No one’s exactly sure what the origins of April Fools’ Day are, or what the first prank might have been — it might well have been the greatest ever. However, we do know that April Fools’ jokes are now a common occurrence in the media calendar, with many a jape pulled each year.
In 2004, the CBBC Newsround website claimed the planets of the solar system were being renamed after characters from The Lord of the Rings. And, more recently, every link to videos on the main page of YouTube was redirected to Rick Astley’s music video ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.
These are all great jokes, but sometimes the oldies are the goodies — like back in 1957, when the BBC pulled off the first television April Fools’ Day hoax. Broadcast by Panorama, the famous prank was a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, hosted by Richard Dimbleby.
There was more than one reason for this surplus spaghetti: an unusually mild winter (a good thing for ‘spaghetti farmers’) mixed with the ‘virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil’. The footage featured a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets, with Dimbleby’s voiceover stating: ‘For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti’.
To put the whole thing in context: at the time, spaghetti was not a widely eaten food in the UK and was, for many, an exotic delicacy. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti, and their response was as good as the prank itself, advising people to ‘place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best’.
Many still consider it as one of the best April Fools’ pranks ever played. It teeters on the edge of being believable for its audience — aided by the sincerity of Dimbleby’s reporting, but still undeniably silly. It’s the hallmark of a great joke.
We hope we’ve given you some inspiration for your own hoax, so have a great April Fools’ Day — just try not to get caught out. And don’t worry, all our spaghetti is grown free-range…
Source: BBC. (2014). 1957: BBC fools the nation. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/1/newsid_2819000/2819261.stm. Last accessed 16 Jan 2015.