The Times, 1 April 2009


If you've made it as far as this paper without someone playing a vexing prank upon you, consider yourself lucky. Today is, of course, April Fools' Day, which provides a Get Out Of Jail Free card for the kind of behaviour which would normally result in a minor act of violence. Even those of us least tolerant of practical jokes might have raised a smile at some of the more successful hoaxes in the past: the BBC and its famous spaghetti harvest, the Dutch news programme that claimed the Tower of Pisa had collapsed, or the New Mexico science journal that once suggested Alabama state legislature had changed the value of π to its Biblical value of 3.0.

So I would be normally be writing a spoof story today, about how scientists have proven that pigs are officially smarter than children who play videogames for more than two hours a day. But I couldn't really think of one, because the news has beaten me to it. Tom Lehrer once said that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger had made political satire obsolete. Now the same is true of hoaxes - most of the recent news reads like an April Fools' joke. Try scrolling down through the Most Read stories on the BBC's website, and you'll see what I mean. A sample of this week's include:

1. A 70-year-old Australian judge is about to go to jail for having lied about a £36 speeding fine, after claiming his car was being driven by someone who was technically dead.

2. Jacqui Smith's husband has been watching pay-per-view television, including adult films, while he was in that second home she has where her family actually live. And honestly - the porn is one thing, but Ocean's Thirteen? Surf's Up? What was he thinking?

3. A woman in Northern Ireland has the distressing problem of a squirrel infestation in her home. Which wouldn't be a bit funny, if it weren't for the fact that her name is Oonagh Nutt.

4. Police used CS gas in the House of Commons on Monday night to break up a fight between two journalists, who were at a party held by Tory MP Eric Pickles. Some guests at the event told the BBC they thought it was an over-reaction.

5. A Russian cosmonaut has complained that he is no longer allowed to use a US toilet since the International Space Station became 'a more commercial operation'.

6. Agadoo, named the worst song of all time by music writers, is to be re-released. Black Lace singer Dene Michael said: "With all the doom and gloom in the world, this is just what we need."

Oddly, that's exactly what I was thinking, but I suspect with a rather more sarcastic tone of voice.