Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to Properly Stunt Your Growth

While I recognize that April is National Poetry Month it also happens to be the month that begins with one of my favorite non-holiday holidays: April Fool's Day. Is there anything more delicious than planning and pulling off that perfect prank, that preposterous practical joke? It seems such a shame that there's only one day a year dedicated to (mostly) good-natured frivolity; after all, they repackage Halloween candy as Christmas candy, and as Easter candy, and even in "fall colors."

But I think the problem is that it can be difficult to come up with the perfect stunt to pull off in a given situation. Putting a vacuum cleaner under someone's bed and waking them up with it instead of an alarm clock (as I did this year) doesn't work at a party, and similarly you can't pin a glass of water to the ceiling with your elderly aunt the way you could with younger sibling. Wouldn't it be great if someone could collect hundreds of these sorts of things, illustrate them in an amusing cartoon format, and present them in one volume with an index so you could look up the exact stunt you are looking for when you need it?

Ta da! I present you with Sam Bartlett's collection, The Best of Stuntology. Like the subtitle says, 304 pranks, tricks and challenges to amuse and annoy your friends.

I think the word "friends" is key here because you really ought to know who your audience is before performing some of these nifty little numbers. Some people have a lower tolerance for the absurd, where others just don't appreciate humor at their expense. It's too bad, because I do think at times like the world has lost it's sense of humor, and if only people could laugh (and laugh at themselves) more then maybe things would be alright. Then again, I'm not so sure how I'd feel if someone convinced me to try and catch a quarter in a funnel tucked into my waistband so they could pour a drink down my pants when I wasn't looking. I'd like to think I would laugh if someone could convince me to draw a moose with my eyes closed and tricked me into sticking my finger into peanut butter when I got to the "tail."

But Stuntology is more than pranks, as its name implies, and there are plenty of stunts that don't embarrass or otherwise deliberately set out to cause grief or hard feelings. Many, in fact, are participatory fun. One can, for example, engage in a conversation where each side only gets to say two words per sentence. Good fun. Not easy. Takes practice. Or you could dealing with some other annoying aspects of life via stunts. Say you've got a telemarketer on the phone and you can get past your immediate response to just hang up. Why not tuck your tongue between your teeth and lower lip and attempt to have a conversation until the person who called gives up in frustration?

One of the great things about this collection is the portability of the stunts. Of the stunts that require props, few involve items not commonly found around the house. It is entirely possible to keep a mental storeroom of a dozen or so stunts that you can perform at parties or while visiting other people's houses. No need to buy fancy gewgaws at the joke or hobby shop (or online), simply show up and become the life of the party!

The pranks are single-page mini comics and Bartlett's illustration style has a playful naive quality, filled with rubbery pranksters and patsies who convey the full range of emotions. And without being explicit, one can gather from the response of the cartoon victims what a prankster or stuntologist can expect - no claims of "but I didn't realize you'd get upset" will be accepted.

The Best of Stuntology
Pranks, Tricks & Challenges to Amuse & Annoy Your Friends
written and drawn by master trickster
Sam Bartlett
Workman 2008

1 comment :

A Paperback Writer said...

Y'know, I just don't think it'd be a good idea for me to buy a copy of this for my junior high school classroom library. I simply can't see the need to encourage the little devils. :)