Colloquial Therapy: The Evolution of the Prank

Give somebody a big bang! And possibly, get a big bang in return.

Give somebody a big bang! And possibly, get a big bang in return.

I try to find an air of colloquiality in all things around me; it’s a bad habit.  Names of people, objects or places are all subdivided with colorful, interpretive, and sometimes redacted replacements of my own choosing.  In such a way, Louis or Louise becomes Lou, Victor or Victoria becomes Vic; and there lies the human rub as one Victoria so succinctly informed me.

Mumbling my apologies as I exited her office, I knew it to be a problem of mine.  It’s how I catalog my world, you see.  It’s like I’m compacting my data into zip files, or something; substituting shorter versions in efforts to manage space and memory.

It’s an integral part of my life; my attempts at garnering familiarity.  It’s my way of gathering all into the communal family of man, even if it’s only my version of it.

The problem becomes one where some may see such attempts as intrusive and the achieved familiarity, disrespectful.  And that’s my fear because it was never meant to be taken as such.

But for most of us, colloquial is simple; colloquial is informal; colloquial is sitting around the campfire roasting hot dogs and smores.  In short, it’s where we all want to be.  Getting there though, is the problem.  These days, many of us, get to that idiomatic and unceremonious way station of life by utilizing the prank, in all of its forms.

Fake vomit. Photo by Kungfuman

Fake vomit.

When you think about it, in its simplest manifestation, the prank is the embodiment of informal behavior existing between one man and another.  It’s a casual entreaty for acceptance offered in place of the usual formalities that may stifle a burgeoning relationship; or at least that’s the thought of the individual pulling the prank.

Prank Channel

Everything from the ordinary practical joke, to the stand-up comedy sketch of an insult comedian, to a satirical cartoon are all offered in an environment of supposed good will.  How such petitions are received, though, is another question.

I think that’s mainly because at some point, the inherent good will associated with the original practical joke, or sketch , or cartoon morphs into something more self-serving and at times, more sinister.

I am a wondrous creature for women in expectation, a service for neighbors. I harm none of the citizens except my slayer alone. My stem is erect, I stand up in bed, hairy somewhere down below. A very comely peasant’s daughter, dares sometimes, proud maiden, that she grips at me, attacks me in my redness, plunders my head, confines me in a stronghold, feels my encounter directly, woman with braided hair. Wet be that eye.

Riddle 25 from Codex Exoniensis

Where did the first prank go sour, I’m wondering?  Was it when the first caveman grunted to the second to “look there” so he could steal the first’s tool or mate?

Body humor is nothing new.  Fart jokes go back to 1900 B.C.

Body humor is nothing new. Fart jokes go back to 1900 B.C.

Today, pranks are a major part of our culture; an accepted rite of passage for all ages and a cultural barometer of temperament.  In today’s view, if you’re not down with a prank or unwilling to sit and allow yourself to be insulted, you obviously are a poor sport.  It’s a similar dynamic with satire and cartoonists.

Men, women, governments and other entities are expected to be happy that they’ve been lampooned while the artists wrap themselves and their craft up in free speech or other ethereal considerations that foster acceptance.

Make no mistake; it’s an approval that’s forced upon us.  In the case of Charlie Hebdo, we are obliged to recognize the necessity of free expression and therefore sympathize with them; otherwise we are enemies, not only of the state but also of the principles of freedom we supposedly hold dear.

What we’re witnessing is another stage in the evolution of the prank.  It’s no longer solely something hatched in a comedic mind; it’s now become an instrument of global instigation.  It’s a handy burr that can be strategically placed to cause the most discomfort.  And while pranks of all sorts were only supposed to provoke laughter, this new incarnation, absent the requisite underlying goodwill, is well on its way to inciting just the opposite.

Unfortunately once that happens, we’ll all become nothing more than a punchline as the joke may be on us.

Answer: Onion


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