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A Guide to "Prank" vs. Plain Asshole

Another idiotic "prank" made headlines today, and once again the moron behind it still doesn't understand what the word prank means. Sam Pepper isn't the first person who misuses the word prank to get Internet fame, and he certainly won't be the last. Do these guys (and they tend to be men) truly not understand what the word means or is it just an excuse to be an asshole to get 10 seconds of the Internet's attention?


From Merriam-Webster:

prank noun \ˈpraŋk\

: a trick that is done to someone usually as a joke

Here's Merriam-Webster's definition of joke:

joke noun \ˈjōk\

: something said or done to cause laughter

: a brief story with a surprising and funny ending

: someone or something that is not worth taking seriously

Let's clarify.

A prank is meant to be funny, witty, light-hearted, and, above all, not cause the target serious emotional damage. (I cannot emphasize enough that the action must be funny.)


For anyone considering doing something stupid as Pepper, here is a guide to actual pranks vs. selfish, creepy, disgusting behavior disguised as "humor":

Stealing someone's cell phone is not a prank. It's lazy, stupid, unfunny, and a crime. Running off and laughing appears to be the punchline. I'm not sure where else the "joke" can go from there aside from this glorious result.


Filling your roommate's room with over 2,000 balloons qualifies as a prank. While that might not be the first time someone has done it, the individual video is funny to everyone in it. Bonus detail: no one is harassed or emotionally violated as a result of it. The target couldn't stop laughing the entire time too.

Slugging Brad Pitt at a movie premiere is not a prank; it's battery, which is a crime. I'm not a major fan of his or Angelina, but I fail to see the humor here. This article also has highlights of the "prankster's" other attempts in his brush with fame that are more creepy and weird than funny.


Talking obnoxiously loud on your cellphone in response to another person talking on her cellphone is not a prank. I'm sure Greg Benson is trying to make some sort of statement about selfish human behavior here, but the bulk of his examples are people — who aren't disrupting anyone else around them — carrying on conversations in a normal tone of voice. Benson's"humor" is about 15 years too late. Trigger Happy TV did it first and better by turning the joke inward.

Pranking teachers can be iffy, but this class did it very well by messing with a high school teacher's classroom rule on cell phones. The two most noteworthy details were that the class didn't drag out the joke and the entire room's reaction to the punchline. Yes, it was also quite funny.


Hiring a mariachi band to follow around your high school principal also qualifies as a prank, but I'm guessing that target had a good sense of humor. (My high school principal would spewed rage and spittle everywhere and grumbling something about "putting asses in seats.") The video isn't that great, but you can see a smirk on the target's face as he passes by the camera.

Yelling "fuck her in the pussy" isn't remotely funny, witty or original. What is the audience expected to do in response? The original incident wasn't even real, but at least you can get a t-shirt. Fun fact about Jameis Winston's version of this "prank": he was accused of rape, got lucky when local law enforcement botched the investigation, and shoplifted yet what got him benched from last weekend's game was publicly yelling those five "humorous" words. (I can only assume those actions now make him the #1 NFL draft pick.)


Morons like Sam Pepper and his stupid ass-grabbing "prank" are looking to be perverted, invasive assholes all under the guise of a "joke." Let's face it: Pepper just wanted to grab women's asses and enjoy their horrified reactions. That's not humor; that's cruelty and criminal.

"It's just a joke!" is the common, flimsy defense from a perpetrator when the subject of the prank isn't laughing and/or is seriously hurt. This phrase is a nicer way of saying, "Yes I might have hurt your feelings but wasn't it funny?! Please don't hate me or make me accountable for what I just did!" The action ceases to be a joke and morphs into something intentionally hurtful and mean.


If you're going to grab a woman's ass, at least have some balls and own what you're doing instead of being a coward and hiding behind a word that doesn't mean what you think it means.

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