Wednesday, April 6, 2011


April 6, 2011

Well, how many side-splitting practical jokes did you pull on Friday? My April Fool’s total this year was none. But in bygone times I have come up with four deliciously wicked naughties which I’ll list here in case someone wants to try out something similar at a later date.
1. Dracula’s Little Helper.
My wife’s screams can be heard at the other end of the house. I rush in to the bedroom and she’s taking comfort under the comforter, hiding, she says, from a bat that’s been dive-bombing her. A bat in the bedroom? Indeed there is; it must have come in through that hole in the eaves we’d noticed weeks earlier. So I usher the good lady out, close the bedroom door and open all the windows, then wave a towel in an attempt to shoo the little fellow out. But every time it gets close to leaving the house it banks sharply and stays in the room. Plan B: throw the towel over it, so I do, with success, then release the beast to the great outside and shut the windows. There. The reward will likely be a kiss on the cheek for Her Hero and I’ll tell her that’s another good reason to keep me around.
But all that’s too boring. Instead I opt for the fun part. With a red felt tip pen I mark two small dots on the side of my neck, then, hand rubbing throat, pained look on my face, I seek out Wifey to ask if she can see anything. She screams: “Oh my God!” Rushes back and forth to the medicine cabinet. Suggests carrying me to the hospital immediately. When I can’t see through my free-flowing tears of laughter I don’t notice her hand heading towards my head for a hefty clout. Not funny, she says. I thought it was.
2. The Cowboy’s Fruit Hat.
I’m in a department store with one of my very best friends, Dave. Because it‘s in New Orleans the building is older and there are not many mirrors, especially not in the departments dealing with clothing. Which is wonderful because Dave, an Englishman, is looking for a cowboy hat he can show off back home; he keeps trying on various items and asking me how they look.
Luckily – for me, that is, but not for him – the ladies hat department is conjoined with the men’s, making it easy for me to select some suitable headgear. Unsuitable for him, of course. It’s a very fetching hat, one of those brimmed 1940s revival jobs with plastic fruit and petals on top, and a feather. From behind, I set it on his head so that he’s unaware of its identity, then I make approving sounds, tell him this is “the one” and all his pals back home will be immensely jealous. There’s no way for him to check; he thinks he has a macho stetson on his head.
However, all the while we’re shopping around in other areas he’s wearing this outrageous feminine creation and folks throughout the store are smiling at him, some of them knowingly. He says people in New Orleans are so friendly...
3. Uncle Freddy’s Nephew.
Another department store, this time in upstate New York. My friend Mike is a slight man – small but perfectly formed. He’s looking for shoes, I want to buy socks, so we agree to meet at the pay desk. But now I’ve been standing at our rendezvous for nearly ten minutes and no sign on the guy , so I hit on an idea.
Walk over to the candy counter and ask the folks for an announcement, which comes over the loudspeaker system less than a minute later.
“Will Little Mikey Miller please come to the candy counter where his uncle is waiting.”
A minute later, a small man in his forties comes stomping round the aisle. Was he red-faced? His entire bald head is crimson with embarrassment. Little Mikey was not amused. The rest of us, customers and store personnel alike, all are in hysterics.
4. This last one could be the best jape of the lot: making the girlfriend jealous. We’re in the department store again and my previous squeeze, Annie, wants to try on some new outfits. Lots of new outfits. She’s in the dressing room and I’m out of patience when I espy this very pretty dummy. Not a female ignoramus but a store display statue clad in the trendiest new look in fashions.
So I wander over to it, swing it over gently and wait until I see Annie coming out of the booth with her most recent tryout dress. And at that point I lean over and give this dummy an enormous, passionate make-believe kiss of the kind you saw in the Fred Astaire brand of romantic musicals. It’s leaning backwards, I’m all over it.
Annie goes nuts. Rushes down the aisle, screaming at me. Who is that girl and how dare I. Of course, this is where I calmly place the dummy back up on its stand and the entire store collapses in laughter. More so when Annie gives me a resounding thwack upside my head.
Painful, but definitely worth it.
Merry japes. Life’s too short to be serious all the time. If you’re an imp like me, there’s no need to wait another year to pull a stunt like one of these. Remember, as Bobby Slayton, the pit bull of comedy, put it: If you can’t laugh at yourself – make fun of other people!

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.