Michael Thompson
Associated Content

It's April Fools' Day - the 24-hour period where most everybody seems to be angling for a laugh at somebody else's expense.

For the novices among us, some of the best advice for garnering a chuckle comes from those who make people laugh for a living.

"Being foolish is what we do every day," says Pj Jacokes, producer for Go Comedy! Improve Theater in Ferndale. "So April Fools' is like a day off for us, because everybody else is with us on that day."

Comedian Mike Green of Warren, a mainstay at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle in Royal Oak says an occasional part of his comedy routine has an April Fools' aspect.

"It's just a little trick I play. A practical joke," Green says. When an audience member heads for the restroom, Green cuts off his microphone and speaks quietly to the remainder of the group. He explains that near the end of his show, he is going to tell a supposed joke, but "it's not gonna make any sense at all."

Later, when the time arrives, this non-joke will cause immense quiet in the room. However, when he gets to a chosen keyword such as "monkey," everyone bursts into planned laughter as they keep an eye on the person who'd earlier had been away.

Invariably, Green says, the person will join in the revelry, although often with a somewhat puzzled expression. He says this is simply a human instinct, a desire for belonging.

To change things up a bit, Green will instead gather information on the person when he or she leaves for the restroom, such as the type of car they drive or the number of children they have. Later in the show, he pretends to be a mind-reader. "They freak out like I'm really psychic," he says with a laugh.

Green notes, "After the show, nine times out of 10 they will approach me and say, 'Yeah, yeah, my friends told me what you did. I can't believe I fell for it.' But people are good-natured, and they realize it's a comedy club."

At Go Comedy! Improv Theater, Jacokes says patrons always have an opportunity for foolery (today or any other day) because their format involves audience participation in an improv setting.

"The thing that sets improv apart from stand-up, for me, is that it's a unique experience," Jacokes says. "You will never see the same thing twice. The audience dictates what happens, so they have some ownership in the show. If a stand-up wants to talk about airplane food or diseases, you don't have any say in it."

Jacokes says, "April Fools' is pretty much a one-shot deal, without a whole lot of meat on it. It's not like Presidents Day, when you have 44 different targets."

Mark Ridley, owner of the Comedy Castle, says most April Fools' Day activities are pranks rather than jokes, better suited for a morning radio drive-time host than to a stand-up comic.

"Basically, I've treated April Fools' Day just like any other day in the 31 years I've been in business," Ridley says.

A stand-up comic might make playful fun of an audience member's hair or clothing or whatever, but that's not really in the April Fools' Day mode, Ridley says. That type of interplay falls in the category of teasing rather than pranking, he says.


Presston Smith said...

We totally played an April fools joke on our audience members on April fools. Kind of upset a couple of people... so it was really April fools on us? Dis on us and our strange Phoenix comedy scene!

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