Judge John Hodgman Episode 87: Thanks, But No Pranks


Patrick brings this week’s dispute against his housemate Wyatt. Patrick and Wyatt were engaged in a spirited neighborhood prank war with other houses on their street. It was all fun and games until Wyatt felt a prank levied against their house went TOO FAR, and he took to social media to bring the conflict to an end. Patrick believes Wyatt overreacted, and he feels the outburst alienated them from their neighbors. Who is right? And should the prank war continue? Only one man can decide.

Thanks to The Cave in Long Island City, New York for generously allowing us to use their recording facilities this week and to engineer Marcus Parks. The Cave hosts several comedy podcasts, and you can find them at CaveComedyRadio.com.



Evidence from Patrick

Photos of the glitter aftermath.


The mark of a good prank

When I was an undergraduate student in engineering, pranks were a big part of daily life. Whether these were between different student houses, or the engineering students pranking other faculties, we were always on the lookout for a good caper. Two things guided us, though. First, a good prank is something that people will look at and wonder "wow, how did they pull that off", either because we managed to do something that should have taken way too much time in a much shorter interval, or because the prank (e.g., reassembling a car on the roof of a building) seems impossible at first. Second, A good prank NEVER destroys things. Once you destroy something that belongs to someone else, you have crossed the line from prankster to vandal (or asshole). I don't know if it's still in place, but the engineering student society at my school actually had a bank account that everybody contributed to, the only purpose of which was to pay for cleaning up our pranks (e.g., washing all of the shuttle buses on campus that we had painted, in water-soluble paint, with pro-engineering slogans).

A third, subtle point: a good prank allows the use of old-timey grifter terminology to describe it. If you can't call it a "caper", or "scheme", its probably not a good prank ;)

On being a pedant

In this podcast, the venerable Judge at one point says "one less opportunity for me to be an annoying pedant," to which *my* inner pedant screamed "it's one *fewer* opportunity."


Your Honor,

I am a law student currently avoiding studying for finals by listening to your inimitable podcast. I do have a grievance, however. I have noticed that the Court will frequently state that it is stipulating to various facts or issues and though I am loathe to question the wisdom of the Court, a stipulation is generally an agreement between parties to dispose of facts prior to the hearing. If the Court is going to make a factual determination it will "take Judicial notice" of that fact. I know this is a ridiculous quibble and I love the heck out of the show. Thank you.

Here are some pranks: Cover a

Here are some pranks:

Cover a carpeted floor with paper cups filled with water so that every individual cup must be picked up and dumped if a mess is to be avoided.

Replace his/her belt/s with smaller copies so that s/he thinks s/he has lost weight (alternatively, replace them with larger copies for the opposite effect).

If s/he is an artist, take one color out of every kind of art supplies s/he has (i.e. the red pen, the red paint tube, the red pastel).

Switch out all the pens you can find with pens of the same color but with sparkles in the ink.

Switch the furniture and everything else in two of his/her rooms, keeping the original set up (for example, put the living room set-up in the dining room and vice versa).

If s/he works out and owns equipment, replace with heavier/lighter versions of themselves (i.e. replace a medicine ball with a heavy duty basketball or vice versa).

Switch the light bulbs in his/her house with bulbs that are either much brighter or much more dim.

Switch the spices in the cabinet with different bottles (so cumin is in the bottle labeled rosemary, rosemary is in the bottle labeled thyme, etc.)

I could come up with these all day. Is blood in the back of a truck really the best he could do?

A response from Patrick

I had thought of other ones, but only included ones that I would actually do to my friends. Some others we had planned were to completely wrap their house in seran wrap OR Christmas wrapping paper, or to hide walkie talkies throughout their house and whisper creepy messages throughout the night. I only said the blood truck one because it was one we had actually planned on doing. The prank war wasn't meant to be clever, it was supposed to include quick pranks that we could do at 3 AM while people were sleeping that just caused a minor inconvenience. We didn't have access to the interior of their houses.


ps. Judge John Hodgman needs to watch out, the pranks are coming his way now and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be clever and creative!