April Fool’s Day – post two
Here I admit to the “joke” I mean to make – not a practical joke as such, but a fun chance at cross promotion.
I got the idea from the Austen fandom. On April fool’s people would take the most delayed long-running stories, and ask the author permission to “finish” them. Sofie and I granted such permission one year, and the person had Darcy-the-dragon accidentally burn Lizzy. The end.
I wasn’t very happy with THAT format, because it came out under our names, which means it was confusing, and people were going “What?” when we continued, even though it had been explained it was a prank.
So, what I’d planned to do was exchange with four friends and do an episode in their world. I was going to take Tom and Kyrie to a convention… and of course indicate I had Kate’s permission, etc.
What went wrong was mostly me, but also my friends. We all seem to be doing ten thousand things at once. If we get a chance, we might still do it in future as a fun thing.
This is my favorite sort of April Fool’s joke – kind of like that documentary below – because while played perfectly straight, it doesn’t expect to FOOL anyone. (The documentary didn’t, according to its history. It wouldn’t, back then. I wonder if it would now, because so few people are around farms?) So it was funny to everyone (pretty much) how well it was done, without being mean.
My problem with most April Fool’s joke is what I call “humiliation humor.” More and more comedies, even romantic comedies seem to rely on it. My husband and kids get confused when I leave halfway through a movie because I can’t stand it, and it’s a romantic comedy. But you know, the sort of thing where say the nerd is convinced the prom queen is in love with him, and it’s all set up to have his face rubbed in it that she’s laughing at him, makes me sick to my stomach.
Perhaps it is an overdeveloped sense of empathy, but I see nothing whatsoever funny about that sort of thing. Perhaps it is because I was not only the much younger cousin, but the much younger playfellow in all the groups I belonged to, which meant that I was often the butt of such jokes, often unintentionally. (How? Well – “go lick soap” is a Portuguese expression, like “go soak your head.” At around two I didn’t know this, so when my cousin Natalia told me to go lick soap, I went and reported back it tasted awful and did I have to do it again, which made all her friends crack up.)
But in a way, the basis of ALL my ethics, defective as they are, is a horror of unwarranted cruelty. Or unexpected cruelty.
What I mean is, say your ten year old did something awful. He knows it, you know it. When he comes back, he expects to be punished. But say your two year old did something awful and has no clue it’s awful. You call and he comes to you, all smiles, because normally you’re nice to him, and you yell at him and punish him. The last one makes me physically ill. (Which means my kids got at least one and often two “free bites” where I just told them why it was awful. After they were cognizant this worked pretty well. Third time they got justice of hand on rump quickly, and that stopped it. Mind you, I made it VERY clear before I was displeased, enough to discourage the behavior. I just didn’t snap out with yelling and punishment.
Now say your kid did something for which he expects to be REWARDED (it’s amazing the stuff kids misunderstand) and you spring anger on him. THAT just makes me want to hide and cry, even just watching it. (For instance, once Robert decided to clean the kids’ bathroom for me, when he was four. There were things he didn’t process, such as “you don’t mop carpet.” He expected praise. I did praise the WISH to help, then explained what he’d done wrong, and pointed out this was why it was better – even though I knew he’d wanted to surprise me – if he asked me how to do it, until he was a little older and knew how things worked. Carpet in a kids bathroom was a stupid idea anyway, and got replaced shortly after.)
The reason I dislike MOST April fool’s jokes is that they set up that sort of situation. The situation where the prankster feels ‘better’ than the pranked, by fooling the victim.
(Most comedies these days are the same thing. They’re trying to make the viewer feel superior to the character. I wonder if this is because most of the Hollywood writers lack all empathy? Of because they have such insecure egos they must be bolstered this way. Not that I don’t love the “Big Lie” type of joke, I do – but there are ways to do it. Look at “While you were sleeping” – thank you to Rebecca and Alan Lickiss for introducing me to it – it is one of those, and you’re sort of leaning back and going “whoa, that’s gonna be a mess.” BUT no one is made the “stupid” part for falling for it.)
I do enjoy and used to look forward April Fool’s jokes you sort of know are coming, sort of are looking for, and can admire for ingenuity. Say, the Scientific American April article. (My favorite was the wooden Roman computer. I can’t now remember whether it was fed on punched wax tablets.) There are others. A fellow writer announces he’s quitting EVERY year, and tries to come up with different reasons. (Some hilarious, some very plausible.) Those, like the spaghetti below, are more of a shared joke.
My big issue with those in this day and age is that it gets reported on the net at a remove, and the indication that it’s a joke, AND the date get lost. For instance, my son, last year announced he was selling Ninja Nun to a Japanese company whose name translated to “April’s Fool”. It was clear from the drawing style, etc, that it was a joke, let alone the improbability of any company wanting to buy a tiny webcomic. BUT months later, he was still getting notes from people asking what he was paid and how he made contact.
My husband announced he was selling his first novel, under conditions NO ONE WOULD TAKE, including selling his copyright clear and forever, and having to store unsold books, and having to sell all books himself. And putting up $4000 of his own money to get traditionally “published.”
We thought he made it as outrageous as possible. And yet… yeah. Some people still find that post and send him congratulations.
So… I decided not to announce that, after seeing the light, I’d joined the communist party and/or was giving up writing forever. Because it probably WOULD lose me readers and be brought up years from now as “Sarah Hoyt is a secret communist” or “she said she wasn’t writing another word and she went on writing, and I lost all respect for her.”
Hence what I was planning, more of a joke on the characters, because let’s face it, having Kate’s Jim faced with a shape shifting DRAGON at a con, and having people trying to pretend it was a costume would be hilarious.
Ah well. Maybe one of these days the individualists will organize. For now, though, I’m going to do some work – and that’s no joke.