Pranks can be funny, but a lot of them are bad.
There are basically two kinds of ok pranks:
- Pranks that you reasonably expect the target to find funny
- Pranks that make someone who has unreasonable amounts of power look ridiculous
If the first kind of prank goes bad:
- Don’t tell the person they should learn to take a joke
- If there’s something you can fix, fix it
- Don’t play that kind of prank on that person again
Some pranks that nearly always go bad:
- Pranks played on individual people you have a lot of power over (eg: a child, an employee, a patient)
- False promises (eg: convincing someone you’re going to let them borrow your car to go to a concert they really care about, then giving them your toy car and laughing at them when they’re ready to leave)
- Breaking someone’s stuff
- Invading someone’s space if they’re being stalked or have a history of being stalked or abused (eg: If someone is being stalked, planting a bunch of flamingos on their lawn is likely to be frightening in an unfunny way. Leaving flamingos inside their house is likely to be terrifying. )
- Tricking someone into eating something they don’t want to eat (Tricking vegetarians into eating meat is not funny. Neither is tricking Jews or Muslims into eating pork. Neither is tricking someone into eating something they’re allergic to or intolerant of, even if you think they’re lying. Neither is tricking someone into eating bugs or dirt or something else they’d consider disgusting. Just don’t do it.)
- Exposing someone to something they have a phobia or or find triggering. Eg: if you know your friend is terrified of spiders, don’t leave a fake spider on the kitchen table to scare them.
- Sexualized pranks (particularly if you’re a man playing them on a woman).
If you’re playing a prank to undermine someone’s unreasonable authority:
- Don’t hurt innocent bystanders
- Don’t do things that make you look worse than them
- Don’t insult them for the wrong reasons (eg: If someone’s abusive and also fat, don’t make a big banner mocking them for being fat. Partly because this hurts fat innocent bystanders)