Sunday, April 1, 2007

Dolphins are real smart, people not so much

In honor of one of my favorite days of the year, I invite you to join me in the Wayback Machine for a trip to the land of April Fools' memories.

Back in the radio days, I learned that "funny phone" was an activity that could consistently yield results. Get somebody on the line, get them talking, and it might turn out good. April Fools Day was an opportunity to get some funny phone action going with a broader purpose - pranks.

One way to do it was to ask the listeners to give me a setup - somebody they wanted a joke played on. The best of those came from some people at the local Fish and Game office. I called the victim and told him I was from PETA, and we had heard there had been a wine spill into a local creek. I got gradually more outraged as I told him about how all the wildlife was drinking from this creek and getting sloshed. He was so professional and sincere, he didn't even bat an eye when I mentioned "reports of drunk skunks and tipsy squirrels."

The simpler approach was just to come up with some plausible yet outrageous announcements, something that would make the listener say "What the $%#* did they just say on the radio?" You could always score with something related to schools. "We're told that the School District is about to release an official statement that spring break has been cancelled." That'll get some response.

But the all-time champion of April Fools gags for me was in the late 90s. Just a few miles down the road is an amusement park that at the time was called Marine World Africa USA. One of their most popular shows was the performing dolphins. We announced on the morning show a reminder that "today's the day when the trainers from Marine World are bringing their show to Napa. The free performance is at 10:30, and the best vantage point will be Veterans Park downtown where you can see the dolphins performing in the Napa River." It had just enough plausibility to get the average person to say "That's cool, I didn't know that - hey, wait a minute..." I'm not sure how many people showed up, heeding my advice to get there early due to the big crowds expected. But I sure got some calls later in the day. I almost felt guilt when one mom told me about taking her kids out of school and all - almost.

But April Fools Day comes but once a year. Who am I not to celebrate it?

1 comment:

Scott said...

Ahhh yes...an April Fools Day doesn't go by I don't think about the dolphins performing in the Napa River. The amusement park was set to open that month after closing for the winter, so it just made sense that they would want to pull off a publicity stunt like that. By the end of it I think we even said the killer whales were coming to. And of course my high-pitched dolphin whistles made the story that much more believable. Not. Yes, I think the woman called from the bridge and said there were other people there too with their lawn chairs. Nice.