An April Fool's Commitment
My father is committed to the craft of foolishness. He can out dad-joke any dad any day. Everyone who knows him knows to expect to hear some sort of groaner before the conversation is through. He is an attorney, so many of his friends and clients have gifted him with lawyer-specific joke books over the years. The man knows more bad lawyer jokes than you might have thought even existed. This is not to say that my dad isn’t funny. He is. Even when he tells you the groaner, you will genuinely laugh.
His delivery is part of the hilarity. He’ll try to pass off the joke as an anecdote within the casual conversation but his voice changes tone, his face shifts — his eyes widen, the corners of his mouth perk up. It’s like he can’t contain the humor despite how badly he wants to disguise it and how hard he tries. Part of what makes great comedy is the element of surprise. Where my dad lacks that element, he makes up for it in hit-you-over-the-head obviousness. It’s endearing and yeah, it’s funny.
April Fools’ Day is my dad’s Christmas, his Super Bowl, his Cubs winning the World Series. My dad is so committed to April Fools’ Day that when he called me, a few years ago now, to tell me that he was engaged to Patty — my now step-mother — I double checked the date. I informed him that it was November first, not April. I really thought he was trying to pull one over on me.
When my brothers and I were kids, we easily fell for the April first wake up that it had snowed 30 feet the night before, or that an alien spaceship landed in the backyard, or that the minivan had been stolen off of the driveway. When I went away to college, dad would call me first thing with falsities I couldn’t immediately disprove because I was 1,700 miles away: the house had been robbed, my brother Eric had been kicked out of school, the alien spaceship had returned.
The best April Fools’ joke my dad played on us was during a spring break family trip to Costa Rica. We were staying in a two-bedroom bungalow, he and mom in one room, me and my brothers in the other. He ran in with carefully contained excitement.
“Boys, wake up. There’s a tiger walking around outside. Wake up. Be quiet. Don’t scare it. Come look at the tiger. There’s a tiger outside.”
Dad understood that the best way to fool someone is to get them first thing in the morning while their brains are still groggy and they can’t process the lack of evidence. However, being that our resort was located deep within the Costa Rican jungle, a big cat prowling about was completely plausible. Never mind that technically, Costa Rica doesn’t have tigers. It is home to other wild cats and it’s fair enough to say that Dad could have easily mistaken an indigenous cat for a tiger. Of course, none of that matters. The whole thing was a hoax. Still, all three of us leaped out of our beds and ran to the window in hopes of seeing a roaring tiger. We were older than we had been when he offered the spaceship in the backyard — I was now a sophomore in college — but we believed it more than any of the other jokes. It seemed the most realistic. And when he shouted, “April fools!” we were genuinely disappointed and felt incredibly fooled.
Good for Dad. It was perfect.
So when no phone call or text message came early on April 1, 2017, I figured he was biding his time, trying to throw us off our game, building toward something really spectacular. My wife, Katie, had grown accustomed to Dad’s April Fools’ pranks in the five years that she’d known him. She and I went about our Saturday as usual, her occasionally asking, “Have you heard from your dad yet?”
And then it came via group text to me and my two younger brothers. It was shortly after nine o’clock.
Dad: I was in an accident. But I’m okay. My van. Not so much.
Me: There it is.
Me: Katie has been waiting for this all day.
Then Dad called me. “She’s been waiting for what?”
“Your April Fools’ joke.”
“It’s not a joke.”
He told me that he and Patty were driving his van in Tinley Park and some jackass was tailgating him. He tapped his breaks and the guy slammed on his. Dad could see the guy shaking his fist and screaming at him from his rearview mirror. The other guy then moved to the left lane, speeding up to Dad and Patty, and managed to scrape the side of the van. They called the cops, the guy was hauled off in the back of a squad car.
“Send pictures,” I said.
The photos followed almost immediately. There was a blue van, just like Dad's, with scrapes and dents just as he had described. And there was the other car with scrapes and dents just as he had described.
Me: Pretty elaborate. I commend you on the commitment to the spirit of the day. Totally worth the wait.
Eric: LOL. Interesting angles on the van… I told the story of the tiger in Costa Rica a bit ago. :)
Steven: I like the one where dad’s van ACTUALLY gets hit by another car! That was the best prank! Haha! Fooled us without even trying to fool us! Best prank ever!
Me: I think they were driving along, passed the Tinley Park Police Station, saw a blue van that looked like his, genius struck, he whipped his van into the lot and took the photos.
Dad: It’s not a prank.
Me: Did you have to leave the van with the police?
Dad: No. The van is home.
Me: Send photos.
Again, almost immediately, Dad delivered the proof. The van with the scrapes and dents sitting in his driveway.
Me: Really, really well done, Dad. You stole the lookalike van. Bravo.
What followed was a series of gifs from Steven and I congratulating our father on the commitment. After a dozen or so gifs Dad responded.
Dad: Face it. I’m the best prankster. I’ll go to the ends of the earth to make it the best. Next year I burn down the house.
I’m not entirely sure how real or fake this accident was. I don’t think my father actually stole a lookalike van out of a police station parking lot, but then again, he is seriously committed to the joke. And he knows he has to step up his game if he’s going to fool his grown sons and their wives. We’ll have to wait and see if he actually does burn his house down this year. If so, it will prove that my dad is the world’s greatest April fool. And I would be so proud of him.