What is a Prankster?

Mary McMahon

A prankster is someone who takes pleasure in playing tricks or pranks. Pranksters can range from the benign to the threatening, and they often get their start early in life. In addition to being fond of pranks, a prankster may also enjoy jokes, and he or she often has a very well-developed sense of humor. Pranksters can be found in school, where they are known as class clowns, as well as in offices, the military, and essentially any other venue where large groups of people gather.

Pranksters may be found in school classrooms.
Pranksters may be found in school classrooms.

Pranks are practical jokes undertaken with the goal of amusement, and they often involve a physical component, such as lifting a car on top of an administrative building, or covering an office in plastic wrap. Sometimes, the victim of the prank enjoys the prank as much as the prankster who perpetrates it, and this is part of the point of the prank. In other cases, the victim may be less pleased about being pranked, and pranks may result in hurt feelings, feuds, or sometimes even physical injury.

Loki serves as a prankster within Norse mythology.
Loki serves as a prankster within Norse mythology.

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People have probably been pranking each other for a very long time, and some pranksters have gotten quite elaborate, on occasion developing hoaxes and pranks which are so clever that it took hundreds of years to unravel the truth of the matter. Historically, pranks, joking, and tricks were often a part of seasonal festivals and parades, with the entire populace joining in the fun, and the tradition of playing tricks at seasonal festivals still endures in some parts of the world, and on April First in many communities.

The prankster is such an important part of some societies that several cultures have prankster gods. Loki in the Norse pantheon, for example, is constantly playing jokes on his fellow gods, and Coyote in Native American mythology is famous for his crafty pranks. In English folklore, Puck is a mischievous nature spirit who takes pleasure in confusing and befuddling humans. Pranksters and tricksters in folklore sometimes accomplish great feats, as when Prometheus stole fire from the Greek Gods.

Since so many cultures have pranksters in their mythology, along with an appreciation for especially good pranks, pranksters could be considered an important part of human society. They add levity to situations while playing upon people's desire for entertainment and mystery in the world, and well-performed pranks often go down in history. Sometimes pranks come from surprising sources, too; the famously staid BBC news, for example, once did an April Fool's Prank about the spaghetti harvest of 1957, suggesting that the world was in for a bumper crop.

Coyote is a prankster in Native American mythology.
Coyote is a prankster in Native American mythology.

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Discussion Comments


During my sophomore year of college, I threw around toilet paper in someone's room when they were away. They later came back and wondered who it was, but never questioned me about it.

I guess it's because I'm not the kind of person whom they suspected would do that. While pranking is fun, always remember to set your boundaries.


During my college years (especially my junior and senior year), I really enjoyed pranking people. I was very clever about it, and always made sure I didn't get caught. However, has anyone noticed that sometimes when you prank someone, and they're not aware of it, you become paranoid? That's happened to my friends a lot, and it's been their downfall, as they've spilled the beans.


While I do enjoy pranks as much as the next person, there's always a line we shouldn't cross. On another note, if we know that the prank is going to be taken seriously by others, it's best to notify them or give some consent. For example, has anyone heard of a website called prankdial?

It's basically a website where you can arrange fake phone calls and trick people. While it's nothing too harmful, some states actually require you notify the other party that you're about to prank them, which makes perfect sense. The third party may take the call seriously, and action could be taken against you.

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