A Casualty in the Practical Joke War


Why wait for April Fool’s Day to pull of an excellent practical joke? Sharp-eyed Missoulians have seen me over the years, driving around town with a fake foot and lower leg hanging out the bottom of the driver’s door. As any decorated veteran of a practical joke war will tell you, the best time to strike is when your victim is least expecting it. You know, like that annual credit card fee that arrives just before Christmas.

In order to wage an effective practical joke offensive, you have to steer clear of the obvious. Jumping out of somebody’s closet after they enter their room, bucket of water propped over a doorway, these are tired old gags that should be encased in glass and put on display in the Practical Joke Hall of Fame, which is actually located in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Not really.

A good practical joke will cause no pain or physical harm, but will make the recipient feel like a fool for being sucked in. One of my personal favorites was when I met a group of friends at a bar a few years back to see the Bottle Rockets. I walked in with an eye patch over my right eye, and a story about scratching my cornea by walking into a tree branch while raking the yard.


No Levi’s were harmed in the making of this gag.

I’m no Pacino, but my acting was apparently good enough to eventually sell the story. My friends realized I wasn’t kidding around (as you can imagine, sometimes I’m not taken seriously) and began to express their sympathy. We drank some beers, chatted, and watched the opening band. Then, during the break, I went up to the bar to buy a round. I returned to our table and distributed the beers. I’d switched the patch to my left eye.

No one noticed right away, but the beauty of the gag revealed itself as each person got it at a different moment. One by one they stared, laughed, shook their head and smiled at me. But nobody said anything until the last guy at our table, Steve, picked up on it. Steve was my real target. Good thing he finally noticed, because monocular vision is a major pain in the ass.

So it’s clear that I’ll go to great lengths to facilitate a practical joke. I bought a doll at a yard sale this summer and had to wait six weeks to use it. It was one of those old dolls with a cloth body and plastic head and limbs attached. No clothes. Creepy as hell.

Inspired by a gag I saw online, I duct taped the doll to the end of a long plastic pipe one afternoon and stood in our driveway, holding the doll up just outside the corner of Rusty’s second-story bedroom. It was late afternoon and his blinds were pulled down. I sent my reluctant accomplice (“He’ll have nightmares!”) Speaker up to tell Rusty that I wanted him to open his window, let some air into the room.

From my spot on the driveway, I saw his mini-blinds go up, and then I could hear the thumping of some large pieces of furniture hitting the floor in his room, followed by some muffled teenage-style swearing. Mission accomplished.

Two hours later I was still congratulating myself, enjoying a nice hot shower and thinking it would be a while before Rusty came up with a retaliatory move. I was wrong. A torrent of ice cold water came pouring over the top of the shower curtain, drenching me. I think my heart may have actually stopped. I did that little hopping dance you do when the asphalt is too hot on your bare feet, and my testicles got sucked up into my body cavity. I sputtered and grunted until I was able to draw breath. On the other side of the shower curtain, the large spaghetti pot clanged to the bathroom floor, and Rusty ran away, laughing his ass off.

I chuckled good-naturedly and congratulated him. “Marvelous! What a fine prank. Well played, sir!” That’s how I’d like to remember my reaction, but what I really did was swear up a Joe-Pesci-in-Goodfellas storm and holler something about Rusty’s sister becoming an only child when I got out of that damn shower. I may have cried.

Eventually I warmed up and calmed down. Damn. Kid got me with my own trick. I’d told him how we used to throw saucepans of cold water on each other in the frat house shower, and he ratcheted that up to an eight-quart ice storm. By the time I toweled off I was already smiling, shaking my head in admiration. I have to admit, I was quite proud. He has been paying attention. The torch has been passed.

Just wait till he pulls his snow boots on for the first time this winter.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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