That Sucks Day: The mental health benefit of pranks


April 15 is National That Sucks Day. To anyone who pays taxes, this day resonates. Historically, April 15 has not been kind. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln on this day in 1865. The Titanic went under on April 15, 1912. Even T.S. Eliot described April as the cruelest month, but it’s doubtful the poet had terrestrial unpleasantness in mind when he penned that line. Despite this day’s sad, sordid history, it should be seized as an opportunity to revel in boundless mirth (at others’ expense, of course).

I remember exactly where I was when that stink bomb went off

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher known principally for his political work “Leviathan.” Hobbes is also known for this cheery observation: “The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Perhaps if Hobbes had the opportunity to toss a stink bomb into his brother’s bedroom, he might reconsider his opinion of this mortal coil. Pranking (of the safe and legal variety, of course) can be a pleasant way to capture and savor time.

The psychology of pranking

Mel Brooks wrote, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” A bit extreme, perhaps, but accurate all the same. The mild misfortunes of others provide amusement. Before it was a well-placed banana peel; now it’s “Impractical Jokers.” Whatever is beatific and sublime in human nature, no one is immune from delighting in seeing another discomfited.

Researchers believe pranking promotes bonding through humor. For a newcomer, being the butt of a joke signifies acceptance; it instills camaraderie and, to a certain degree, trust. They note practical jokes have a two-fold effect on mental health. First, when properly executed, they create humor and laughter, releasing oxytocin and helping to strengthen social bonds. Second, they afford the pranked the opportunity to examine himself from another’s perspective.

Monotony and mindfulness

“People, chained by monotony, afraid to think, clinging to certainties … they live like ants.” None other than Count Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi, uttered this assessment. Charlotte Bronte likened monotony and death to be the same. When life is monotonous, there is no mindfulness. Mindfulness comes when the mind has something to feast upon; not the bland repetition of joyless endeavors. Pranking provides such fodder. Pranking enlivens humdrum existence. Pranking sparks creativity in the prankster and humility in the pranked – two qualities that serve humans well. Pranking can safely disturb a young person’s insularity from reality. Pranking can prepare a person to handle the stress of everyday life. And it can be damn fun.

As for the fake vomit? It’s sure to elicit some reaction at your local Starbucks.

White River Academy is a boarding school located near the Great Basin in Utah. The goal of WRA is to transform the lives of young men age 12 to 17 who have behavioral health issues. We combine a challenging curriculum, peer-to-peer support and outdoor activities and excursions to create an environment not only conducive to learning but also to healing. Our program for dealing with co-occurring conditions is a good example of how we treat the underlying causes that fuel addiction or conduct disorders. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information.

About the author:

Darren Fraser, worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. 

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top