I am torn. On the one hand I have always thought of pranking as essentially mean spirited. I am not fond of jokes at the expense of more or less innocent people. Getting back at the bully is one thing. Pulling the chair out from under a serious guy so that he sits down hard -- well, it's humour that's playing for the other team. There's an element of bullying in it.
That's on the one hand. On the other hand, I am genuinely amused at my son's seasonal project. He and his housemate A-Bomb (regular readers of this blog will recall that I took A-Bomb's shoes with me to Slovenia, which upset him) have decided to act out an Advent Calendar of pranks. Each day a different jape, leading up to the big day when their exams are over and they all go home for Christmas. What makes this Advent project so funny (I am wrestling with my conscience here) is that all the pranks are played on the same guy. Poor Dino, a fellow housemate, has been subjected to tripwires, mitten substitutions, noisily stuffed pillowcases, knapsack shenanigans (a long long string with a boot attached to the knapsack, so that he was jerked backwards a half-block from home when the trailing boot caught in the doorway). Their latest prank involves hiding five alarm clocks in his room, set to go off at ten minute intervals. As Sam tells it, the entire house reverberated from Dino's cursing when the first alarm bell went off. His reaction to subsequent bells got funnier, and funnier.
The success of Sam and A-Bomb's project revolves around two things. First, their seriousness. The very idea of an Advent Calendar devoted to torturing a fellow housemate is, well, funny. The application that the two guys put into their daily tasks speaks volumes. In a way, it shows how much they care. Second, and even more important to success, is the character of the victim. Dino is an enthusiastic lovable guy, tall, gawky, and good-hearted. His relentless victimisation is funny not because he does not deserve it, but because he takes it so well. To my mind, Dino emerges as the star of the show.
And Sam and A-Bomb owe him. Buy a big bottle of what he drinks, guys, and put it under the tree.