After the The Tab’s hoax fools The Sun, PHOEBE LUCKHURST and LOTTIE UNWIN select April Fool’s Day’s finest efforts.
In a modern age in which eight-year olds are au fait with Skype and pensioners are ‘Tweeting’, there is something quite delightful about the fact that the media still has a few tricks up its sleeve to thumb its nose at the ‘media-savvy’, the sceptics and those smug wannabe columnists who live solely to post irate retorts underneath articles on The Independent online.
The Tab had its own fun this year, but here’s our round-up of some of the media’s April Fools hoaxes:
Radio Four: 'Was Shakespeare French?'
Premise: Radio Four’s hoax was a 3.40 minute feature that reported claims that new evidence unearthed by archaeologists this week suggested that Shakespeare, unwitting defender of the British cultural claim since the 17th century, was, in fact French. The report explained that archaeologists digging at the apparent site of one of Shakespeare’s two homes had found a locket, with an inscription from Shakespeare’s mother reading: 'A mon fils.' Apparently the locket had once belonged to Mary Queen of Scots, herself born in France, and had come into the possession of Shakespeare’s mother – yep, apparently French too, which is where the heritage comes in – after her execution. Apparently the locket also held a lock of Mary Queen of Scots hair, discovered after the contents of the locket were screened by an infrared light.
Best line: The former French culture minister and ‘MP for Calais’ (um), Jacques Long, appearing at 2.35 and explaining in a rather dubious accent, that this, "confirms what some French experts had already thought. We are looking into how to honour the great playwright. Of course, we have Racine and Molière, but we will make some room for him in our national pantheon of literature."
Imagination: The commensurate skill of this hoax is the blending of two relative historical unknowns: Mary Queen of Scots, whose story has always been tainted by the assassination of her husband in suspicious circumstances; and Shakespeare, who has been dogged by allegations that he didn’t exist since he started existing.
Believability: Doing pretty well until Mary’s ‘lock of hair’ entered the equation.
The BBC: 'Clare College Announces Bankruptcy'
Premise: Clare College announces bankruptcy after its gamble on last year’s stock markets – a gamble for which they had to borrow £15 million – didn’t pay off. College representative, Tony Badger, explained that the college was in negotiations for a merger, and predictably, Trinity (they own the O2 arena, did you know), stuck its oar in and said it might consider buying the place. If no merger were to take place, the college would be turned into luxury flats.
Best line: "We are urging the University to announce contingency measures for the students of Clare" said Tom Chigbo, the president of the student union. Chigbo. Man of the people. No longer the president of CUSU, but we’ll overlook the BBC’s oversight.
Imagination: I’d like to think that the BBC’s use of a Cambridge college suggests that they’ve been checking The Tab and have therefore felt inspired to visit the country’s second oldest bastion of education as a medium of fun for all the nation. I see it as almost a homage.
Believability: Come on. We’d obviously have got to this first.
The Guardian: 'Labour’s election strategy: bring on no-nonsense hard man Gordon Brown'
Premise: Playing on the recent emergence of tales of ‘Bully Brown’s’ playground tactics, The Guardian informed the unwitting reader that Labour was ready to embrace the tough-man image and present the PM as a Scottish wide-boy, ready to take Big Dave down in "a bare-knuckle fistfight for the future of Britain". No longer will Brown be cosying up to the slimy, supercilious Piers Morgan and shedding his token tear: no, it’s back to the tactics he learnt on the mean streets of Kirkcaldy. The Guardian mocked up a poster reading: 'Step outside posh boy’, in stark white capitals, with the PM's face looming threateningly in the half-shadow behind.
Best line: "Possible confrontations under discussion include pushing Andrew Marr out of the way while passing him on a staircase, or thumping the back of Jeremy Paxman's chair so hard that he flinches in shock." Amazing.
Imagination: Not so much imaginative as astute use of a political mood to colour the impending election. Brilliant. Download your own Bruiser Brown poster here. The bedders will quail.
Believability: Have you ever been to Kirkcaldy? I wouldn't trust my chances with Brown, partial blindness or no partial blindness.
Premise: Not renowned for being a bundle of laughs, The Economist’s story was financially-themed, which for me, automatically disqualifies it from being funny before I’d even read it. According to the newspaper, the world is facing an impending ‘olive oil crisis’, with climate change due to “wipe out most of the groves in the Mediterranean, the main production zone.” Russia will have the last laugh, however – just as they will if Putin turns out to have nuclear weapons – since the climate change will mean that “its steppes, freed of permafrost, will soon host vast olive groves; a series of pipelines will send extra-virgin supplies westwards.”
Best line: “A Russian deal to pipe oil directly to Germany has caused dismay in central European countries that will be bypassed, potentially leaving salads undressed."
Imagination: They wanted to do something with oil. Because oil is integral to the world economy. So they thought of the first oil they could think of that wasn’t actual oil.
Believability: Poor effort from the financial sector.
The Telegraph: ‘Ferrets key to bridging the digital divide between cities and rural areas’.
Premise: Virgin Media has revealed that they have been using specially trained ferrets to bring broadband to remote rural areas for over a year. They burrow underground and lay the cables, bringing internet to those poor country bumpkins who would otherwise be stuck in the dark ages. Such philanthropic little rodents.
Best line: “The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network.” The idea of ferrets wearing jackets was about as funny as this one got.
Imagination: in trying to detract from this fundamentally absurd concept, The Telegraph threw in a few too many statistics to keep my interest – or mild amusement at the idea of clothed animals – piqued.
Believability: Turned out to be absurdum ad nauseam since the picture of the ferret-sized road sign just tipped me over the edge. Ferrets aren’t cute.
Google: Launch 'A different kind of company name' and 'Translate for Animals'
Premise: Google wanting to put some spring in their step have changed their name to Topeka, to honour a town in Kansas that, rumour has it, a month ago changed it’s name to Google. The blog outlines how we should integrate the new branding into our language:
Not satisfied with just the one prank, Google launched a new application for Android phones that means users can translate the sound pets make.
Best Line: "We've always been a pet-friendly company at Google, and we hope that Translate for Animals encourages greater interaction and understanding between animal and human." As if my cat does appreciate the benefits of Google scholar.
Imagination: I wrongly assumed that a witty Christmas themed logo was as bold as Google would ever be. I underestimated them. Not convinced? Then watch the video.
Believability: One technology blogger on I4U News was not impressed arguing, ‘It would have been better if Google would have exchanged the logo on the homepage with Topeka. This would have confused millions of users world-wide.’ While this is true, would world wide confusion have been a step too far?
'Starbucks Listens to Customer Request for More Sizes'
Premise: In response to demands from the great American public Starbucks have launched two new sizes; the 128 ounce Plenta and the 2 ounce Micra. Clearly for some customer only drinking coffee by the fishbowl full with ease the shakes early in the day. Not only is the morally dubious company now democratically led by the its customers but also it endorses recycling, proposing the Plenta cup can be re-used as a lampshade.
Best line: "Starbucks is also suggesting several subsequent uses for the Plenta™ cup post coffee enjoyment. Suggested usage options include popcorn receptacle, rain hat, perennial planter, lampshade or yoga block. The Micra also serves as a convenient milk dish for kittens, soft boiled egg cup or paper clip holder."
Imagination: They have gone to town on the pictures, worthy of my Latte custom any day.
Believability: It's a step in the right direction following last year's PlugPour, promising to provide coffee through your USB port.