In the media, we throw around a lot of overblown terms like “the best ___ ever.”
But in 1957, the BBC actually pulled off the best April Fools’ Day prank ever, convincing portions of the British population that not only did spaghetti grow on trees, but that they could grow their own by sticking dry spaghetti into cans of marinara sauce.
It started when the network aired this broadcast featuring farmers "harvesting" the spaghetti crop from trees. Announcer Richard Dimbleby noted that the harvest this year would be especially good since the “spaghetti weevil” had nearly been eradicated.
Even BBC General Director Sir Ian Jacob wasn’t entirely sure it was a joke and had to research the topic in three different books to confirm the segment wasn’t true.
The network was flooded with calls from viewers asking how they could grow their own spaghetti, to which they received the response, "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best,” according to the Telegraph. It’s unclear how many people realized it was a joke at this point, or whether some sorry saps actually tried this.
Keep in mind, spaghetti — and pasta in general — wasn’t particularly well known in the U.K. at the time, so the fact many people believed this isn't quite as ridiculous as it would be if the broadcast happened today.
The whole thing was the idea of cameraman Charles de Jaeger, who was from Vienna. The story goes that when de Jaeger was a student, one of his teachers told the class they were so stupid that they would believe him if spaghetti grew on trees, according to the Museum of Hoaxes.
But the BBC hoax isn’t notable just because it’s funny. It’s also a good reminder of how bad some of the things that pass as April Fools’ “jokes” are these days.
This year, for instance, Trader Joe’s claimed it would be closing all stores by next year. This isn’t particularly funny. It’s just a lie. (It also came out on March 31, which is in clear violation of April Fools’ Day code.)
And at least one person claims to have lost a job due to Google’s mangled mess of an email prank this year.
It's not just corporations that completely fail at April Fools’ Day. Same goes for the 18 people in your Facebook feed who will inevitably announce they're “pregnant.” Not only can these fake announcements hurt some people’s feelings, but there just isn’t any humor. Like, OK, you’re pregnant? What’s the joke here?
If you’ve pulled off an April Fools’ prank that’s better than these sorry excuses for jokes, let us know.