
Skaggs' stunt included a group of 50 actor friends who portrayed rock musicians, groupies, and protesters with signs such as "Do it the old fashioned way."
When the timing was right, Skaggs as "Scaggoli" appeared with his lawyer to announce that the sperm had been stolen in the middle of the night and that detectives were working on the case. So rather than an auction, there was instead to be an impromptu press conference.
GALLERY: JOEY SKAGGS: KING OF THE PRANKSTERS (Story continues below)
For nearly 40 years, conceptual artist Joey Skaggs has made it his life's work to hold the media's feet to the fire by creating outrageous pranks that satirize their desire to not let thorough fact-checking get in the way of a sensational story.
In 1976, Giuseppe Scaggoli (aka Joey Skaggs) planned to hold an auction of rock star sperm from the likes Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Jimi Hendrix. Skaggs asked about 50 actor friends to gather in front the brownstone home of his attorney where they had put up a name plate that said Celebrity Sperm Bank. Some actors portrayed rock musicians, some were groupies, and some were women with protest signs such as "Do it the old fashioned way." The police officers were real.
In 1981, Skaggs pretended he was entomologist Dr. Josef Gregor, who had created a strain of super-roaches immune to toxins and radiation, and that he had extracted a hormone from them that supposedly cured colds, acne, anemia, menstrual cramps and nuclear radiation. In the hundreds of news stories that followed, no one checked his credentials or noticed his references to the Kafka story Metamorphosis in which the main character, Gregor Samsa, turns into a six foot insect. When he revealed the hoax, many of the major news outlets didn't retract their earlier story.
In 1983, Skaggs protested the fact that artists were being priced out of New York neighborhoods by creating working aquariums for upwardly mobile guppies and called them Fish Condos. Skaggs did hundreds of media interviews and told reporters, "Since we are continually polluting the oceans of the world, fish will eventually need a better home in which to live."
In 1984, Skaggs helped a friend break into acting by creating a fictitious talent management agency called Bad Guys, Inc. for bad guys, bad girls, bad kids, and bad dogs. Using head shots designed like FBI Wanted posters, he got his friend a job in films and a story in People magazine. The concept started out as a joke but after he amassed a roster of 300 performers, he handed over the now-successful agency to a friend.
The Fat Squad was a 1984 prank where Skaggs pretended to Joe Bones, ex U.S. Marine drill sergeant and proprietor of the Fat Squad, an organization that supposedly helped people lose weight by having six tough looking calorie cops standing guard around a refrigerator. "Good Morning America" fell for the stunt, but didn't admit their culpability until the New York Post did a story on the hoax.
In 1994, Kim Yung Soo (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), President of Kea So Joo, Inc. sent 1,500 letters to dog shelters around America soliciting all their unwanted dogs for ten cents a pound. The phone's outgoing message, in both Korean and English, was punctuated by yapping dogs in the background. Skaggs' point was to illustrate the hypocrisy, intolerance, and prejudice harbored by so-called animal rights humanitarians, as well as gullible and racist media, towards other cultures.
The story received international attention when first reported, but not so much when he revealed it was a hoax shortly thereafter.
"The expose is, to me, the most important part of each prank and is the key to whether it has socially redeeming value," he told HuffPost. "But media corporations don't want to do exposes. They're afraid of being busted."
So far, no one from FameDaddy has come forward to reveal the reason behind the prank or, perhaps more important, tip the hat to Skaggs for coming up with the stunt 36 years ago.
"I hate to sound like a bitter old man," he laughed. "What's shocking is that the concepts behind these pranks are still viable decades later."
In recent years, many of Skaggs' earlier stunts have been "revived" or "copied" by other, younger pranksters.
In 2010, an anonymous prankster in New York City decided to express distaste for slow tourists who dawdle on sidewalks by painting a linedown the middle of a Fifth Avenue sidewalk between East 22nd and 23rd streets.
It harkened back to a similar prank Skaggs did in 1984 called "Walk Right!"where he created an imaginary ad hoc group of vigilante sidewalk-etiquette enforcers who patrolled the streets to make New York a better place to live and walk, AOL News reported.
Other pranks he's done that have been co-opted by others include his fish condos, a "cathouse for dogs," where pooches could get sexually gratified by an assortment of "hot bitches"; the "Fat Squad," a group of commandos who would follow fat people around to make sure they stuck to their diets; and the Solomon Project, a revamp of the American judicial system, where super-computers would replace judges and juries.
"You could compare it to songs being written by one artist getting covered by another, but, in those cases, the original artist gets credit," he laughed. "If the [FameDaddy] people had offered my sperm, I would have been flattered."
Skaggs may get more recognition of his pranking past soon. Two Italian filmmakers are making a documentary on his work.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story claimed Skaggs celebrity sperm bank hoax took place 34 years ago. It was 36 years ago. In addition, the earlier version said Skaggs is seeking investors for a documentary of his work. He is not doing the documentary, he is cooperating with two Italian filmmakers who are doing the project.