A practical joke (sometimes called a prank, gag, jape or shenanigan) is a mischievous trick or joke played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks or hoaxes in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or other valuables. Practical jokes or pranks are generally lighthearted, reversible and non-permanent, and aim to make the victim feel foolish or victimised to a degree, but may also involve cruelty verging on bullying if performed without appropriate finesse.
The term “practical” refers to the fact that the joke consists of someone doing something physical, instead of a verbal or written joke. For example, the joker who is setting up and performing the practical joke might hang a bucket of water above a doorway and rig the bucket using pulleys so when the door opens the bucket dumps the water. The joker would then wait for the victim to walk through the doorway and be drenched by the bucket of water. Objects can also be used in practical jokes, like fake vomit, chewing gum bugs, exploding cigars, stink bombs, costumes and whoopee cushions.
In Western culture, April Fools’ Day is a day traditionally dedicated to performing practical jokes. A person who performs a practical joke is called a practical joker. The most common cases of practical jokes are encountered inside offices, usually to surprise co-workers. Covering the computer accessories with Jell-O, wrapping the desk with Christmas paper or aluminium foil or filling it with balloons are just some examples of office pranks.