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What Are Gag Gifts?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Gag gifts are usually inexpensive novelty items intended to get a laugh. They're often impulsive buys when something funny instantly brings a friend or family member to mind; this could be anything from cartoon character boxer shorts to a coffee mug with a hilarious one-liner. In most cases, these items aren't very practical, but that isn't their purpose. There doesn't have to be an occasion to present someone with a gag gift, although they aren't always appropriate for some events.

Theme Gifts

The faces of past and present politicians are often found on gag gifts, along with political satire. Cartoon characters, infamous sayings, and off-color innuendos are all standard fare. While many gifts are silly or cute, others can be sexually suggestive; it's important for the gift giver to consider the person receiving the gift, as well as the occasion, before choosing such a present. A gag gift for a friend's bachelor party can be much more suggestive than one given during a family birthday celebration.

Prank Gifts

Kids often like gag gifts that double as pranks, finding fun in mild shock and good-hearted embarrassment. The innocent looking pillow otherwise known as the whoopee cushion, fake barf, a pack of gum with a spring-loaded snap, and hand buzzer — concealed in the palm it delivers a shock when shaking hands — have all brought laughs for generations.

Gag Foods

Food-related gag gifts are also popular. Bacon-flavored dental floss or bubble gun have gained in popularity, as have many bacon items. Zombie products are also easy to find, with products labeled as zombie jerky, skin, and blood — really colored beef jerky, dried seaweed, and energy drinks — all available. For the discriminating palate, there's always the canned unicorn.

When to Give These Gifts

Some gag gifts can be given when a gift is appropriate but the recipient is a mere acquaintance. For example, an office party for an employee who is leaving may require a little present, even from those who don't know the person well. Getting something useful, like a coffee mug, but with a funny picture or saying, can make the gift appear to have more value and be more thoughtful. Bringing a laugh from the crowd as it's opened adds a bit of joy to what would otherwise be a mere drinking utensil.

When giving a gag gift, the giver should make sure the gag won't hurt the recipient's feelings or be offensive. Gags related to someone's special talents or hobbies are usually a big hit, but gags meant to highlight shortcomings or faults — even if the person is aware of those faults or shortcomings — will probably make the person feel bad. Giving a baldhead cap to someone who's worried about losing his hair would not be kind; however, giving it to someone who has so much hair that he's always complaining about it could be very funny. Gifts given on a serious or public occasion should not be overly risqué or otherwise potentially offensive.

Ideas

  • For the friend who's always bragging about his or her golf game, gag golf balls will do just about anything but what's expected.
  • For a girl who just can't live without her coffee, someone might consider a "coffee cup air freshener" for her car. It's a miniature "to go" cup with a familiar looking logo that hangs from the rear view mirror, releasing the scent of fresh mocha for those long drives between pit stops.
  • Many tee shirt shops will screen-print anything the customer asks for on a shirt for a small fee. If a friend has a signature phrase, it could be put it on a shirt for his or her next birthday.
  • A friend in the hospital might get a laugh out of huge fuzzy bunny slippers, and he will think of you every time he shuffles down the hall or into the bathroom — plus they beat the paper hospital slippers and they last longer than flowers!
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Discussion Comments
By Discipleguy — On Jan 17, 2014

I bought TampUns for a friend and she loved them. Practical and funny. Found them online.

By Perdido — On Nov 10, 2012

@Kristee – People can be offended by gag retirement gifts, too. Someone who is turning 40 may be sensitive about what the future holds for them, but someone who is at retirement age is already experiencing some of the effects of growing old.

I think that retirement gifts should be serious and useful. When someone has worked at a company for a long time, they deserve respect and a good sendoff.

By feasting — On Nov 09, 2012

I have been to holiday parties where Christmas gag gifts were all that were allowed. We all randomly selected a gift from a pile, and we knew that whatever we got would be some sort of gag gift.

One guy unwrapped a pair of red silk boxers with Rudolph on the front. Everyone got a kick out of those.

I thought the best gag gift was the pooping reindeer, though. It was really a candy dispenser, but you put the candy in its mouth and it gets dispensed out the rear!

I have this gift on my coffee table, and some of my friends say they just can't bear the thought of eating the candy because of where it comes out. I think this is so funny, because the whole thing is just plastic, anyway! I guess that the suggestion is powerful enough to turn off their appetites.

By wavy58 — On Nov 09, 2012

My family knows how much I love gag gifts. I like the kind that I can use to prank other people, instead of the ones that are intended to embarrass me, though.

For my tenth birthday, my mother got me a squirting coin. On one side, it looked just like a nickel. The back side had a hole in it and a bulging surface that could be pressed to squirt water into the face of the person looking at the front of it.

So, I would show it to friends and tell them it was a special nickel. I would hold the face of it up for them to examine, and when they leaned in, I would press the back, sending a stream of water into their faces. It was so much fun!

By Kristee — On Nov 08, 2012

I think that over the hill gag gifts have the potential to be offensive. When my cousin turned 40, several of her coworkers got together and planned a gag gift party with this theme, but she had been really struggling with growing older, so the party was a real slap in the face to her.

They had black balloons everywhere, and they gave her gag gifts like incontinence diapers and large print books. It was in poor taste, but she just quietly grinned and bore it.

By anon57128 — On Dec 20, 2009

Great article! What do you think is the best place to buy gag gifts?

By lokithebeak — On Dec 18, 2009

Gag gifts also make great stocking stuffers! I've seen gag golf balls that poof into a cloud of dust when hit! Hilarious!

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