April Fool’s Day cancelled

Jan Matejko Stańczyk 1862 GigCity EdmontonBecause we have reached a tipping point in society where there is more fake news than real news – and not only is the fake news more popular but it often reveals more truth than real news, fiction being less strange than truth – April Fool’s Day has been cancelled by Order of the Government.

April Fool’s Day is redundant when every day is April Fools Day. So there will be no more harmless pranks, pratfalls and jests staged once a year by media organizations which purport to offer real news the rest of the year. No longer will children be allowed to tell outrageous lies to their parents until noon on April 1. It’s over! Because now we’re allowed to be foolish all year round, even on April Fool’s Eve.

In other news, fake news outlets will now be required to run at least one REAL news story every April 1, just to throw people off.

Obviously this story is just an excuse to rerun some old material about April Fool’s Day – the way it was before the Internet ruined everything:

Lifer Edmontonians still remember an epic April Fool’s Day joke played by 630 CHED in 1971. They reported that the phone company, Ed-Tel, was going to blow all the dust out of the phone lines at precisely 7:30 am on April 1, so citizens were advised to put plastic bags over their phone receivers or dust would get all over the house. Because 630 CHED was on in every kitchen in Edmonton on a typical school morning in 1971, thousands of people fell for it.

The Edmonton Sun came up with some doozies. Before Kerry Diotte went into politics – and before newspapers started falling apart, sending loads of other journalists into politics – he was the paper’s designated April Fool.

Phone lines used to get dusty

Phone lines used to get dusty

“My favourite was a story I dreamed up that Alberta was going to invent its own time zone called Alberta Advantage Savings Time,” he says. “It was going to be the same time as Ontario so we could get an early start on the business day.”

This one has legs because apparently the current Premier Rachel Notley is intent on getting rid of Daylight Savings Time – for real.

Another story Diotte came up with was about Mayor Jan Reimer’s plan to charge families that flushed the toilet more than 12 times a day. Because she had a reputation for raising taxes, again thousands of people fell for it. This happens to have been the topic of a recent dystopian musical produced in Edmonton called URINEtown, about the effects of a future water shortage – where you have to pay to pee. Eerie.

The complaint lines lit up again from the tall tale of a “Mount Ralphmore,” revealing a plan to have Ralph Klein’s face carved upon a mountain in Banff. That’s almost too believable.

People got really mad over a Sun prank about new city law that required super-sensitive smoke detectors in every home. Readers believed it because city council had just passed tough anti-smoking bylaws. The paper received so many complaints that additional staff were asked to come in to help. It even fooled Canada’s national TV news service at the time, Broadcast News – the Huffington Post of its day – which reported the story as if it were real. Broadcast News called to complain, “You can’t make up the news! That’s typical Sun tabloid journalism!”

“April Fool!” the complainants were told. The newspapers at least tried to tell the truth the other 364 days of the year.

Radio was no worse. In 1993, K-97’s Terry Evans – who was on The Bear at the time – got the Winnipeg Jets’ winger Teemu Selanne to play along with a hockey prank that caused mass outrage. It was the year he scored 76 goals. Because of the “Finnish Flash,” the Oilers just narrowly missed the play-offs that year. Evans recalls, “I got Selanne in on it, saying that he had immigration issues and if the Jets won a game in which he scored, they would not receive the two points. That way the Oilers would squeak in. Teemu was great, in his broken English explaining how disappointed he was and how he felt bad for letting the Jets fans down.”

Former Alberta Premier Robert Wagner

Former Alberta Premier Robert Wagner

The Edmonton Oilers finally made the playoffs this year, so you can save your outrage.

There’s a problem with April Fool’s Day in the Age of Bullshit. Bad ideas spread so quickly, thanks to the Internet, that any outrageous whim is doomed to come true – because there are so many people crazy enough to try it. Examples are numerous, but The Sun once ran bogus full page ad for “Molsun Dry,” for powdered beer, long before the real (not powdered) brand came along. A fake story about unearthed Doors recordings pissed off a lot of people – at least until Doors: Essential Rarities was released in 1999. There were jokes made that people like Snoop Dogg and Tommy Lee should get reality shows, that Donald Trump could become President of the United States. The margin for a good April Fool’s prank has narrowed to near non-existence. Too obvious and no one will fall for it. Too subtle and it’s too plausible.

Do you remember the whopper in the mid-‘90s about the Banff Hot Springs getting bought by Japanese investors? Or the story where former Premier Alison Redford ordered the construction of a personal luxury suite in a government office building?

As Number 2 once told Dr. Evil: That also … already … has happened.

Top painting: Stańczyk, by Jan Matejko, 1862