Well folks, it’s almost that time of year again. The dreaded day that sets April as a month full of “fun” and “jocularity”, a day where everyone on the internet asks each other “did you hear what happened to (insert celebrity name here)!?” and good ‘friends’ decide it’s funny to superglue miscellaneous objects to unsuspecting faces, all in the spirit of ‘April Fools’. Taking joy in the misfortune of others, initiated by your own Machiavellian hand, is a staple for the average April Fools’ Day. But what if you’re not into that sort of thing? What if you’re not Machiavelli, or even Italian? Never fear! This is the article for you! (Imagine a pale guy pointing at you, like Kitchener but not in a creepy, warmongering way).
During the proverbial no-holds-barred death match that society has apparently sanctioned for April 1, finding the right movie to survive the festivities can be an arduous task. Comedy, a wise man once said, is no laughing matter. For the hallowed day the discerning enthusiast must select only the finest of the genre; satire is always welcome, the odd happy-go-lucky character is often appreciated, and shenanigans must always, always be had. Sarcasm, much like any good article on the subject in the film section of a newspaper, must drip from the page. This is vitally important. Here are a few classics which fit the bill.
For the musically minded, The Producers is always a great shout, and befits the April Fools’ motif. At the film’s heart is a plan to make the worst musical ever designed to con investors out of their money, which, let’s admit it, is essentially just an extremely elaborate prank. Either version is good, though Nathan Lane’s performance as Max Bialystock in the 2005 remake is especially commendable. In truth, anything by Mel Brooks is a winner, in particular Blazing Saddles which fulfils all of the above criteria with aplomb; Gene Wilder’s iconic performance as Jim aka “The Waco Kid” is both hilarious and heart-breaking. With a satirical wit so lacerating, it’s no wonder The Producers and Blazing Saddles are considered among the greatest comedy films of all time.
The great thing about satire is that it pays no regard to the old saying “never talk about religion or politics”, instead it stands as a direct challenge to this taboo. Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is without doubt the greatest political satire of all time. Its capture of cold war fears about a nuclear conflict between the USA and USSR remains hilarious and chilling to this day. The pitch black comedy is an archetype of the genre, one for all you dastardly pranksters out there (disclaimer: neither The Student nor the University of Edinburgh condone the use of nuclear weapons as tools for pranking. Please use them responsibly, and remember: always wear safety glasses).
Likewise, Monty Python’s Life of Brian has consistently been one of the most controversial pieces of cinema since its release in 1979, precisely because it satirises both the politics of the 1970s (namely revolutionary groups and Britain’s left wing) and modern organised religion. The latter has proved to be the most incendiary, although the Pythons maintain the film is heretical because it lampoons the practices of modern organised religion, but that it does not blasphemously lampoon the God that Christians and Jews worship. This is important; the film pokes fun at the misinterpretation of Christ’s lessons – “I think he said blessed are the cheesemakers” – and the nuisance caused by ex-lepers now without a source of income. The final song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, crystallises the comedic achievement – a cheery juxtaposition to the eponymous hero’s woes as the film reaches its conclusion. It follows the way Dr Strangelove ends, with its rendition of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again set to the backdrop of a series of nuclear explosions.
Thus, armed with the correct film (and not a nuke) dear reader, you too can survive April Fools’ Day. If you get pranked, don’t grumble, give a whistle. And this’ll help things turn out for the best (cue music)…