John Early Is Figuring Out How to Be Sincere

As the star of the sharp new indie ‘Stress Positions,’ the irreverent comic works in a more serious vein. He tells Cracked why he’s getting comfortable with being earnest — even if he’s scared everyone will think he’s pretentious

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5 Pranks That Took a Ridiculous Amount of Work

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5 Pranks That Took a Ridiculous Amount of Work

Many great practical jokes take little to no effort to pull off, such as the whoopie cushion, the hand buzzer or the repeated anonymous crank calls to an unnervingly homicidal bartender. However, some pranks require a truly staggering amount of work — we’re talking Jim Halpert stacking pieces of office furniture overnight and writing full-length books-levels of pointless, unpaid labor. 

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Today, we’d like to take a moment to salute those jokers with waaaay too much time on their hands by spotlighting some real, ridiculously time-consuming pranks, like how…

New York’s Hottest Restaurant Was a Bogus Steakhouse Cobbled Together by College Students

New York City is full of hip restaurants catering to upscale foodies who think they’re too damn good to eat a Doritos Crunch Wrap Supreme assembled by a dead-eyed teenager. One particularly trendy eatery was Mehran’s Steakhouse, which, at one point, had a waitlist of “nearly 3,000 names.” Unfortunately for those hopeful diners, it was totally fake. 

The ruse began with a group of friends who held a bi-weekly steak dinner and, purely as a joke, created a Google page for “Mehran’s Steakhouse” where they could leave humorous rave reviews. But when random strangers stumbled upon the page, they took interest, believing that the praise was genuine. Rather than clear up the confusion, the group created a website for the fictitious restaurant and began taking reservations.

Not ones to let a good joke die, the crew chose to open the restaurant for one night only, renting an event space in the East Village and obtaining a “liquor license and food permit.” While diners — including a food critic for the New York Times — believed that they were getting a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, which meant paying $114 for the “Bovine Circle of Life” entree (aka steak and potatoes), in reality, the kitchen was staffed entirely by college students who had never actually worked at a restaurant before.

Somehow, none of the patrons got suspicious, even when servers went table to table with a jug of milk “claiming it was from a cow in Uganda named ‘Philip.’” To further dupe people into buying into the bogus restaurant’s hype, Mehran and his pals had some other friends stand outside the building holding posters of Drake, so people “walking by would think that Drake was actually inside when he really wasn’t” — of course, had he known that it was staffed entirely by college students, perhaps Drake would have shown up for real. 

An Underappreciated TikToker Faked His Own Death to Teach His Family a Lesson

We all feel a little unappreciated by our families sometimes, but one guy took his hurt feelings way too farEarlier this summer, a Belgian man made headlines after he decided to teach his extended family a “life lesson” about “the importance of staying in touch” by reaching out with a heartfelt phone call faking his own death. You know, like Tom Sawyer, if Tom Sawyer was a 45-year-old TikToker. 

As part of his plan to illustrate that “you shouldn’t wait until someone is dead to meet up with them,” the faux corpse, David Baerten, enlisted the help of his wife and children (who were thankfully in on the prank) to announce his death on social media. He even went as far as to throw a funeral for himself, then crashed the memorial service by showing up in a friggin’ helicopter, like the Ghost of Capitalism Past.

The whole thing was captured on camera and posted online, and while some people were supportive, others called it a “pathetic stunt,” prompting Baerten to later apologize for his “monstrous” actions.

MIT Students Blew Up a Weather Balloon in the Middle of a Harvard Football Game

As most of us know — likely from watching old episodes of The Simpsons — Harvard and Yale have a long-standing rivalry, especially when it comes to football. This is why their matches are frequently targets for school pride-fueled pranks, like the time Yale students masqueraded as a pep squad and tricked hundreds of Harvard fans into holding up placards that spelled out: “We Suck.”

Back in 1982, a group of MIT students got in on the fun. Inspired by a failed prank from 1948, which would have found buried explosives detonating to “spell out M-I-T in 15-foot letters,” the ’80s youths buried a (less potentially traumatic) weather balloon in the middle of the field. The years-in-the-making plan successfully resulted in the MIT-emblazoned balloon inflating with “7:45 left in the second quarter” before ultimately bursting.

The overly polite pranksters even left a note inside the device with “instructions on how to put it back in the ground.”

A Fictional Student Nearly Won ‘Time’s Person of the Year Poll

George P. Burdell is an alumnus of Georgia Tech, a veteran of World War II and was once a candidate for Time’s Person of the Year — pretty impressive. Even more so considering that he never actually existed.

The Burdell hoax began when a guy named Ed Smith mistakenly received two enrollment forms for Georgia Tech way back in 1927. So Smith enrolled both himself and a totally imaginary student named George P. Burdell (a combination of the name of Smith’s former principal and that of his “family cat”).

Smith went to the trouble of both enrolling Burdell in classes and completing “duplicate tests in his name,” even modifying his handwriting to “avoid detection.” After telling friends about the joke, the myth continued to spread. “George P. Burdell” began showing up on World War II rosters, and he is officially credited as part of a B-17 bomber flight crew, which flew “12 missions over Europe with the 8th Air Force in England.”

Even though this story highlights their old-timey bureaucratic incompetence, Georgia Tech has subsequently embraced the legend of George P. Burdell. President Obama even gave the bogus campus legend a shout-out when visiting the campus in 2015.

Burdell was also included in the poll for Time’s 2001 Person of the Year Award and led the vote until the magazine caught wise and yanked his name off the list. Although, since that award ultimately went to Rudy Giuliani, in retrospect, a fraudulent 1920s college student wouldn’t have been the worst choice.  

An Alaskan Man Spent Years Planning a Fake Volcanic Eruption

Not a lot of pranks tend to involve real volcanoes, considering that they’re large, dangerous and nearly killed both Pierce Brosnan and Tommy Lee Jones. But in 1974, a guy in Sitka, Alaska, endeavored to create an April Fool’s joke that would make his fellow citizens believe that Mount Edgecumb, a nearby stratovolcano, was erupting. Yes, it’s amazing what people did to pass the time before the internet.

To achieve this illusion, prankster Oliver “Porky” Bickar and his friends reportedly “scaled all 976 meters” of the volcano, at which point they met a helicopter pilot who had hauled a load of old rubber tires and kerosene to the top. Bickar set the tires on fire — it wasn’t the most climate-friendly prank — before hurling them into the crater. This created a thick plume of black smoke, tricking folks in the city into thinking that they were about to be straight-up Pompeii-ed.

While Bickar had “alerted” the Federal Aviation Administration about the prank, nobody else knew. Panicked residents called the Coast Guard, who promptly flew over the volcano only to find a “massive spray-painted sign” that read “APRIL FOOL.” The prank took four years of planning; a lot of time to devote to a scheme with no purpose other than to make your neighbors and loved ones erupt in their underwear from fear.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).

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John Early Is Figuring Out How to Be Sincere

As the star of the sharp new indie ‘Stress Positions,’ the irreverent comic works in a more serious vein. He tells Cracked why he’s getting comfortable with being earnest — even if he’s scared everyone will think he’s pretentious

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