Pranks a Lot: Web Takes Jokes Global

ByABC News
January 5, 2007, 6:36 PM

Jan. 5, 2007— -- Have you heard the one about the feather and the toothpaste? What about Saran-Wrapping the toilet seat? Or how about short-sheeting a bed?

Traditionally, the practical joke has been a rite of passage for high school seniors and college students with too much time on their hands.

Who doesn't have a friend of a friend who's cousin's half-sister's boyfriend pulled off a really great prank? But how many of us have actually been involved in one?

As it turns out, high schoolers and college students aren't the only ones who enjoy the secrecy, the intricate planning and the thrill of fleecing our families, friends and co-workers.

Millions of people, from 19-year-olds to 92-year-olds, tune in to television shows like the TV classic "Candid Camera" and MTV's updated celebrity version, "Punk'd," just to see strangers making fools of themselves.

Now, thanks to the Internet, Web sites such as YouTube and Flickr, homemade videos or photos of pranks can be made instantly available to a huge, international audience.

Scott Ableman, who works for a Washington D.C.-area Internet company, InPhonic, found out just how "viral" a good practical joke can be.

One ordinary Friday last month, Ableman and a dozen of his co-workers snuck out to the parking garage and covered another colleague's prized Jaguar in Post-it notes. Always parking his Jag in a faraway corner "so not to be hit or dinged," Walt, the owner of the Jaguar, was an obvious target.

"We work hard and play hard at InPhonic," said Ableman, in an interview with ABC News. "Practical jokes are kind of a tradition at our company. ... It had to be done."

Two hours and 14,000 magenta, lime-green, neon-yellow, purple and electric-blue Post-its later, not one inch of the car was left bare.

"It looked like a piñata when we were all done," said Ableman. With its pink wheels, yellow lights, purple hood, blue trunk and mismatched body panels, you'd think Ableman and his crew had had it all planned out.

"It wasn't a plan at all," said Ableman. "We just got a lot of different colored Post-it notes, and then one person decided to make some tires pink and other people copied that and then we decided to make the moon roof and body panels different colors. In the end, it looks like a pretty nice design."