Daily life so weird that April Fool’s Day jokes bomb

Monday was April Fool’s Day. We know that because there were some truly bizarre stories on the news diaries which, if you read to the bottom, told you they were April Fool’s stories. It’s a sad state of affairs when, as veteran news editor Ray Joseph once said during a stint on the Saturday Star, you can’t make this shit up. 

That was about 10 years ago, since then it’s got progressively worse. Eskom, by example is not a one day a year gag, the joke’s been on us progressively for more than a decade. Likewise, the Nkandla fire pool which should have been an April Fool’s joke turned out to be true (since we instinctively believe government ministers, don’t we?).

This year many newspapers chose to ignore April Fool’s all along, for the simple reality that the truth is often far stranger than fiction. The ones we did get were quite lame; like the Springboks being renamed the Zebras. It was funnier when someone wanted to call them the seagulls because they were all white with two black wings – and not only on April 1 either.

In fact, the pickings were so dire this year that the website Business Tech tried to flight a story about South Africa getting two time zones; with Cape Town being an hour ahead of London, but an hour behind Joburg to help with the load shedding schedules. It wasn’t a new gag. The SABC pulled the same prank in the late 90s – but did it brilliantly. 

In their story line, the time zone cut straight through the middle of Kimberley – which is as near the centre of the country as damnit – and sent out reporters (with poker faces) to speak to bemused residents about being an hour ahead of their neighbours who lived in the next suburb. It was priceless. It was absurd, but it was done with such absolute skill and comic timing that even those of us who lived in the diamond city wondered if there wasn’t any truth in it. For any of you who’ve done business with Capetonians in the morning, you could make it three hours before it really makes a difference. 

On Monday though, SA time zone 2.0 was a total damp squib – probably because there’s [April Fool] written just like that in the headline. And there’s the rub of it all. Have we become so bloody humourless that we can’t prank anyone anymore? And, if we do try to make a joke, have we become so emasculated that we have to cover ourselves with some sort of rider? It’s like having to explain the punchline – and as you know, if you’ve got to do that, you should stop telling jokes.

The truth is we know the answer already. 

The only one that got it right, to my mind, was Pick ‘n Pay with its Hot Cross buns tasting app using a blend of nano technology to “transduce the olfactory and sensory elements”, just in time for Easter. 

Did you lick your smartphone? More than once?

Maybe all isn’t lost after all then.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 6 April 2019.