Our Top Video Pranks on YouTube

Practical jokes or pranks have been around since humans evolved enough to stop having to be constantly in survival mode ­– the constant ‘fight or flight’ ­– and have obviously become an integral part of human nature. April Fools Day, for example, has been around since at least the 1600s, although it is purportedly mentioned in Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ written in the 12th century.

The word ‘prank’ has been around for a long time, as has the practice of pranking. Defined as “a ludicrous trick, played sometimes in malice but more often in sport [fun]” in Johnson’s dictionary published in the 1520s, pranks never seem to get old. As early as the era of the Roman Empire, practical jokes were played. Emperor Elagabalus, a juvenile with matching sense of humour, and notorious as licencious and vicious, enjoyed pranks and is credited with inventing the whoopee cushion, making his most pompous dinner guests sit on air-filled leather pockets which emitted a farting noise when sat on.

Ancient history aside, pranks never seem to get old and there are so many YouTube videos available to watch with all kinds of pranks. Before the advent of the internet and YouTube, TV programs devoted to pranking were hugely popular, although many pranks were rather contrived. However, before and together with TV, phone call pranks on the radio have also been popular, usually involving more complex scenarios, and we include a great example below.

Here is a selection of our top prank videos, plus a couple of other funnies for your enjoyment.

Oh Schuks! 

Without a doubt the most famous South African visual prankster is/was Leon Schuster, whose heydays were the 80s. It is interesting how humour and social mores change over time, with much of his scenarios today are considered a bit heavy-handed and non-PC. He most often appeared disguised as a person of colour (nowadays considered a bit of a social crime) but usually did this to show up his white ‘victims’ as intolerant and superior. Although of course, he is outrageous enough to exasperate anyone. He riles them up to the point close to being physically attacked, with a ‘snot klap’ or worse, before he hastily discloses his true identity and points to the hidden camera. This video is a compilation of pranks on the golf course. 

Gas-guzzlers – “more satisfying than sex”

We’re not sure how effective Arnie’s disguise is here, but obviously the point of the video is to point out the iniquities of the worst kind of polluting vehicles. In the first scenario, the man’s giggle/guffaw indicates that he’s not convinced by the used car salesman’s identity or his selling technique. Actually, this is not really a real prank, but a spoof as it is a TV commercial for Electric For All campaign.

“Mike Tyson is right behind you” 

Passersby are asked to rate Mike Tyson as a sportsman, with some offering a lukewarm opinion of him, or even a thumbs-down. Until he appears in person from behind, and most change their tune very quickly.

It’s a kind of magic 

Julien the magician pranks people at train stations and on the street with some great illusions, mostly eliciting puzzlement and smiles. His flying ghost puppet, however, sends some people running for cover. Even today, some people are so superstitious!

You drive me crazy 

Disguised as a young, pig-tailed learner driver, a professional racing driver starts her driving lesson in character with new-to-the-job driving instructors, only to scare the pants off them as she really gets into gear and shows off her mad skills.

The Bushman ‘leaves’ people screaming ­– and not just the girls 

A man disguised as a smallish potted tree on a pavement causes passersby to scream, jump and even fall over when he moves or stands up. The video could be a lot shorter as the piercing shrieks of (mostly) young women can cause a bit of a headache for viewers.  

Coffin chaos 

Another Schuster special as his Tshabalala character attempts to convince a minibus taxi driver to take him and his deceased boss in a coffin to Cape Town for a funeral, with no success of course. All hell breaks loose as the coffin lid comes off revealing the ‘corpse’. Slapstick at its best.

“Oh ---, I’ve buttered my biscuit!” 

Often, visual humour relies on fairly basic scenarios and nothing is more ‘basic’ than toilet humour, in this case farts. Although we prefer humour that is clever and subtle, this prank video made us involuntarily laugh out loud. This may not be your cup of tea, as it is rather juvenile, but here goes nothing. The ‘victims’ could not believe their ears! Eish.  

Pik and the potjie

While telephone pranks were very popular on radio from the early days, there is one South African radio personality who stood head and shoulders above the rest (literally as well, he was very tall) – the inimitable John Berks, whose morning talk show and prank calls made Radio 702 the most entertaining and popular by far. Those of us of a certain age will look back at the 80s/90s when driving to work was a fun time. Less traffic, more laughs. Here he pranks Pik Botha, former NP cabinet minister, in the guise of Peter Ndlovu, ANC youth leader who wants him to come and give a speech in Soweto and demonstrate how to make a real Afrikaans ‘potjie’.

“Please remove your knickers”

Not a prank, but just for a laugh… We’re sure many of you love the Graham Norton Show. With a South African on the couch among other guests, the discussion is about accents, and Brit comedian Alan Carr tells a very funny anecdote. The joke’s on us!