We have to admit that we’re not big fans of April Fool’s Day and the prank phenomenon. One of the beauties of working from home is knowing that no one turned your desk drawers upside down or put anything on your office chair.
Anyway, the whole idea got us thinking about some of the best celebrity pranks ever — some captured on camera and some just documented in the annals of practical joke history.
Justin Timberlake Busted for Tax Evasion
One sunny California afternoon in 2003, Justin Timberlake arrived home and was greeted by Agent Shepherd from the U.S. Tax Enforcement Agency, who told him he owed $900,000 in back taxes. The government was confiscating his property, including his three homes, cars, motorcycles, and even his dogs. The boxes lining the driveway were his personal belongings, which had been packed and were to be loaded into TEA vehicles. Just as poor JT looked like his head was going to explode, Ashton Kutcher rounded the corner and the whole thing became perfectly clear: Punk'd. Brilliant.
Johnny Carson's Greatest Practical Jokes
Long before Ashton Kutcher was Punk'ing celebs, Johnny Carson was the king of Hollywood pranks. As part of the series TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes, Carson would trap his famous friends in Candid Camera-esque situations. The biggest coup? The time his people jammed Ed McMahon's car trunk full of office equipment and watched on monitors as Ed tried to drive off the NBC lot past security. You'd think the host of Bloopers would be a little more in tune to the signs of a prank in the works.
Clooney's Kind Gift to a Friend
One day driving around Los Angeles, George Clooney spotted in the trash a hideous painting of a naked woman. He took it home and started plotting his evil plan. George began telling his friends, including longtime pal Richard Kind (Spin City and Mad About You), that he had developed a newfound love of art, that he was taking painting classes, and that he thought he was quite gifted. George dragged Richard to galleries and craft shows to ensnare his victim deeper into his web. Then one day he showed up at Kind's home with, you guessed it, the dumpster art. He had signed the painting and said he was so proud of it he wanted to give it to his friend. A horrified Kind felt he had no choice but to display the art in his home. Clooney let it hang for a few weeks before confessing his prank.
Coolio: The Oldest Trick in the Book
On a recent season of Celebrity Big Brother (UK) some of the housemates had been sitting around one of the bedrooms, freaking one another out with their personal ghost stories. Coolio, who left the room after stating loud and clear that he did not believe in ghosts, decided to take advantage of their frightened state by playing the oldest trick in the book. With the help of Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan and Vern Troyer (Austin Powers), he attached a white pillowcase to a coat hanger, suspended it from the doorframe, and then used string to open the door. We told you it was an old school prank. The stupidest part? The geniuses inside the room fell for it and were truly scared!
Beyonce's Christmas Surprise
It was Christmas season in 2003 and Beyonce Knowles had kindly donated her time to help light a tree and hand out gifts to a bunch of underprivileged kids. After some very awkward photo-ops with Santa and a sing-a-long Silent Night, Beyonce climbed into a crane and was lifted up to the top of a ridiculously tall Christmas tree to place the star on top. Just as she did, the tree went hurtling toward the ground, crushing all of the needy kids' gifts, as they cried out, "You ruined Christmas!" Beyonce descended and apologized to the children as Ashton rounded the corner to tell her she'd been Punk'd."
Clooney vs. Pitt: Prank Wars
Clooney shows up on our list a couple of times, because he's a consummate prankster. And it appears that the Hollywood bromance between George Clooney and Brad Pitt is based partly on their love of practical jokes. Neither will take credit for starting the prank war, but early in the game, on the Ocean's Twelve set, a memo was circulated to the crew asking that they not look Clooney in the eye and that they only call him "Mr. Ocean" to help his effort to stay in character between takes. For two weeks George couldn’t figure out why everyone was calling him Mr. Ocean until Brad finally confessed that he'd sent the memo. In retaliation, Clooney placed a bumper sticker on Brad's car calling out the reduced size of Pitt's manhood. Brad wondered why so many people were honking and cheering. He didn’t discover the sticker for two days.
Sarah Palin Chats with French President Sarkozy
At the height on the 2008 Presidential campaign, Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was the subject of the best political practical jokes EVER. Palin enthusiastically took a call from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who proceeded to tell her in a very heavy accent that he'd like to hunt in a helicopter with her and that he could see Belgium from his house. A nervous Palin replied tentatively, saying we all need to live next door to different countries we need to work with and that if the two of them were to hunt and work at the same time they could kill two birds with one stone. In true Palin form, she flailed until the bitter end, when a Canadian comedian revealed he was pulling a prank. We were just relieved she never had the chance to tell the real Sarkozy, "I love you guys!"
It's Belinda Sue Spearson, B#&ch!
There was a time when Britney Spears was an innocent young teenage girl. Do you remember that? Think hard. It will come back to you. OK, now that we've jogged your memory, imagine how her young fans felt when they heard she was not sweet, naive 17-year-old Britney Spears, but was instead 28-year-old Belinda Sue Spearson trying to pull a fast one. In 1999 wallofsound.net started spreading a rumor that the ingenue "Britney" was a fake and that her former classmates at Robert E. Lee High School (class of '88) were willing to confirm her true age. Outraged fans flooded her record label with calls, demanding to know Brit's real deal. The hoax was quickly exposed.
Tom Cruise's War of the Waterworlds
Shortly after the Oprah couch-jumping fiasco and the Matt Lauer psychiatry debate, Tom Cruise went to London for the premiere of War of the Worlds. As Cruise was greeting fans and answering questions on the red carpet, a prankster pretending to be a journalist put a cheesy joke-shop microphone in his face and squirted him with water. When the star asked, "Why would you do that?," it sounded like the dude replied, "I thought it would be funny." Tom didn’t get the joke; he thought it was rude. Personally, we giggled…just a little.
Mel and Jodie are Prankster Mavericks
Mel Gibson is known on sets as the eternal prankster. So it really should have come as no surprise to Jodie Foster while filming Maverick that Mel had something up his sleeve. She was probably watching doorways for water buckets and her mailbox for dead rodents. What she wasn't expecting was a new script on her birthday with really corny dialogue… only for her character. Mel's handiwork, of course. But pay-back's a bitch, Mel. Two years later Jodie hired a bagpiper — kilt, fluffy hat, and all — to follow Mel around all night at the Vanity Fair Oscar party after his Braveheart win. Nicely played, Ms. Foster.