America Needs Pranks

Improv Everywhere just started a new blog, Urban Pranks, to document the many public stunts the group has inspired. The New York group famous for showing up at Best Buy in blue polos and freezing Grand Central has offshoots across the country that are doing things like a protest against protesting, a dinner party at Ikea, and a button in a park that says "Do Not Push" (when it was pushed, planted agents dance to "Everybody Dance Now" &mash; clip below). The blog does a great job quickly explaining each prank and then showing the money shot. And it's a sign of a much-needed rise in public silliness, which is just what young media types need.

Do Not Push

Remember when Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters tore up the country? And how they were part of a long line of coconspirators that connected writers from the Beat Generation up to Hunter S. Thompson? I don't! I'm 24. But reading the literature that came out of that lineage, I'm prone to think there was a much cooler prank-minded crowd than today.

There are exceptions — Chuck Palahniuk attended the Santa Rampage with Portland's Cacophony Society. But there's no literary school of silliness. McSweeney's doesn't count, because the Dave Eggers crew can get shrill and twee and having a bookshop themed like a pirate supply store isn't quite as fresh as riding with the Hell's Angels. They're just too serious in their very organized fun-making.

But the Improv Everywhere crowd is just fooling around, not making any overt point about society except that everyone should have fun and feel more connected to each other. And isn't that the heart of the Beats and the Merry Pranksters? After all, Kesey's work revealed his faith that people were basically good, smart — deserving of pranks that invited the world to join in the fun.

Literature is drifting away from relevance while kids watch College Humor and Spike TV. Lit needs that sense of fun with the relaxed introspection that only finds room in books, not blog entries. So could some young authors put down the Believer and come start a strip-off with Naked Cowboy Guy?