• In 1989, a riot broke out in Sri Lanka when a local newspaper, as a joke, reported on a bogus numbers game. Some 2,000 angry readers showed up to collect prizes and grew hostile when they were told, "April Fools!"
• In 1957, BBC TV reported "a record spaghetti harvest" in the Italian Alps. In the video, farmers snipped away at bounteous "spaghetti trees" with extra-large scissors. With no hint of humor, the reporter credited the bumper crop to new methods of controlling the ravenous spaghetti weevil. The BBC's switchboard was jammed with hundreds of people seeking to farm spaghetti.
• In 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released a statement saying they were about to undergo side-by-side sex-change operations. The report failed to turn Yoko into a major recording artist, and Lennon died before releasing "Nowhere Woman."
• In 1989, Seattle's KING-TV reported that the city's famed Space Needle had fallen, crushing nearby buildings. That prompted frantic calls to the police, who weren't laughing at that joke.
• In 1990, a Norwegian man telephoned an Oslo jail, identified himself as a policeman, and told guards to release two of his friends as an April Fools' joke. The guards fell for it. "The idea was that they would be told of the release, but that it wouldn't happen," the prankster told The Associated Press. "I didn't think it was that easy to get people out of jail."
• In 1996, Taco Bell announced the purchase of the Liberty Bell, which would be renamed the "Taco Liberty Bell." Proceeds from the sale would be used to pay down the national debt. The National Historic Park in Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell is housed, reported thousands of people calling to protest.
• In 1998, shock jocks Opie and Anthony were fired from a Boston radio station for announcing that Mayor Tom Menino had been killed in a Florida car crash. Hizzoner didn't think the joke was funny either.
Can American Lawyers Turn French Fools Into Court Jesters?
Some of these pranks have clearly resulted in physical damages and monetary loss. As long as we're holding the French responsible for April Fools' Day, can a class-action law suit be that far off? We'll have to see if these fools like being court jesters.
I'm not sure what punitive damages the mental anguish of a hot foot can generate, but there are a lot of unemployed lawyers right now who hang out in novelty stores and know the liability associated with whoopee cushions.
If you don't want to hire a lawyer, you can represent yourself and be guaranteed to have a fool for a client.
Of course, France is likely to call in historians who will say the history of April Fools' Day is a bit murky. But how then will France explain its ongoing obsession with Jerry Lewis — the King of Fools?
Only two weeks ago, a Los Angeles disc jockey from KROQ reportedly managed to get French President Jacques Chirac on the phone — simply by saying he was the original Nutty Professor. The two discussed foreign policy and Chirac invited the disc jockey to visit him in Paris.
Lewis isn't laughing. His lawyer is threatening legal action over this funny business.
We All Scream for Nacho Ice Cream
The fear of a world without April Fools' Day might frighten off the less litigious among us. But we can go on playing practical jokes on April 1. That's not hypocritical. Do you have to give up eating just because you're suing McDonald's for making you fat?