Radio’s High Holy Day

Ladies & Gentlemen--the Marching Ito's!

Ladies & Gentlemen–the Marching Ito’s!

Another one came and went.

This past Tuesday was April 1st, one of my favorite days of the year when I was back in radio.

It’s one thing to kiddingly tell someone that Bruce Jenner’s sex change is complete or innocently ask, “Is that soup on your shirt?”  But when you can play a prank at hundreds of thousands of people at one time?  Now THAT’S the power of April Fool’s Day in the world of radio.

I’ve always done something on the air that day or it was done to me.  AT KQOT, my first professional radio gig, I did a switch one year with a guy where I took his shift and called myself by his name and visa versa.  A mild prank, but with lasting consequences.  That morning, I got a call from a woman who was thanking me for the night before.  It seems my fellow DJ had his way with her and she was following up the next morning.  It took me a while to realize what was going on  (I thought I was being pranked) she was embarrassed about the incident and then decided to stalk me for the next several years.  I mean, like on Superbowl Sunday when I had to work on the air, she brought me a steak dinner and a half-rack of beer.  Then, when I took part in a 5K fun run, she followed me the entire race IN HER CAR.  She began sending me gifts, calling on the request line all the time. After some intervention by another DJ’s wife, she agreed to leave me alone. Shortly afterwards, she married a guy and then mailed me the wedding ring he gave her, saying it should have been from me.  Word has it that one night, he was waiting outside my home with a gun so that he could get that ring back. Fortunately, it was one of those occasional nights I didn’t come home.  The DJ’s wife made sure the guy got his ring back, the marriage broke up and he left me alone.

All because of an April Fool’s joke.

Then there was the year I orchestrated a gag on KOMO radio.  I had put together a series of reports from the scene of the Seattle April Fool’s Day Parade, describing the ridiculous participants, complete with me being on the phone, the crowd cheering in the background, etc.  Larry Nelson and I had broken new ground for that conservatively run radio station.

And management didn’t find it the least bit funny.  When the CEO jumps down the throat of the station manager, who lets the Program Director bear the brunt, there was hell to pay.  What I remember most were the concerned words of John Behnke, the KOMO big guy, who asked the question, “Do you realize that people in Lynnwood might have heard this and drove all the way down to Seattle for a parade that doesn’t exist?”

Sorry about that, Lynnwood.

I had heard one Seattle DJ back in the 1960s spent the whole morning doing live coverage of Vashon Island breaking off and floating away. When you do something like that and when listeners realize it’s a gag and then call in and play along, (“Yeah, I saw it!  It was moving pretty fast!”) that my friends is radio gold.

Then there was the time that Bob Brooks pulled a classic on me when I worked the afternoon shift at 92.5 Classy FM.  I had started one of those Soft Rock favorites, turned down the monitor and then started answering phones.  While talking to someone, I saw people gathering outside the studio looking in.  I told the caller I had to go, turned up the music and for God know how long, a part of the Bill Withers song, “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” had been made to loop.  So when it got to the part where he sang, “And I know, I know, I know, I know, etc”……Bob had made the endless “I knows” go on for like three minutes.  To help me realize the gag, he was now looking at me through the broadcast booth window.  I had been fooled.

During the KLSY Murdock, Hunter & Alice days, the gag I remember most is the morning of the cell phones.  We did a regular show, but I had previously recorded and looped a bunch of different cell phone rings.  Anytime we opened our microphones, you’d hear a cell phone randomly ring. Of course, back then, there were fewer ring tones and so most people listening to the radio checked their phone at least once to see if it was theirs.  We had compliments on the bit, but also a few angry calls from people who didn’t find it funny. They kept checking their phones over and over until they realized they’d been punk’d they were mad.  “You could have caused an accident!”

Of course, there was the year that KLSY had an entry for the Woodinville All Fool’s Day Parade.  It was during the O.J. Simpson trial and we talked some Bothell High drill team members to put on judges robes and fake beards, then recruited on the air for a Marcia Clark look-alike.  Our entry, “Marcia Clark and the Dancing Ito’s” (for Judge Ito who presided over the case) won best entry.  Ironically, the Marcia Clark look-alike took the trophy home and we never saw it again.

There were lots of other gems, but the main point is to have some fun with the day.  If you’re known to be a serious person, this is the perfect opportunity to toss something out there with a straight face and let them know you actually have a sense of humor.

Talk about your new dog that’s part Shih Tzu and part poodle.  They call it a Shits Poo. (remember the straight face is key)

The Internet is full of gags to pull.  This is your day to shine!  A new study claims that pulling April Fools’ Day pranks actually reduces stress and causes positive endorphins to be released and could contribute to a longer life.

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Millard Fillmore (guest writing for Tim Hunter)



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