Around the internet and social media, many have already called off this year’s observance.
"So let's take this opportunity to clarify something: April Fools' Day pranks are not funny right now. Don't do them," CNN warned in its report Wednesday.
The Verge.com declared "April Fools' Day is canceled, you monsters!"
But in one of our nation’s darkest hours, humor may be the very thing that gets us through.
There’s still hope
Finding humor or taking things in stride amid the steady drumbeat of bad news is not a new concept.
Alex Boese, the author of “The Museum of Hoaxes: A History of Outrageous Pranks and Deceptions,” told USA Today that although the viral messaging on social media may die down this year, April Fools’ Day will survive.
It's endured throughout world wars and pandemics in the past," Boese said. "The tradition will just pick up again next year. It's lasted 500 years, it's going to last through this pandemic," Boese told the newspaper.
He warned pranksters against crossing the line between humor and harm.
“Your jokes should never do any real harm to anybody; they shouldn't hurt people or potentially cause injuries,” Boese told USA Today.
The current times recall when the U.S. entered World War II, and comedian Bob Hope began a tradition of flying into war zones to entertain American troops, keeping the morale high with laughter.
Hope’s first show was in 1941 at March Field in California, and spanned 50 years span through the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.
Now in retrospect, it seemed so necessary.
Psychology of laughter
Even psychologists encourage saying or doing something funny in stressful times just like these.
"Humor can be a great mechanism for dealing with stress," according to a report in Psychology Today. "Jokes and witty conversation can make you feel closer to the people around you. In addition, a key element of jokes is that they force you to look at the same situation in different ways."
A report on the website tinybuddha.com also offers sage advice on why it's essential to find humor during difficult times.
“There’s no point trying to be solemn for solemnity’s sake,” writes Aimee Foster. “Even in the darkest, most trying and difficult moments, I believe if something is funny, you have to laugh. Seize the opportunity to escape the situation, even if for a few seconds, and welcome the release.”
Back to reality
But that may be easier said than done given the current state of things.
Across the most powerful country in the world, thousands are sick or dead, and the toll is growing exponentially by the day, by the hour.
The economy is in a standstill as nearly all businesses are shuttered and millions of Americans are laid off and are under orders to stay home.
The stock market is sputtering.
Under the tremendous economic strain and uncertainty surrounding the spread of the virus, many companies have adjusted or curbed usual humorous approaches to marketing and advertising, treading cautiously with struggling Americans.
Google said it would forgo its annual ritual of sharing April Fools’ Day jokes across the company’s platforms out of respect for those fighting COVID-19, according to an internal email obtained by Business Insider.
And who could possibly be laughing after just yesterday President Donald Trump told the nation that we may be in for a “very, very painful two weeks.”
“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday.
The joke’s on you!
Despite all the bad news, some jokes are still being told.
According to a report in USA Today, members of the rap group Public Enemy revealed that last month's public argument that ended with Flavor Flav being ousted from the group was actually an April Fools' joke to promote their new album.
One moment of levity. One temporary reprieve from the bad news, something to briefly take our minds away from the grim reality.
The history of April Fools
How did all this April Fools’ Day stuff even begin?
The tradition of April 1 has been observed for several centuries around the world, but its true origins are mysterious.
Legend has it that the day probably began to be observed in the 16th century, around the time when the Julian calendar switched to the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used calendar in the world today.
Before the new calendar was adopted, the New Year was observed on March 25, with celebrations occurring on the first day of April. How funny! Of course the Gregorian calendar moved the New Year to January 1, but in those days, there were still quite a few wiseacres who saw the first day of April as the day to celebrate, hence they were “April fools.”
Historians have even studied April Fools' Day, and linked it to an ancient Roman festival known as Hilaria. which was celebrated by people dressing up in disguises.
Whatever its origin may be, April Fools' Day has developed into many funny new modern iterations, and is defined broadly by the countless funny girls, wise guys and smart alecks of the world, including the folks who posted funny memes and pranks on social media Wednesday. Here are a few we found.
Credit: Courtesy The U.S. Sun
Credit: Courtesy The U.S. Sun