Media

Friday A/V Club: The Media Pranks of Joey Skaggs

Try to live every day like it's April Fool's Day.

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Don't hassle me with your sighs, Chuck.
Holt, Rinehart, and Winston

April 1 is my favorite holiday, because it's the day people are most likely to think twice before believing the bullshit they read. One man who's been trying to spread that skepticism into the rest of the year is Joey Skaggs, an artist who's been pulling off media pranks and other sorts of guerilla theater for 50 years now. "I started doing hoaxes to purposefully make a commentary about people," he explained to interviewer Andrea Juno in the '80s. "I thought humor was a great way of making people think, rather than hitting them over the head with something. I also wanted to point out the inadequacies and dangers of an irresponsible press….Rather than sticking with oil paint, the media became my medium."

In 2002, John Stossel did a report for 20/20 on Skaggs' satiric hoaxes. It's a good overview of his greatest hits, from the "cathouse for dogs" he pretended to launch in 1976 to the mobile confessional booth that he brought to the Democratic national convention in 1992:

The laughter you occasionally hear in the background of that video isn't a sign that 20/20 was filmed before a live studio audience; it's there because the report was screened onstage at the Influencers festival in 2004. Skaggs went on to tell the crowd about his history in greater detail, and in the process he showed many more clips of the press falling for his stunts. To see the rest of that presentation, watch the series of videos posted here. A documentary about Skaggs, called The Art of the Prank, came out last year; I haven't seen it, but you can find out more about it here. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.