Is April Fools' Day the Worst Holiday?

Is it a day of unrelenting pain, or 24 hours of pure delight? Are the naysayers missing the point, or are the pranksters to be condemned? We discuss, in another round of Cocktail Crossfire.

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In a word, yes. April Fools' Day is hell.

The only good thing about April Fools' Day is that it generates conversation about where the apostrophe should go in the phrase (after the s, is the common consensus, though it's a matter that has proponents on both sides). Still, even that becomes a tired and irksome debate topic after, say, one sip of coffee in the morning. Here is why April Fools' Day is really, really terrible though:

It's not a real holiday. And it's creepy and manipulative. Take a look around at the typical April Fools' accoutrement. Weird clowns and jesters; monkeys making gruesome faces; horrible cartoons; people leering as you sit on a Whoopie cushion and then run to the bathroom in tears. Why must everyone be so mean? Why must everyone look like a jester? If you like clowns, maybe April Fools' is the holiday for you, and that's the other thing—April Fools' Day is not a real holiday, and you should not be a person who likes clowns. It's just a day in which everyone agrees to be foolish, not a day in which we celebrate birthdays, or give each other presents, or feel good about anything. It's a day in which we are, well, sort of rude and "gotcha!" and even a little bit nasty. Is there any kind, loving, generous April Fools' Day joke? No, because an April Fools' Day joke is based on making someone else look stupid for believing that what you said was the truth. This is, if you think about it, a conceit good for no one.

Everyone becomes even more asinine than usual. That old joke in which you put a sign that says "Kick me" on your work frenemy's back? It's actually not funny. The Whoopie cushion gag, what are you, 10? Even 10-year-olds are more sophisticated than that. But even if you take your jokes into modern times, say, tweeting them out with aplomb online, there is almost literally no April Fools' joke that is funny, for two reasons. One is that the bar is so low. The other is that there are so many of them, the wheat and the chaff are the same, and you should consume neither.

Most especially the joke that relies on "backwards day" assumptions (what, you like Obama now? That's hilarious! What, you're pregnant? No you're not!) is not funny, not least because it's not funny, but also because it's been done to death. The joke is the derivative of a derivative of a derivative. And yet, those jokes are much of what we see on this day. That's because April Fools' Day seems to be a kind of license for the unfunny to try their hand at this "comedy" thing, and again, the bar is so low as to be the opposite of amusing, more like squeaky chalk on a chalkboard, or a Marimba ringtone on repeat right in your ear just as you finally fall asleep after a full week of insomnia. For some, April Fools' Day is a kind of joke empowerment. People who are hopelessly unfunny during the other 364 days of the year wake up and think, "Oh, I got this." They don't. They don't.

There exists a pure and complete saturation of stupidity. A joke that might fly on, say, April 2, simply must meet a higher bar on April 1, and the problem is, almost none of them will, because of said surge in amateur joke-making and lowbrow joke-doings. Further to that is the simple fact there are simply too many pranks, and therefore, they are exhausting. If everyone knows it's going to happen, where's the prankiness of the prank, the magic of realization among the initially unsuspecting prankcipients? On April Fools', no matter how good the joke, the wind has been taken out of the joke's sails because it's setting out on April Fools' Day.

If you work on the Internet, you must become even more cynical than usual, which makes you hate yourself even more. And you hate hating yourself! This is the day in which you must feel most of all for the person who works on the Internet, because their daily labor involves scanning the news and separating the truth from fiction. The problem is, everyone out there is trying to make fiction look like truth, and laughing hysterically about it, which is ever so tiresome. It would be one thing if the jokes, again, were funny. But there are so many, and they are mostly not at all very good, and so the person who is stuck looking at the Internet all day long—where even on the best of days, much appears to be a modified dad joke—will be very, very tired and very, very cranky and in dire need of a drink by, say, 5 p.m. And then some kind soul in the office will deliver that delightful, refreshing beverage, and the weary Internet traveler will sip it, and it will taste terrible, because it's poison. Ha ha ha. The joke's on us!

Tomorrow is another day, and with luck, it will be better. (A caveat: If you are able to complete a funny joke on April Fools' Day, I give you all of the benefit of everything. APRIL FOOLS because it's not gonna happen.)

—Jen "I hate April Fools Day" Doll

Everyone needs to lighten up. April Fools' Day is fun!

"It's an excuse to be playful." All you haters out there need this day of forced fun. While some, including my colleague up there, might find that the Internet has gotten too nice, well, it hasn't. It's full of racism, sexism, hate, and pure evil, plus mean comments and blog posts about how terrible everything in the world is. And that's just the online part of the world. April Fools' Day is a nice reprieve from all of that darkness, as jokester and health editor James Hamblin put it so well over Gchat. "I like it, an excuse to be playful," he said, after making me chuckle with a mini April Fools' Day joke of his own, pictured at right. Sure, it wasn't the most elaborate "trick" ever—you can't even really consider it a "prank"—but it made me chuckle. And that's a nice thing on a Monday.

Learning to appreciate the finesse of a good prank. Yes, Jen, it is true, there is a "complete saturation of stupidity" on this day. But that's what makes the 1st of April so great: It separates the master pranksters from the amateurs. It's like the battle royale of joke making. Because everyone is on high alert for pranks, stakes are insanely high, so if you're joke gets widespread approval it really deserves it. The best April Fools' day antics, like the BBC article about the world ending live on in infamy, with Redditors still talking about it this year. (There's also an equally entertaining Reddit thread about real live office pranks.)

And, even those who fail—like Google, this year—deserve a pat on the back for trying. Putting humor out there on the day where it will get the most intense scrutiny, via blog posts and Twitter, well, takes balls.

Since when do we only celebrate "real" holidays? Why are we taking this chance to hate on celebrations? There are so many other things worth despising, and so much more so than designated days of happiness. It might not involve candy or presents or God, but it has tradition, and that a holiday makes. Plus, it beats the dull everyday workday.

A lesson in humility. People really hate today, not because of all the bad Internet jokes but because nobody likes looking like the idiot who fell for the prank. We all could use a little more humility and embarrassment in our lives. The rest of the year we get to tweet and blog and facebook and operate like all knowing authorities. Today, we learn to think about the way things appear. And, if you fall for it, perhaps next time you'll learn to be a little more perceptive.

— Rebecca "Fun Is Fun" Greenfield

Image via Shutterstock by Pressmaster.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.